High water: 31.13 feet

for Deborah Meltvedt on World Poetry Day

The river looks like a muddy lake,
milk chocolate spread from bank to bank,

the swollen American not at flood stage,
but definitely a crest that will recede

in the coming days. We walk the west
side levee now that the bulldozers and

earthmovers have moved on farther
upstream for more repair, mourning

the taking of so many trees and habitat
of river dwellers we no longer hear or see.

We understand about necessary reinforcement,
flood protection in times like these when

so much water careens down this narrow
course. But we wonder where the otters

and beavers have gone, where water fowl
have relocated. We walk close to the river’s

edge near a small copse of trees up to
their knees in the deceptively still stream.

A mallard pair swims between spindly
trunks like drunken bees weaving from flower

to flower. You’ve seen these two here before,
say that you like to think of them as a mated

pair—imagine them floating together on
hot days on this thin ribbon of river just as

they now cruise the high water. They paddle
into a sunspot, pause, look our way, then

synchronize a turn downstream, heading
someplace we cannot begin to follow.

A mallard pair swims among the trees flooded by the swollen American River, March 16, 2023. (Photos/Jan Haag)

About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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