Reimagining the West

Three Versions: Reimagining the West



October, summer lingering on the coast, and so why not drive up to the Olympic,

and maybe catch a glimpse of the salmon holding at the base of the Elwah dam—

the last blocked run before the engineers dismantle the dam for good. The shadowy

fish, wavering in the pools below: vague flags, yes, but to me, graphic anticipation.

Taking down dams, allowing the fish up river—finally the freedom to pursue

what we’ve no choice but to pursue: our descendants, our genetic legacies. Our wild

origins. Our shimmering days, and our deaths.




I watch the Lamar pack at a distance, listen to the German tourists swoon,

and wonder if the radio-collared wolves perhaps deserve some privacy. But no:

privacy in the west means opportunity, motive, and violence against the innocent.

The wolves are blood-stained in innocence, thieves in innocence. They’re innocent

of innocence altogether. When they howl, a shudder runs through me: delight, first,

electric thrill, and then a bolt of my own culpability. While the wolves trot off

towards obscurity, to cull a herd of elk.




The epic west yet asserts itself, in vast generalities: in mountains, in deserts, in

cumulus the size of cities, the only cities in all Wyoming. But now the entire planet

looms each time I round a bend. Contours of the local earth describe a global trend.

Frost heaves earth in minute splendor. Drought leaves fine, dendritic fissures.

Wind emerges from little crannies, from furrows in the bark of pines. Fire leaps

from stem to stem in the grasslands, needle to needle in the woods. Clouds settle

in the wake of hooves: ordinary dust.