Lake Shasta


We looked down on Lake Shasta

and would have seen, decades ago,

chasm’s space fall further

to McCloud River.


They say in years of drought

you can see, wavering in

green lake gloom, the general store

and church steeple

of the mill town where once

people lived and worked.

It was from there and from then

that J.A. Richardson

tracked a bobcat up the canyon

and found, above the landslide

of granite rock, a dark crack

which he followed to caverns.

What stories he must have told

of dripping rock and melting stone.


Who among them knew

their town, their lives, their river

would all be under water

as if a wound cut in earth

bled out inch by inch

from her thigh to her skies?

And who among us will wake

as ghosts in dark weight,

pressure singing in our ears,

vibrations of boats

thundering overhead?


In that time a new people

will glide over

prosaic monuments

of our lost lives to shelters

of awe we’d found.

But as it was with us,

so will it be with them.

Their sons will grow sick,

and their daughters will die.

Their world will cease to hold

a geography that does not

speak of them or show where

they might have gone

and left it alone. What can we say

to those behind and those after?


We looked down at Lake Shasta

and could have seen a mirror

reflecting each of us there,

true in aspect though dark in detail,

forms that flicker and vanish

at a mere breath of wind.


Christopher Raley


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