Monday, December 26, 2011

winner of 2011 Zumwalt Prarie Poetry contest - Dorian Zimmerman

Below Peaks like White Knuckles

Spring doesn’t come,
it molts,
gray with feathered clouds.

Gusts ruffle skies,
sloughing winter fluff.
White hills now downy
with yarrow—white puffs—
like the dappled flanks of fawns

ripple with invaders,
a Mongol horde
of cheatgrass.

Their tassels
like banners in a limp wind.

Terraced by tenacious hoof,
wounded ridges
beholden to their tenants.
Elk, deer, bighorns,
their white flags wisping
across the vastness—
dandruff from a dandelion’s fat head.

Slopes shorn
by river gossip and the mosaic
of Corriente cattle—
their name, almost “running”
in the native tongue,

their indignant groans, their lowered
brows insinuate
an ensuing battle.
They, like their dueños,
will not flee.

Hard earth
beneath bootsoles—this
land disavows ease.

It has been this way,

Folks here,
like Steelhead smolts,
swimming backwards down-
bent to their origins,
tailfins facing futures.
Dorian Zimmerman 
Thanks to Wallowa County Cultural Trust Coalition for the artist grant fund that provided the honorarium for this contest.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

giving back

As you may know, Wallowa County Cultural Trust Coalition provided the grant that sponsored this contest and also production of the art box for poetry that the Nature Conservancy will be displaying.

After saving for 13 years, I got a new truck! I splurged and every time the license renews, the Oregon Cultural Trust, which supplied the grant distributed by the Coalition, gets $30. By the time I'm ready for the next truck, perhaps I will have put back enough for someone else to get a $250 grant for their art!

Below, the evidence!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Out on the edge

Out on the edge of the prairie
  where the brown bunchgrasses
     overlook green alfalfa fields
and the view is filled over 200 degrees
  with the span of the Wallowas
a low hill has a small ring of rocks.
What a location to sit and ponder
   of time and traditions and
yet... the crustose lichens lie thick
  on the up-turned faces of these stones
waiting still for one to come again.
A perfect perch on the edge
  of the wolf highway, where stars
     fill the sky and mind
to wait for a vision, to craft a tale,
   to consider what to pass on
to "the-people" who are yet to come.
What use did this site serve,
  what contemplation found field here,
     what stories lie buried, fed to the wind
as if... previous use might add value
  to what yet lies exposed and open
to the questing mind... and heart.
Ralph Anderson, Entry #25

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

carte postale

And if the prairie dreams
is it of mice in the
                     rye grass?
or is that the hawk's
dream of the prairie?
Susan Whitney

Susan Whitney, Entry # 24

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

1 of 1,000,000 (The Day Without Nouns)

Just for (the span of the sun and moon)
Name ( ) no thing
Along comes --blank-- the dark time

Make it (more than okay), let it
Be yours if there was a Name for that
Yet more, let it be beyond the gerund

Speak no (noun-meaning-word), just
pass along the (angled land) as if
There never was youth or (caution).

No need to Name the (feathered ones)
Sort the calls and cries (slot them)
in memory and (forget)

responding to William Stafford's Notice What This Poem is Not Doing. The
original title of the response via fortuitous typo, "The Day Without Nous." 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

sonnet for cactus mountain fire

burning and burnouts - and my little house
under the flight path as usual - and there's
that sky-rattling sound - you know the one -
bucket helicopters in the cool morning air,
the way it is before it gets thick and choppy.
on the highway and back roads - jet fuel and
catering trucks, Grayback crews, and green rigs.

and this report of local conditions to know:
hot, dry and crunchy in the canyons, with
flatbeds of off-brand gatorade rattling down
the gravel roads to fuel our sweaty fire crews.
no rain is predicted, but they say there will be
cooler nights and portable showers for all
back at fire camp - over at the rodeo grounds.

you may expect haze rolling over the mountains -
 for once again, it is summer before winter falls.
Link goes to fire photos on the Incident Web.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mighty River Sentinel

Mighty River Sentinel
“Brother of Air, Brother of Sun,
please tell our story, that we
may live in the brief wind.” – William Stafford

Now midwinter,
you journey southward—
trace the country’s frozen seam
till it splits open with shad, bass, bluegill.
Humbly we stand
beneath your lookout tree and gaze up
at your head and tail of blazing snow,
your noble profile and piercing stare
wild as the tossing river below.
With forward lean you lift broad shoulders
and stretch wings east and west
as one yellow foot grabs air,
then the other. You drop a bit
as if your heft cannot be borne
then ascend gracefully to stir the clouds.
Clutching your catch in craggy claws,
you return to your perch to feed.
O, majestic Eagle,
did our forefathers fall
under this very spell?

By Ellen Savage, Entry # 23

River Song/After the Ocean

River Song –
to be accompanied by banjo

 The Asif river tumbles
from the hills down to the plain
He gives a home to hawks and trout
The Asif is his name
Gravity and water play
A million-inning game
We called that game the Asif.
The Asif is its name.
The Asif meets the Ithad
down where the cedars grow
The cedars stain her water
and strain the melting snow.

The Ithad’s quite the lady
She curves, she coos, she smiles
She’s a house for bass and heron
As she runs her hundred miles.
The Ithad meets the Asif
In a wood that’s filled with game
With their arms around each other
they give birth to the Anayme

We sing songs about the river and
Its gods and lore and fame
We call it Mighty, swift and Strong
As if It had A name

As if a name could stop it
Or make it toe the line
But the name is just a lie like
You and Yours and Me and Mine.
Old Adam named the animals
And Eve invented Crime
But the one who laughs at all our names
is jolly Brother Time.
And everything’s a river
And everything is his
We love the things that aren’t real
And hate the thing that is.

By Lynn Hoffman, Entry # 21

After the ocean left town

last Saturday morning at a quarter past two
the tide left town and it stayed
we were mostly glad to be rid of its mess-
we cheered, though a few of us prayed

pressed for years by the weight of brine
protected from the vulgar air
everything once too gross to float
is lying open, dry and bare.

where once was heaving water
is now shell and sticky land
shortly to be wind-dried
then wind-buried in the sand

from the curve we used to call the beach
we look to where the water’s flown
at new real estate with ocean view
at retail space we’d die to own

soon the lawyers and the cops
will lay out borders: metes and bounds
we’ll compete with others up the coast
with their own dried up bays and sounds

of course we’ll miss our seafood
and children playing in the waves
and perhaps we’ll never notice
when new land turns into graves

or maybe there’ll be a moment
when the sea takes back the shore
when we cry and wish we’d prayed for less
and not poisoned life for more.

By Lynn Hoffman, Entry # 22

Thursday, August 4, 2011


The Zumwalt Prairie Poetry Cache is a 10 year project to collect community and visitor poems about the prarie in all its aspects.

The collection - including a series of community poetry blogs and a physical art object cache box being commissioned from a local artist, also using the WCCTC grant - is inspired by Terry Tempest Williams essay "Buried Poems" in which a very small town is transformed by the discovery of buried poems.

Any form of poem may be submitted with no entry fee to ZumwaltPrairieCache @ Poems will be electronically published at the 2011 community poetry site Submissions may also be selected for a chapbook at a later date.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Roll On Columbia: An Epilogue

Come Friends
Join my Journey
Swim in my current
Glide on my riffles
Run my rapids
Let time be empty

I feel the morning rain
dripping off the conifers
The icy glacial melt
awakens my thirst
I take a few deep breaths
and let Springs rise up from Within

My source is sourceless
My headwaters have no place of origin
Yet somewhere in the Canadian Rockies
I emerge

I gather cascading streams
And plunge downward
I slice through a canyon chute
I breathe water
I exhale water
My shorelines migrate
I change course on a whim

I no longer sit behind clay dams
I re-craft the wild cataracts
Priest Rapids, Dalles des Morts
The forest once drowned grows feral
Salmon spawn in all my streams
My tributaries
My contributaries
My visionaries

My Totems are here
Bears black and brown visit and play
Deer and Elk graze and drink abundance
The elusive Lynx stalks in the woods
Families of Otter frolic in my eddies
A pack of Wolves
unnamed unnumbered
howl moonfully from my bank
Beavers love-slap my water skin
Coyote dances on the cliff edge
Eagle flying blesses my winding course

I cross no boundary between nations
There is no Canada
There is no United States

My path goes round Roosevelt’s dam
I roam over the Grand Coulee
I spill wetness over Dry Falls
And where once salmon were halted
I now let them walk up my arms

My Friends,
I hope you’re enjoying the float
Perhaps you’ve seen the Osprey fishing
Perhaps you’ve heard the Loon wailing
Trust your journey
And should you see Woody
Please tell him
Yes indeed, I roll on

On the Hanford Reach
I feel the radioactive shock
Still cookin’ after all these centuries
I cough toxic sand and roll on

I meet my goddess river the Snake
She brings sweet cold water
More than I can breathe
We rejoin, we marry, we roll on

Today there are no tugs
No barges carrying gravel and grain
No merchant ships with cars and phones
No railways, bridges, or dams
No outfall pipes spewing waste
No dikes, riprap, or seawalls

Today I carry salmon smolts
on their circle of destiny
Sturgeon grow ancient in my sleep
I roll on

I hear distant drumming
I briefly linger in a pool
Coyote winks at me
I swirl a whirlpool in reply
I drop over Celilo Falls
once smothered and now alive
I roar over the rocks
My breath becomes Spirit spray

Ghosts of the River People
gather on my shore
They drum on Antelope skins
Dance the Salmon song
They fish the free-falling falls
Taste again the Salmon power
Give thanks to the Great Spirit
Retell the old Coyote tales

Coyote grins
and scampers away

Across my flank
In her garden of rock
She Who Watches waits
Her eyes shine on the River Souls

The remains of the dam
lie on my bed
I slowly grind the concrete
into round boulders
The turbines into sleeping rust
All buried in my sandy belly

I sail through the Gorge
I recall the last great flood
some centuries ago
when I carried the volcanic ash
when I was given a new path

Bridge of the Gods resurrected
arches her benificent back
River Souls amble across
I slide under her smooth shadow
I roll on

I bask in the snow-capped radiance
of Wyeast and Klickitat
who no longer hurl stones of fire
their jealousy now abated
Their beloved beauty St. Helens rests

Thunderbird rides on thermals above
soaring high on 10-foot wings
The Sky jumps with fire bolts
The Sun paints rainbows on slate
Wind caresses my shimmering skin

The once muddy Willamette
comes to me clear and cool
We swell over the marshes and sloughs
Hundreds of thousands of ducks,
geese honking, swans, and cranes
ascend and fly about
The cacophony is prayer
The prayer is wildness

Ghosts of the Street People
come to visit my shore
They linger and camp
under the stars in the black night
They rest in the peace of moonlight
They drink my holy water
without any filters or fear
They gaze at the salmon running
once a lucrative catch, now a sweet dream

Friends, please hold on
I am fluid might
I am rolling thunder
I am flowing free
The Corps no longer dredges my guts
I have washed the sand islands
built with my precious entrails
I roll on

I feel the pulse of the incoming tide
I sense the magnificent Ocean
I taste salt
I don’t want to mix
But I‘m drawn from Beyond

I make my way onto the bar
We clash, buck, and surge
We roil whale bones and ship masts
We spit dragon spray
Then I am Beyond
I dissolve in the swells
There are no dead zones
I breathe, the salmon breathe
I catch a current
I drift to where the Albatross fly
I dissolve again
and again

I feel the morning rain
dripping off the conifers
The icy glacial melt
awakens my thirst
I take a few deep breaths
and let Oceans rise up from Within

By  Frank Opila, Entry #20

Wanderings on the Zumwalt Prairie

Walk the prairie with me
when the call of the wild whispers
when the sunlight of the spirit beckons
when our path ambles through sparse pines
The summer sun speaks
Waves of grass flow over the wildlands
Seasoned grass, bunch grass, grass that know their own strength
Grass that mingle with wildflowers, ground squirrels, and horned larks
Grass stretching skyward, where the red-tails soar
Across this grass-scape, Coyote scampers
A chorus of bugs chants insistently

The prairie sings a ballad
of the Great White Hawk
that swoops down with golden talons,
making spirits of ground dwellers.
The black beetle’s prayer rises with the thermals
on which the White Hawk glides

The wind stops.
Where are we?
Somewhere near the heart, I believe
My flute song rolls over the ridges
and floats down the canyons
There is no reply
Our inner song already knows
We listen to the stillness

The horizon drifts away,
gathering what’s left of the sun
A cool breeze wakens the earth scent in wolves
A great-horned owl begins her night quest
Elk shadows graze in the fading golden sky
We listen to the stillness
We fall asleep in the prairie’s dream

                                                                  By Frank Opila, Entry # 19

Sunday, July 31, 2011

2 poems: Local culture/Meanwhile

Local culture

What price come the symbols
  in a back-country cowboy town
    evolved to modern artsi-fartsy tourist trap
The rodeo is come to town
  complete with local and traveling cowgirls,
    rodeo-cowboys and predators of all kinds.
Descendants of former inhabitants,
  invited if they wear their feathers, bring ponies,
    look like expected indigenes.
Yet the muttering on the street
   and in city hall is all about "those indians"
      selling salmon on the street, drinking in the bars.
Ahh well... it's about the money
   leave the money... and leave . . . soon.
     It will be all over but the counting.
         Ralph Anderson, Entry # 17


A valley full of ecotourists explore,
  lured by the chance to see or hear
    some or one of the states' 17 wolves...
Settle for seminar sessions with old skulls.
  a few local and regional "wolf experts"
     and rehashing the socio-political battles.
 Many locals lie low or retreat,
  for the high country and back corners
    are rich in this season with views and resources.
First berries report from the banks
  of the Wallowa and canyon walls
     saskatoons ripen and feed birds, bears and people.
And hunters sharpen their arrows
  for bear season starts this week
    and stalkers will again scour the canyons.
Shorebirds are migrating, swifts still feed young,
  there are dependent hawks and owls everywhere,
    and hummingbirds cluster at feeders.

       Ralph Anderson, Entry # 18

Five Poems

Hay Plains

As broad and  flat and worn
as the palm of God’s hand,
criss-crossed with lines of life and death
that those who know the palmist’s art
can read and can, perhaps, survive.
Sheep move, licelike, through the follicles
but nothing else, until God sighs
and half an inch of topsoil
blows away.

By Joe Massingham, Entry # 12

On Bullock Mountain

Sapling sentinels stare silently out over endless plains.
Sparse grass huddles coldly on the ground.
A furtive wind half sighs, half growls with fear,
as it skulks in the trees behind me.
An old grey roo leaps once, twice
and into the cavernous grey-green.
The mountain draws the darkening shawl
of night around its shoulders.
I turn and walk down.
A hiss of relief escapes from
the gums as I depart.
At the foot of the track I look out
over a sullen frost burnt field
that waits, resentfully, for the time
when my kind go and it can tear down
the fences and be free.

By Joe Massingham, Entry # 13

Rain Shower

The peasant sky pauses
In its journeys over oceans,
filling waterpots
to carry on its shoulders
whilst it travels overland
until it stumbles and
pours the lot
on the naked earth
stretched out sunbathing,
causing the hair on her skin
to stand up straight
quite suddenly, before
she seeks such shelter
as she can, whilst
waiting for the leering sun
to stare down at her again.

By Joe Massingham, Entry # 14

Wind Games

Wind whispers sweet nothings to adolescent wheat,
suggesting they go off together to the city.
She giggles, tosses her hair, hunches her shoulders,
 turns her delicately tanned face to the sun.
Rebuffed, wind moves on, but the lure
of bright lights lingers with wheat.
Autumn comes and full-grown wheat goes,
 but to the silo, not the city. Wind,
furious at finding her gone,
vandalises the fragile stubble,
scoops up top soil and carries it off,
dumping it on a distant shoreline
when his attention is attracted by
flirtatious, blonde-haired waves.

By Joe Massingham, Entry # 15


In kitchens on the properties
stand pine or eucalypt, sturdy and square,
scrubbed daily to a soft silk surface.
In grander dining rooms, here and there,
red cedar stands, carved after Sheraton
 or Adam, polished as red
as Empire once was on the maps.
And after dinner gentlemen converse
whilst they help themselves
from sparkling glass and polished box
set out on side tables made from claret ash.

In the towns the merchants
have desks of silky oak
at which they make their modest fortunes.
At weekends their families forgather
round the drop-leaf elm
to take part in that most old English of rituals,
 Sunday lunch:
roast meat, and two veg, followed by
a custard covered pudding,
even on the hottest day.

In the city we buy our heritage,
paying usurious prices to a dealer
for a walnut, oak or other imported bargain,
or make do with oregon and veneer,
a skin put on to make things look respectable,
much as we put on our manners when we come to table.

By Joe Massingham, Entry # 16

Author’s note:  ‘The Tablelands’ (properly the New England Tablelands) are in the north     
                         of New South Wales, Australia)


tall grass
blue sky
big heat
dusty open
clods and burrows
possibilities on an endless horizon

by Kate Russell, Entry #11

where water was

somebody stamped this spot
to “comfortable for a bed down”
the trail runs to the creek and
sign of deer and fox are
everywhere present, at least
along the decline of the old
waterway, the one shoved
west by high water and thaw.
grasses, weeds, grasses, weeds
pawprints, and the holes in
the greenscape left by a
bounding whitetail.  one
more time, look around, here,
it is a wildlife superhighway
and the toll price for prey: high.