Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Poem that Got Published / Reading at Powell's

So I went to Powell's on Sunday to read my poem. I had a great time! Since it was a student anthology, there were a few high school and college-age authors, but most of the other readers were from grades 2-8. It was fun to hear their pieces and cheer them on, and it made for a really safe audience for my (first, I hope) Powell's reading.

My dandy brand-new camera broke.   :(

Two of my students were also there to read, and as I was taking photos of Jimi, the camera locked up and we can't get it to work now. There are photos of me reading my poem stuck on the camera. Someday... In the meantime, Jimi got a photo of all of us on his cell phone at the end.

Miranda Ball, Jimi Hays, me
(We're holding our copies of the anthology)

Here's my poem:

First Fish: Salmon Ceremony

Along that great blue expanse of Columbia,
I drive I-84 west into the sun past Celilo village
Stealing glances south across the freeway
To the narrow strip below basalt cliffs
Where the longhouse rests, stately,
Attended by courtiers of old cars, small trailer houses, a few boats
And two trees.

What if you could put the river on rewind
Like an old movie
Watch the water rolling back, down
Let it eat the dam
Whose turbines sing the death chant
Of Celilo.

I saw you there at Celilo
You wore your blue fringed dress
Bright shawl around your shoulders
Your arm encircled
A daughter, carrying bundles
Both of you headed to the longhouse.
There was another, a man
Wearing a ribbon shirt
Standing next to his truck.

Above, the basalt cliffs
Were filled with eyes:

The man moved toward the longhouse.

At seventy miles per hour,
My cheeks wet with tears,
I cannot move.

References in the poem:

The poem makes reference to the ancient fishing site at Celilo Falls, which used to span the great Columbia River. Celilo Falls was drowned in 1957 with the building of The Dalles Dam, and the fishing site was lost, not only to the Native Americans, but to all people. There is still an Indian village at the site of Celilo, with homes and a longhouse for gatherings and ceremonies.

Ever since Coyote helped people learn now to make their way in the world, the People have celebrated the First Fish of every salmon run. Some traditions had the First Fish shared with everyone in the tribe, and other traditions had the First Fish released to the river to go back and tell the other fish to come up the river. 

Tsaglal, or "She Who Watches," is an important petroglyph near the site of Celilo Falls. She warns people of the danger of the falls ahead. 

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Beautiful, Kathy. It's such a sad thing that we often allow progress to rob us of natural beauties and honored traditions.