October 15, 2015

Willow Olla Voices

Willow Olla Voices
By Paula Barteau
October 15 2015

Many Hands picked my myriad twins
They walked up and down the banks looking for those of us they could use
These banks are the walls of our veins
Life within life
Maybe too large for them to see
We are the cells and the organs of our home
Every population is a different system
Equally important, equally alive and individually aware
Though we are all dependent

Though they hold water
Water is the blood of place, it constitutes the blood of creatures, all of us
They would not pour all of their blood into a pool and build pipes to take it away
To something else’s body and expect to stay alive
Blood has to flow through tissue afferent and efferent, never stagnant

We are sorted out and bent together, all dependent, as we’ve always been
They ask us with this structure to hold things, to hold water, though we already do
This thing that we become cannot
They ask us to become a structure with their hands,
Their hands are full of water, but cannot hold water when cupped together
Not for long

Fire and flood are our breath,
Both vital processes to the function of every system
They would never hold their breath as long as they hold ours
We are forced to fever, the fires burn too hot and wide to heal
Destroy what they are necessary to germinate
The floods destroy more than they make room for
Our body reaching past the temperature that kills the infection to kill itself
These are the symptoms of unnecessary medication

Now in our strange new form we are returned to the earth
Where we may rest, take root, and grow
Acknowledgment that the form that we take on our own is no less aesthetic or worthy
Than the form they have given us with their hands

Reciprocity to give us back to our home
To make new homes for others in exchange for what they take away
Acknowledgement that their hands hold the same water that runs through the veins of us the wilderness,
Even as it slips through their cupped fingers

This poem was written for the Gila Wilderness, the oldest national wilderness in the United States which is currently home to seven threatened and endangered species: the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, the Northern Mexican Garter Snake, the Narrow-Head Garter Snake, the Spikedace, Loach Minnow, and The Chiricahua Leopard Frog.

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