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Tuesday, July 28, 2020


by Pepper Trail

Spawning Sockeye Salmon, Lake, a photograph by Nick Hall at fineartamerica. A male sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) catches its breath after stranding itself in very shallow water, Hanson Creek, Lake Aleknagik, Bristol Bay, Alaska, USA 4th August 2008. 

     T***p officials concluded Friday that a proposed gold and copper mine in Alaska—which would be the largest in North America—would not pose serious environmental risks, a sharp reversal from a finding by the Obama administration that it would permanently harm the region’s prized sockeye salmon.

     The official about-face regarding the bitterly contested project epitomizes the whiplash that has come to define environmental policy under President Trump, who has methodically dismantled many of his predecessor’s actions on climate change, conservation and pollution.
     A final environmental analysis issued Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that Pebble Mine—which targets a deposit of gold, copper and other minerals worth up to $500 billion —“would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers” in the Bristol Bay watershed, which supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. The Washington Post, July 25, 2020

My sisters, we are too many
The gift that we give, that we are
Is too generous
The rhythm of our lives, our faithful renewal
Is too reliable

To be valuable, we must be scarce
To be scarce, we must be destroyed
We will be destroyed

The gold, the copper
(You remember, that thin metal taste
      upon your lips in the sweet water)
That is scarce
That is valuable
For that, the earth will be moved
The mountains cut apart
The rivers choked in their beds

The gold, the copper
That can be taken, locked up, sold
Each gram worth more, until all is gone
Leaving nothing but the residue
The pure residue  -

With that money, someday
It may be possible for the few
The very few
To buy a few ounces of our flesh
Our wild flesh

Nothing like it in the world, they will say

Nothing like it left in the world

Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.