Saturday, November 18, 2017


The Klamath is dammed. The Sacramento is dammed. The Yuba and Tuolumne are dammed. The San Joaquin is dammed. The Columbia is dammed and the Snake is dammed. The Missouri and the Ohio and the mighty Mississippi are dammed. The Hudson is dammed, the Saint Lawrence is dammed. The Rio Grande is dammed.

Lassen is dammed and Shasta is dammed. Even Rainier is dammed. Whitney and Denali, dammed. Clouds Rest and Half Dome and El Capitan are dammed. The Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, the Rockies Canadian and American, all dammed. The continental divide is dammed, Muir Pass is dammed. Donner Pass was dammed from the beginning. Siskiyou summit is dammed, the highway there is dammed, the trails are dammed, the PCT is dammed, 2600 miles, dammed.

San Francisco Bay, Monterey Bay, Suisun Bay, they too are dammed. The headlands of Big Sur are dammed. The shore is dammed, the granite stones are dammed, the cypress trees of Point Lobos are dammed. The great waves sweeping in from the west, spume at their heads, shadows of seals and kelp backlit in the emerald water, they are dammed.

The giant sequoias are dammed, the coast redwoods are dammed. The bristle cone pine, the juniper, the incense cedar, dammed. The granite from which they grow is dammed.

The granite foundation of the Mint is dammed. The pillars in bay fill and sunken ships beneath the Transamerica building are dammed. The Financial District is dammed. The waterfront is dammed. Knob Hill, the Mission, the Sunset, the Tenderloin, the Barbary Coast, they are dammed.

The city is dammed. The streets are dammed, the pavement is dammed, the cracks in the pavement where the weeds struggle are dammed. The traffic is dammed, the Muni buses and the BART trains screaming in the tunnels beneath the bay, dammed. The exhaust from the tail pipes is dammed, the plumes of methane from the landfills are dammed, global climate change is dammed.

The power lines running through the night of the winter valley are dammed. Their humming is dammed. The vomiting coal plants are dammed, the spewing nuclear plants are dammed, the hydro-electric dams are dammed. The great masses of cement filling the mouths of the valleys, blocking the speech and stilling the tongues of these great valleys, these great dams are dammed.

The flow of power, the rivers of electricity that hydra-like snake from the plants and dams, these are dammed. The sulfur streetlights like fallen stars in the fog are dammed and alone, each separate, alone, dammed. The light switch beside the door we flick on and off, this is dammed, the bulb is dammed, the assumed light is dammed. The glowing square of the screen is dammed, the thin, hard box of the computer is dammed. Facebook is dammed and Twitter is dammed, the internet is dammed. Technology is dammed.

The tree-sitters are dammed, the protesters are dammed. The Water Protectors, the veterans, the tribes are dammed. The native, the natural, the non-human, the uncivilized is dammed.

The pen is dammed, the paper is dammed. The chair and the table, the room is dammed. Our language is dammed. Words are dammed. Ignored and forgotten, misused and reversed, blocked and dammed. All the things we have dammed are words we have dammed. We have dammed the dam of words which are dammed. We have deformed the words and dammed them. Our ears are dammed. Our eyes are dammed. Our fingers, our skin is dammed. We have dammed up our mouths like the mouths of the valleys, and behind the dams are the words, in the cold darkness where silt sifts around the murdered trees and trout flit and the bare bedrock of the mountains turns its face up into the black water, there are the words we reach for when we must name something, when we must speak to the world lest we be dammed in turn.

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