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