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Grass No. 50 - Sauvies/Wapato Island

Grass
Grass No. 50 - Sauvies/Wapato Island
By Hudson Gardner • Issue #50 • View online

Wapato Island
Sixty thousand people
lived along this area
eating salmon, wapato
for time unknown.

Flooded by the tide
the ponds once full of this
arrow-root, wapato bulbs
brought up from beneath
and loaded into boats.
And millions of salmon
came up, caught, and eaten.

On dry ground
where I build a fire
people lived once before.
Now I’d be arrested
if anyone knew
I slept there—
a wilderness area
devoid of people
full of cows.

Gangs of raccoons surround my camp
glowing eyes in my headlamp beam,
some in trees
then the moon rises.
“Columbia” flowing in the distance—
which means “westward progress”.

The only way to get here now:
Park a car     far away, and walk
or hitch, or bike      to where the dykes are built
and a low floodgrove of oaks grows.
Leave no car, and none will know
where you sleep, or care
that you are there.

I lay my pillow     against an ash tree
and willow           gnawed by muskrat or beaver
birds circling        layers of birds    under birds
sunset
tallgrass
silence
owl.

One cow lows for her calf
as they come in
and they don’t know why I’m here.
They spook in the dark and run for a barn
in the distance.
How long has it been
since someone has slept
where now no one can sleep?

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Hudson Gardner

Writing & Photos covering place, ecology, and existence.

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