Lost Creek and Parvin

When it rains three days straight, the creek swells and bottlenecks

at the culvert under the mountain of quarry rock that holds the railroad

up off the ground. Water flows eight inches deep over the shoulderless

road and washes roiling through the swamp on the creek’s lower flank.

In summer, herons stalk the swamp shallows, plunge their heads down

between lily pads and lift them back up, bills algae-hung, to swallow trout.

In early fall most swamp-captive fish are heron-caught or drown

in thick-blooming sun-diminished water.

Spring and autumn, migrating ducks dive for worms in the bottom-muck,

roll beer cans for water bugs; with their bills they shake tiny black snails

from river-shredded plastic bags stuck in bank brush.

Yellow-slickered crews of humans repair and clear track even in the rain.

Up and down the tracks measured loads run over the creek in trains,

the same times every week.

Where the road turns sharp uphill to parallel the high-built rails,

time measures itself in migrations, flood durations, lifespans

of trapped fish. Water lilies grow quietly in the long hour of summer.

The next hour uproots them swift and easy in flood current.

Above the determined stillnesses of herons, trains thunder intermittent.

The creek subsides only in time for the creek to subside.

–sheryl sandberg wagner, 1999.  2nd place winner: Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Contest, 2000.