I still call it “the Swamp”

where thirsty Valley Oaks

centuries-old shed their limbs

among barkless skeletons,

bleached bones like flesh

waiting to fall into the next life.


Half-mile across on Christmas Eve,

1955, the Kaweah flowed to the doors

of our ’53 Buick—headlights

diving into oncoming wakes

like Captain Nemo’s submarine.


Not free to run when it wants,

we have held the river up

in the hills for sixty winters,

only to let it run all at once

across the Valley to irrigate

orchards and summer crops—

no kids fishing from shady banks

a lazy river recharging wells.


We can’t fill the dams we have,

yet cotton trailer billboards suggest

that dams can make more water

without looking to the sky.

5 responses to “DAMN DAMS

  1. Magical thinking, huh, John? When will people get it? Never, if it is about the survival of the ways things have always been. Change, big change, is hard to accept. And there are no consequences for squandering our precious water. I am afraid to ask my sister-in-law growing tangerines in Exeter how her well is doing. She will probably snap my head off, blaming people like me who accept the consequences of unsound ag practices for her water woes. How is it that the reality of a limited water supply is now another branch of the culture wars? Sending you and Robin the warmest of greetings. Great poem. Marla

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dams never made a drop. They only fueled greater demand. The origin of supply or its limitations never entered their heads.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pearl (Fairman)Maxner

    couldn’t be truer said…

    Liked by 1 person

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