The ash is snowflakes. The skyline obscured by smoke like fog. I take a drink from the public water fountain, metal tarnished white with calcium. I sit by the cement dock. Watch murky water approach and retreat. A meadowlark hobbles through the parking lot. Three sparrows edge the sky. My sister-in-law silently packs out our raft. Sandwiches, beer. I spin my polyester sunhat in my hands. Set my sunglasses on my head.
An old silver motorboat floats down the river. Man, woman, dog, fishing poles. Beneath the water sea grass swirls in unending graceful loops. Fish settle and swim. Beyond the bridge, brigades of bandy-legged blue herons lope through shallows. I’m shore bound in leather boots.
Somewhere not too far from here hundreds of acres are on fire. Beyond the mountains, plains, river. I’m weaving my hair into braids. Thinking of bison chased over cliffs, twisting in shocked piles, voices blaring in fear. Thinking of aquifers gone dry, species disappeared, the life of the West. Thinking of sleeping under stars, of snakes in the coals, of hard, dreamless nights. Thinking of great quarries filled with poison. One hundred white geese floating, then sinking.
Here in the untamed West, where we let vices blossom, bludgeon beauty, bear brutality, then sleep quiet and unseen under golden mountains, golden moon. Here where small towns are built on bones and dreams. Here the bear lumbers, the coyote creeps, the bison circles in man-made pens. Here I tie my hair. I step into the raft. I pop a beer. And I float.