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Monday, February 12, 2024


by Pepper Trail

The Largest Dam Removal Project in U.S. History Begins Final Stretch, Welcoming Salmon Home. After being impeded by dams for more than a century, the Klamath River will be restored to its historic channel this year. —Smithsonian, January 22, 2024. Photo above by Pepper Trail.

When the dams rose, the river did not die
But lost its body, became spirit
Haunting the slackwater depths of the lake
Invisible beneath the dull skin of surface
For those long years, suspended, adrift
It awaited the touch of resurrection
The returning salmon, barred behind a locked door
While a new rabble stirred the helpless warmth
Bullhead and perch and pumpkinseed
Soft-bellied and sleepy in the stillness
Now, just now, the iron gates broken
The river is gasping back to life
Moving again time-withered muscles
Reaching blind careful fingers
Retracing its path through the canyon of mud
Remembering, curve by curve, its body
Its purpose, to move without stopping
To dance with the shapes of the land
To keep its ancient promise
To welcome the salmon, and meet the sea

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.