Tuesday, July 01, 2008

speaking of the magnificent things man has made

persistence

a found poem

Everything here
seems bound
for someplace else

The grain goes down
the river
the trains speed through
the little towns
the interstate highway
is full of long-haulers
and out-of-state
license plates

I can hear
the soft chatter
of a kingfisher

I can hear
the bushes rustle
where a marmot roots
near the water's edge

I can hear
the cars plying
the bridge between
Engineer's Town
and the reservation

But except
for the slightest swish
coming from a thin
strand of water
that emerges from
halfway down
the dam's
otherwise
dry spillway

The night is devoid
of the sound of water


Found in Matt Rasmussen's Pastures of Plenty in Orion, a piece about Woody Guthrie's involvement as a songwriter hired to shill for the Columbia River Dam project in the 1930s.

Rasmussen's piece is elegiac and heartbreaking, beautifully capturing the tension between power of place and our pursuit of that thing called Progress and how it stilled the teeming Colombia where the salmon have now gone missing.

My Bompa would burst into Guthrie's Roll On Columbia when we crossed the bridge that spans the great river. He loved the Pacific Northwest with a passion, but he was also of the generation that believed it could be harnessed for our use, at no detriment to its nature.

I don't know what he would say to hear the salmon aren't running: I remember the first time he took me to the Ballard Locks to watch the fish run, how he was nearly giddy then. How in subsequent years, as the run grew smaller, the fish more demure, he seemed disquieted but inconclusive, unsettled as if he were unsure how such magnificent engineering could produce something some puny and small.

I know if he were still alive his heart would break to hear the news of this season's salmon run, and I suspect he would noodle it in silence, his head bent low over the paper, his face pursed with the quiet rage and worry of a broken promise revealed.

3 comments:

Watermyth said...

can i post the poem on watermyth?

em said...

oh miss lady 'hoo you know you should know: that's what make the fact of being, so very interesting (and cool): we do not know. If bompa had *known*, had been *sure* on how to build a better world, would he have been bompa or just a plain old boring person?

anniemcq said...

While reading the poem, without knowing it was about the Columbia, it made me think of my trip to Eastern Washington along that beautiful stretch. And of the windfarms sprouting up, and different forms of energy. Then I read the rest, and got goosebumpy.

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