A wallowa is a Native American fish trap
the Nez Perce built from sticks,
like wicker fences set crosswise in the river.
They used them to herd bull and rainbow trout
into the shallows where they clubbed and gaffed them.

I spent this morning on the Minam river
at one of their old fishing spots.
I teased the river for hours with my fly line.
All I got was bone cold feet
from the mountain runoff.

On the way back to camp
I startled a bull elk in the trees
exploding the stillness
in a thud of hooves
and cracking branches.
The sun walked down the mountain
faster than I could get back across
the valley for eggs and bacon,
home made bread, jam and coffee.

Later I sat in the hot sun
warming my feet and trying to write
but in the end I just sat there
staring at the morning
with its buzzing quiet ways.
Maybe I could build
a wallowa for herding ideas,
fragments, chum and by-catch
into the shallows where my
gaff is sharp and my club is ready.
But I know the majority of the poetry fish
will swim through as they should
as though there were
no sticks in the river at all.

5 responses to “Wallowa

  1. a terrific poem. sometimes I think our best poems escape us, and the fragments of them we retain help us to recognize the good poems others have caught.


  2. Thanks bro…spot on..that is a wonderful insight…or maybe Insight! Love it.


  3. “The sun walked down the mountain” – that’s a damn fine line. “A wallowa for herding ideas” – there’s something to talk about…. I just started a sabbatical and the first project is to write a short book on some esoteric techniques in research chemistry. At least, that’s what my collaborator thinks we’re doing. He’s been writing; I’ve been sending him comments. He says, “show me what you’ve written,” but while I can see the dark shapes of my ideas just below the water’s surface, the bait keeps slipping off my hook, and my feet keep getting colder and colder. A wallowa, you say?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Wallowa | Mist and Mold

  5. Thanks! yes, a writer’s wallowa…we can have a contest to see who builds a useful one first…my initial design idea is to drink Don Julio Tequila while reading John Ashbery until something, anything at all, begins to make sense..then write that down.


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