Poetry Friday: Water Under the Bridge

We’ve had a lot of rain this week in northeastern Iowa. That’s on top of a wet spring. Rivers are flooding. Farm fields stand in water. The creek that runs near the house overflowed its banks, which usually stand 6 feet above the water’s surface, and carved a new channel through the river bottoms. A culvert under the road to a friend’s house clogged with rocks and the water washed out the road. Parts of a nearby town are underwater.

Besides the devastation to infrastructure and peoples’ lives, I was struck by how much soil the storm washed away. This didn’t happen because of irresponsibility or indifference (farmers I know feel sick when they lose topsoil and many routinely use no-till practices) but resulted from some unfortunate timing, and a market economy that pushes farmers to plant as much corn as possible in as many places as possible in order to pay the bills. Also, weather patterns influenced by global climate change don’t help. Can a warmer Arctic really influence weather in Iowa? (Yes, as it turns out. Read about a study describing a North Atlantic blocking pattern and the Arctic Oscillation here.) The butterfly’s wings flutter.

Amy has more poetry at her wonderful place of poetry: The Poem Farm!

Water Under the Bridge

Canoe Creek
rises over its banks β€”
roiling brown, packed with
branches, trash, trees. Four inches of
rain fell on saturated soil, pummeling fields
desperately plowed, unplanted, underwater. A
hundred years of prairie toil, the Collected Works of a
bazillion plants, head downstream, plugging the
dammed Mississippi, choking the shrimp in
Plaquemines Parish, feeding the dark
maw of the Dead Zone. Three
more inches predicted
tonight.

Β© Steve Peterson

PS. The sun shone brightly today, and I expect things to dry out some if this keeps up. Last year was deep drought. This year, floods. The fire next time? (Hmmm. That’s happening elsewhere…)

BREAKING NEWS! On my morning run I found a crayfish (yup, a crayfish!) half-way across the gravel road near my house, probably ambling from one water filled ditch to the other. Why? Not sure. I think I’ll have to ask the chicken. πŸ™‚ By the way, I helped it along its way, though it was none too happy to be picked up.

Here’s a video of the creek, if you’re interested.

19 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Water Under the Bridge

  1. “…the Collected Works of a/bazillion plants…” Wow. What a line. I am sorry it’s been such a rough one there. Sometimes poetry feels like the only right-response to things so hard to understand, to things that feel scary if we keep thinking. I’m glad you helped the little guy – yesterday on my walk, I watched a teen boy hop out of a car to help a turtle. Hope lives! ‘Sending your sun this way, and wishing you a happy PF!

    • Thanks for reading, Amy! I’m glad you liked that line. I was trying to think of how to signal “legacy!”

      After reading around, it looks like lots of people moved animals from one side of the road to the other! Cool.

  2. The water is crazy high here, too. One of my friends has a pond in her back yard where her grandson went swimming where normally there is only grass.

    The water is almost touching the bottoms of the bridges along all the rivers. Ready for some sunshine and drying out.

    • Wow! Crazy weather all over the place, as it turns out. The water almost hit the bottom of the bridge near our house, too. The cliff swallows were very, very nervous as the young-uns haven’t quite all fledged yet.

  3. And we have no water here in Colorado, just the fires. I liked the way you arranged your poem, but more than that, that you responded to what’s happening. I guess the crayfish washed up too? Thanks-hope your sunshine stays!

    • Oh, Linda. I’ve been reading about those fires. What a terrible thing. I so much wish we could transport all this water out there. Ugh.

      As for the crayfish…they do migrate around by leaving the water sometimes. I don’t know why one pond is any better than the other, but, that’s what they do! As long as their gills stay moist, they’re fine. I was a little worried about this one. He seemed like he was slowing down and he was only half way across the road.

  4. I loved that same line as Amy – as well as that last sentence. Strong poem here, Steve! We’ve been getting tons of rain here, too – although not as much as you have. I just helped a painted turtle cross the street a couple days ago!

    • Thanks for reading, Matt! More rain out east, huh? I tell you, the article I linked talks about how the jet stream is slowing down as temperatures equalize N to S, which causes the jet stream to braid (like a river that slows down) creating oxbows and deeper, longer lasting patterns. Ugh.

  5. I love the way you’ve connected your creek to the wider water world. Wonderful portrait, with emotion that fills the poem. Sending you dry, sunny thoughts.

    • Thank you so much, Buffy. It seems to me that you and I share a love of science and the natural world! Everything really is connected–warm ocean waters, world markets for grain, the shrimp beds in Louisiana, and a little, tiny creek in Iowa.

  6. I love the powerful images…and then the video to make them all too real. How very odd to find a crayfish in your path, but then, everything weather related seems so odd these days!

    • Yes, the crayfish was a puzzle. The dog found him (or her, I forgot to check) and she reared up on her back legs, pincers ready to take on the dog. Fierce…and drying out. So, I reached down and picked her up .

  7. Wow – thanks for sharing, Steve. I had highlighted the same line Amy (and Matt) loved – terrific. And a kicker of an ending.

    That creek in the video looks more like a raging river! Wishing you more sunny skies soon.

    • Normally that creek is slow and lazy. It also has some trout in it! All that sediment isn’t going to help the trout.

      Thanks for stopping by to read!

  8. I was going to comment on the same line Amy picked out, those “Collected Works.” Wild weather everywhere lately! Hope you’re drying out.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ruth! We’re not exactly drying out (more rain today) but at least they aren’t those downpours that we had earlier in the week.

  9. I agree with Buffy about your connection to the wider world. It’s not just the loss of the topsoil (oh, the pain of it — my dad lived through the dustbowl era in E. Colorado), but how that topsoil is damaging ecosystems all the way to the Gulf of Mexico…and beyond? Crazy weather. Butterfly wings. (btw — have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s new one, FLIGHT BEHAVIOR? I’m having a text-to-text connection πŸ™‚

    • No, I haven’t read FLIGHT BEHAVIOR. I love Kingsolver’s work, though. I’ll have to see if I can get it from the library! I’m in the market for a non-kid book right now.

      Like you, I was struck by the irony of how the loss of topsoil was not only terrible in its own right, but that it was also unwelcome downstream, so to speak.

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