ContentsPutah and Cache: Lake Berryessa

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(Lake) Berryessa

Christy Brigham

Mornings in January, February, or even March
at the right bend in the road
you recline at full length before me
a thick layer of mist from end to end.

Standing by my favorite porta-potty
I can see only you,
acres of water surrounded by hills of ghost pine,
manzanita, thickets of chamise.

In April I bring my dog for days on serpentine.
Burrowing in the center of shrub shade
she waits for release to come
at Lake Berryessa.

After field work on sharp rocks, and some dog boredom,
we spend an hour strolling a trail on the eastern shore.
Poison oak, purple flowers, shade
and a tail winding up and down paths near water.

In July I come upon you thirsty,
covered in dirt. Caked.
The landscape is prickly, dry and full of tannins.
Leaves are held tight, dusky green, or long gone.

The mud of your banks is exposed,
slime, logs, and stumps on display.
Swimming I encounter weeds, mud, goo,
I swim until the last possible moment, dog paddling in inches of water.

What was here before
I never saw. One hundred and twenty lives, grave yard, trees.
What is here now is an expanse of water
in a dry landscape, clouds lying low.

Once we made bedrock mortars,
grinding into geology.
Now we've painted a concrete C into a notch in the great valley sequence
creating a whimsical, frivolous abundance of water.

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Upper Putah Creek