At Klamath Marsh
Say it: Klamath… Klamath Marsh.
Can you feel the ooze, the muddy ease,
the seep and soft welcome and antiquity
of water? Can you follow the canoe trail
through grasses that part along a seam
your prow divides? Can you feel the tingle
of a thousand geese lifting off, beating
their wind-drum staccato hum of yearning?
Can you see how the sun layers color
up from the ripple skin into strata of the sky?
Can you apprehend through time’s mist how
the people heaped wocus root, dyed yellow
baskets with seed, lined pits with tule
to store a season of ripe survival? Can
you still hear the smoky story of children
leaving their spirit voices but burrowing
down through the fire to get away? Can
you stand by the water with a friend,
who tells what the tribe was, and will be?
Can you name the wocus, the cuicui,
lamprey, dace, the snubnose chub,
willow, cattail, tule, beaked sedge, spikerush,
diatomaceous earth, hemic, sapric, limnic,
the algae, the eagle tree, pelicans skimming
flat reflections stern as glass? So say it,
Klamath… Klamath Marsh, and sag
into muck, loyal to old ways, deep beliefs,
sturdy honor in concentric ooze, each
thud of your steps on hollow ground
learning from the wocus root how
to be home here, how to be woven in,
to be rooted deep in sacred mud.
This poem was first published in Terrain.org and in Kim’s little book, Reunion of the Rare: Oregon Poems, by Kim Stafford (Little Infinities, 2018).
Kim Stafford is the current Oregon Poet Laureate. You may find out more about him on the drop-down menu for poet laureate prompts (spring 2020) or use this direct link.