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September 2009, vol 5 no 3

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Renée Owen

 

Drink a Toast

hazy morning
I sit transfixed
by last night’s dream

Walking in silence over stones and driftwood along the river’s edge, I revel in the smell of dank water and wild rhododendrons in the still air. My footsteps disturb seven mergansers, then a river otter sunning on the sandy shore. Wind wakens boughs of tall redwood and cypress. Small waterfalls course over moss-covered rocks. Following a bend in the wild and desolate waterway, I stop with surprise at a dirt road plowed into the hillside. At the top of the hill, white paper milk cartons and taut silver barbed wire wink in the bright sun, protecting baby grape plants from marauding humans and animals. Row after row after row of thirsty green leaves fed by a hose and a pump, bringing water up from the trickle of a river below. By next year, the waterhole will be dry. The wild turkey, otters, bobcat and deer will need to go elsewhere to drink their fill during the long, hot summer months. If they last the season. With the first fall rain, pesticides will run off the grapes, down the hill, into their small furred and feathered bodies. Locals watching the newly planted, tantalizing shoots say a flock of birds lit down to nibble awhile. Not a single one flew out alive. A hundred miles away, in the heart of town, finely dressed connoisseurs raise their glasses in a toast to the oak bouquet of their sublime wine.

the day after
sunlight glints
off the crow’s beak

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