Sunday, January 21, 2007

Skagit River rising

Swollen waters
silence rapids hidden underneath.
The river spreads beyond its banks,
turning grassy paths into marsh, indistinct,
erasing boundary between the river and the land.

Eddies churn in circles
and crows watch the eagles skeptically.

Warnings buzz around our heads—
the list of tasks, reminders shouted from room to room,
radio waves and newsprint chattering predictions:
The river will overspill. We scurry.

The woodpile by the barn, we tie it down
to stop the river lifting it, piece by piece,
to carry out to sea.
We move furniture, handtools and potted plants
to higher ground, beyond floodwaters’ reach,
and stop to make a pact
with neighbors: our hands are theirs.

Putting spark to fuel,
Richard raises a wand, throwing flame
across the kindling pile.
From beneath the burning wood, mice
abandon burrows, squealing
into a black-charred patch of ashes,
into open jaws of field and sky.

Mount Sauk, whose snowfall feeds the river,
lurks invisible behind the house,
behind the clouds we breathe.
Sadie barks. The air is cold and still.

Then the first fat drops
start a clatter on the metal roof,
falling heavy on our heads,
and the sky
has begun to sing
its ancient lovesong to the river.

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