Friday, November 24, 2006

in the Year of the Drought*

by Joan Dobbie

Even now after so many years & many such trips &
so much loss I need to expound about that one
particular magnificent journey East. How I at age 42
swam my way over the breadth of America
in absolute harmony
with two 13 year old boys. My parents were still
both alive in those days & we were driving
to see them, but there was in those days
no hurry
so we hit every body of water between Oregon & New York State, and let me tell you
drought or no drought
there were plenty.

We swam in the Willamette before we left home
& we swam in the green Snake River the instant we hit
& we drove up 5 miles of precarious cliffs
to swim in Angel Lake, Utah
& we swam in the Great Salt Lake
until Andy was crawling with shrimp
& we swam in the Horsetooth Reservoir
& we swam in the Boulder Reservoir
& we almost went tubing down Boulder Creek
& we hit at least 5 of the 10 thousand lakes
of Minnesota
& we spent half a day submerged in the huge dead
& therefore perfectly pure water of
Lake Superior & in Ontario Canada we swam
in the cooling
system of a nuclear reactor (by accident)
where the water was luxuriously warm
& in upstate New York I tell you
there are rivers & reservoirs
everywhere. We boated! We rafted! We walked
on the water-pipes. We enjoyed that water!

And the people--
that summer my mom & my dad still lived
in their house by the river, staring I think
at too many sunsets, but facing that sun
with such a magnificent vengeance! It was
the year of their 50th Wedding Anniversary &
they'd invited every relative between here & anywhere
on earth & God help the relative that didn't
show up. We celebrated night & day. We had a huge
50th Wedding Anniversary Wedding complete
with a rabbi flown in from Indiana,
150 Wedding guests, a many-tiered wedding cake,
a man with a video camera
& all the challa you could eat.

We said, Hitler, you ruined this couple's first
but this wedding no tyrant can touch! And no tyrant
Not out loud. Not that year.
All the girls wore silk dresses.
And myself, I went off & got laid, exquisitely.
And Magda & Jonathan, they got pregnant again.
And the boys? Who cares what they did.
The air was ripe with bubbles.

Then driving back West we encountered
a rainbow
swimming in the mist of Niagara Falls,
a bear standing on his hind legs
by the roadside,
he looked like a boy in a bearsuit
& coming up over the mountains
we passed muledeer & eagles & marmots
& hovering over the buttes there were condors

& we chased girls in their fathers' red Fiats
at 100 miles an hour
& we slept in our favorite park of the dinosaurs,
we made sundials to the white of the moon.
We met a real skunk but who cares? He didn't stink.
& nowhere we went did it rain.

And we drove past huge herds of thin antelope
& we did not hit any rabbits
& we heard the coyotes howling
& we drove through a vast burning desert
immersed in the incense of sagebrush on fire--
& I said, Man, this is the best trip of my entire
& Day said, I sure hope it's not the best trip
of my life, I'd hate it --
my best trip almost over -- & me just thirteen.

* This poem appeared in Fireweed, 1992. I retain all rights Copyright 1992 Joan Dobbie