FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Undoing the Elwha

Screen shot 2016-06-15 at 9.56.28 AM

Photo courtesy of USGS.

“The largest dam removal project in United States history.”

This is our undoing: we take a machine we’ve made and maneuver it behind a container
we’ve made – the face we’ve put on nature — this force that controls the force of the river —
this source of power — and we bang at it with a blunt edge till the top few rows break.
Then a wetness marks the concrete. And we begin to admit our mistake.

Born dark,
they turn silver
and ride
the bouldered current down
till they reach
the dark
of the sea,
where they appear
to disappear,
to cease.

The idea is to heal. We close the hurt of the old channel, divert the flow to a new channel,
then remove a section of the old, and divert the flow back. Slowly, it lowers the lake’s level.
Why did we ever dam the river? For civilization. For light. Because it was doing no good. Now we plan /
to create a plan to re-define those definitions. We chip away at our own creation. We un-dam.

The young swerve
through the dark sea
abstract
– only guessed at —
until they feel
the need to return.
Then, they flush pink
and, hump-backed,
surge towards
the concrete.

The lake reveals what it once denied. Mud flats dotted with tree stumps lumbered
a hundred years ago. A sunken boat. A plow. And millions of years older than that, a boulder
the native tribe believes is where the world begins. And what do we believe? That we can know enough /
to build the future. It’s in our nature to alter nature: as close as we get to love.

decades,
these dreams
(hundred pound shadows)
fought their way
upriver,
till they came to what
couldn’t exist
and slammed against it.
And slammed
against it.

A timed explosion. At the scale of the mountains, trivial. At the scale of the dam, fatal. Tiny
men in tiny hard-hats cheer how much we’ve lost. Where there were dynamos, now debris;
it pulses with the built-up silt and, sliding towards the sea, stains the unleashed river red.
We declare the Elwha free. We declare a new beginning: water returned to its ancient bed.

And how do they know
when they’ve made it
home?
The smell? The taste? The chill?
Females deposit
reddish eggs;
males spill
their white seed.
Is this what we mean
by starting over?

If each generation nurtures a vision, ours is the Long Return. But how do we, then, sustain a balance /
we’ve never really known? Students kneel on re-claimed soil and sow a landscape of native plants:
setting roots in random rows, shaping the earth to catch rain, hoping in a world we’ve mostly failed /
that the scent will carry downriver, extend across the dark ocean, and act as a kind of trail.

Done,
the old mistakes decay.
The broken machines
lose power,
their final hour
with one eye
turned up
to the sun.
Done, they feed
seedlings.

More articles by:
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail