Monday, June 09, 2014

A longish poem on the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Over the past few weeks, I've been working on a long poem about the Laguna de Santa Rosa, a natural area near the town of Sebastopol where I live and grew up.  It's a complicated place for those of us who grew up here, because though it was once a natural treasure a vast wetland and series of lakes that was filled with wildlife, during the 1970s it was a raw sewage treatment center.  Now, thankfully, the Laguna is being restored (thanks to the hard work of the Laguna Foundation).  These sections are the first few sonnets in a series of sonnets I'm writing about the Laguna.

Laguna de Santa Rosa

We walk the cracked, Chamomile-bedded paths
stitching times passage:  willing a wide field
transform back into its original form.
Song birds chatter.  Bees fatten. A red-snake
T-bones the trail like a godamned saint.
What water flows is deep; hard to see through.
And what’s beyond that, anyway?  A blocked
waterway surrounded by the roar of
small-town little league games.  To believe in
wilderness is to suspend your belief.
Let it float on whatever pontoons were
thrown down on this dark matter.  Let the thick
trunked oaks drag their knuckles in the water.
And try to spell a path to the past.

History 1

The largest of the lakes were made into
resorts. There are photographs of young
women with parasols, sitting erect
in boats afloat on the large lakes; wooden
docks where bodies hang and thread arms against
a weightless dark.  All was for the taking.
Until 1895 there was great
bounty and no limits. Any man could
pull a hundred fish from the Laguna’s
chain of lakes.  San Francisco was hungry
for fresh game.  A bushel of mallard ducks
brought a gold nugget. For those who stayed to
farm, lakes on their land became land reclaimed:
drained for the rich soil that waited underneath.

The Body
 Left arm reaching into Copeland, Washoe
and Blucher Creeks. 
Left arm reaching into
Santa Rosa, Hinebaugh and Five Creeks.
A mouth that breathes into Mark West Springs Creek.
A backbone made of the
and Sonoma Mountains. A 14-mile,
sinuous body that holds together
an ecosystem.  Spread out between four
cites where the setiment left over
from history is still being removed.

History Lesson 2

The land was first the lands. Then, the Pomo,
the Miwok and the Wappo lived on it.
Then, triblets of the Konohomtara,
the Kataictemi and the Biakomtara.
For 10,000 years, the Laguna was
unchanged.  Then, the first Mexican land grant
occurred in 1853.  The time
when we took ownership of the land.  Then,
the oak forests, the cool dappled shadows
that seemed to breathe light into dark were gone.
Land cleared. Lakes drained. Trees burned for charcoal.

History Lesson 3
We awoke to the shout of wake up
It had rained continuously for three
days.  The newscaster’s thick mustache barely
rose as he warned: floodplane, 100-year
flood, prepare for the worst at high tide.
When we walked to the window we could see
the backyard had been transformed.  The chicken
coop roof an island in a fast flowing
river.  Then, the adult hand on shoulder
leading us across a wet, muddy floor
toward the gaping frown of the front door where
water licked hungrily at the front step.
Just over the threshold a small silver
boat stuttered on the frothing brown water. 

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