Nisqually Delta Blues
It’s the house that’s got us down. Not that it isn’t beautiful on its solitary peninsula, no sign of an access road through the tree-lined ridge that descends to the water. It’s the whole place. We could never afford it. Not the mortgage, not the rent. It is ok to dream. Telling you this, I am more American. Low tide sucks bare the land at our feet. The dike served only to keep salt out. We thank the traffic on I-5 for being light, thank the frogs for returning to the algae green ponds. Try to have faith in reclamation. The far-off house that hovers serene above the water makes it possible to imagine: a glass bowl filled with apples, the scent of coffee, my hand slipping around your waist as the trees behind us gloom on. It is the Medicine Creek treaty. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the waterfowl hunt, the barn we passed so white. Empty though never derelict, as if their scale made them gods. Shouldn’t we be ashamed that this land was bought for less than the down payment on a rambler? Couldn’t we cede it back? You are right, there is no way we could afford the insurance or groceries. We couldn’t even lease a car. Think of the dark water under our feet, the military base we drove past. Life would be impossible. We would be bound to this place by rush hour. But it is so beautiful. Where else would we go? It’s the river that runs from the mountain, years of improper sediment distribution, the plight of the chinook, the receding glaciers. My father’s climbing days are behind him. But did you want to? Yes. Never. Always. Everything has a cost. The dream of here, the sun setting over Anderson Island. The slim tributaries, the fizz of the tide refilling the delta.
Kris Johnson is a writer of poetry and essays with interests in gender and the environment. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and in 2019 was awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice grant from Arts Council England for The Vast Kingdom of Nowhere, an experimental memoir. She has published in journals and anthologies including Hallelujah for 50ft Women (Bloodaxe), Ambit, Poetry London, Poetry Northwest and The Rialto. She currently works as researcher on a text-led public art project in Darlington and teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University.