Saturday, January 24, 2015


Pounding Stone at Confluence of Kings River and Big Creek:
Pine Flat Reservoir in Drought Year

I submerged myself
In the reservoir, plunging
Down the denuded slope into
The canyon emptied by drought,
And settled on a pounding stone 
At the confluence,
Where a newt floated
In a mortar next to a pestle,

Newt and Pestle in a Mortar

An ancient trail leading
West toward another abandoned
Village, and east toward the flats
Through a thick, underwater crop
Of cockleburs that flourish
Wherever the reservoir
Has chewed away the woodlands,
A chimney looming alone
With the name Chuck Morris
Chiseled twice before the house
Drowned and floated away.
Forty years ago, my family
Migrated from L.A., all
Of us in a van winding 
Around the reservoir a month
later. We settled on a spot
Near the flats and while
My father fished, I stumbled
On a web and gazed transfixed
At the intricate tapestry until
I glimpsed a bulbous spider.
I fled as if I’d encountered
The frightful weaver
Of our fate, and I found
Upstream the foundation
Of a ranch house, the concrete
Broken up by the roots
Of oak trees that claimed
The former rooms, the rest
Of the house swept away
By floods over the years.

Foundation of House in Floodplain

And there I heard the voice
Of my daimon: “You will
Be back in thirty-five years.”
Thirty-five years later
I returned after several floods
Had torn through the canyon
Sweeping over our favorite
Hole. One year, I teetered, 
Amazed by the force 
Of the flood and sensing
A hush underneath the roar,
A silence rising as the flood
Slowly subsided. By then
Most of the people in that van
Were gone, my father,
Grandparents, and uncle side
By side in Clovis Cemetery,
My brother in another state,
My father, forty years ago,
Always facing the depths--
I could not tell him
Of the voice from my soul
Or how I could feel him
Tuning his soul to the quiet
Rhythms of water as he
Cast his line and waited....
I no longer grasp water
Or miss the webs
Torn by the wind
Or even attempt to cast
A line as I immerse myself
In the quiet, spiders marching out
Of a crack and wobbling
Toward me, a timeless peace
Drenching the floodplain....

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