by: Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Underneath ice caps, once glacial peaks
deer, elk, vixen begin to ascend.
Free creatures camouflaged as
waves and waves receding far
from plains pulling
upward slopes and faraway snow dusted mountains.
On spotted and clear cut hills robbed of fir,
high above wheat tapestried valleys, flood plains
up where headwaters reside.
Droplets pound, listen.
Hoofed and pawed mammals
pawing and hoofing themselves up, up.
Along rivers dammed by chocolate beavers,
trailed by salamanders—mud puppies.
Plunging through currents,
above concrete and steel man-made barriers
these populations of plains, prairies, forests flee
in such frenzy, popping splash dance,
pillaging cattail zones, lashing lily pads—
the breath of life in muddy ponds, still lakes.
Liquid beads slide on windshield glass
along cracked and shattered pane,
spider-like with webs and prisms.
“Look, there, the rainbow
touched the ground both ends down!”
Full arch seven colors showered, heed
what Indigenous know, why long ago,
they said no one belongs here, surrounding them,
that this land was meant to be wet with waters of nearby
not fertile to crops and domestic graze.
The old ones said,
“When the animals leave this place
the waters will come again.
This power is beyond the strength of man.
The river will return with its greatest force.”
No one can stop her.
She was meant to be this way.
Snakes in honor, do not intrude.
The rainbow tied with red and green like
that on petal rose, though only momentarily.
Colors disappear like print photographs fade.
They mix with charcoal surrounding.
A flurry of fowl follow
like strands, maidenhair falls,
from blackened clouds above
covering the basin and raising sky.
Darkness hangs over
the hills appear as black water crests,
blackness varying shades.
The sun is somewhere farther than the farthest ridge .
Main gravel crossroads and back back roads
slicken to mud, clay.
Turtles creep along rising banks, snapping jowls.
Frogs chug throaty songs.
The frogs only part of immense choir
heralding the downpour, the falling oceans.
Over the train trestle, suspension bridge with
current so slick everything slides off in sheets.
Among rotten stumps in black bass ponds,
somewhere catfish reel in fins and crawl,
walking whiskers to higher waters.
Waters above, below
the choir calling it forth.
Brightly plumed jays and dull brown-headed cowbirds
fly as if hung in one place like pinwheels.
They dance toward the rain crest,
the approaching storm
beckoning, inviting, summoning.
A single sparrow sings the stroke of rain
past the strength of sunlight.
The frog chorus sings refrain,
melody drumming thunder,
evoked by beasts and water creatures wanting their homes.
Wanting to return to clearings and streams where ash, or
white birch woods rise, tower over,
quaking aspen stand against
storm shown veils—sheeting rains crossing
pasture, meadow, hills, mountain.
Gathering clouds converge, push,
pull, push, pull forcing lightning
back and forth shaping
windy, sculptured swans, mallard ducks, and giants
from stratocumulus media.
As if they are a living cloud chamber,
As if they exist only in the heavens.
Air swells with dampness.
It has begun.
One final nature poem to end Earth Day week. This one's a little apocalyptic. It's also a little Noah's arkish, without the ark. Or Noah. It leaves humankind drowning in the rain and protects the fish and birds and snakes and animals.
It always happens this time of the year. As the weather warms and snow begins to disappear, rivers and lakes begin to fill up. This morning, as I was watching TV, I noticed a Flood Watch from the National Weather Service for a county to the west. Like I said, it happens every spring.
Only once in my life have I seen the damage from a really strong flood. It destroyed roads and camps, eroded beaches, swamped a local campground. As I drove around a day or two afterward, I got to see firsthand the results. It was as if Nature rolled up her sleeves and said, "Uh, let me show you something."
Now, some ten-plus years later, the campground and roads are repaired. Dams have been strengthened. But, of course, it only takes one strong rainstorm or a winter of incredible snows to erase these man-made things again. We aren't the owners of this planet. Just travelers, along with the deer and bears and salmon and wrens.
If we don't take care of this place, it's going to take care of us.
And Saint Marty isn't that good of a swimmer.