Saturday, June 4, 1988

CREAMERY CREEK

CREAMERY CREEK
   —for Albert Straus

Teddy Roosevelt fished here.
That is why this part of the creek, where it enters Tomales Bay
is called White House Bend. The flash and churn 
of silver salmon spawned in cowshitted green water—
a coinage of fiery fish, unturned stones and politics.
With a pitchfork, my uncle speared a salmon
fat with roe—escaped embers combusting downstream
where the given name changes again and again
but not the creek. Creamery, Lagunitas, Papermill.
The Miwok names are lost.
With rosemary from my grandmother's garden, we seasoned the salmon.
Nestled in the resin-green needles, a surprise of pale blooms 
like fragments of the sky against sunrisen flesh 
wrapped in a tinfoil night. We baked it in butter and garlic
but the flesh was like muddied water.
The cats fought over the feathered bones.

Each pool was named: Shafter's, China House, The Gravel Pit, Taylor. 
Beneath dank redwoods, rags from the City were pulped into paper
by big paddles when Papermill Creek was still untamed.
Near the Inkwells, so deep, everyone said they were bottomless,
we found obsidian and chert arrowheads, nameless iron, 
coins and wedding rings. Who we were. Where we came from.
In summer, my chestnut mare plunged through pools,
her hair, floating in verdent water like fire.
I slipped off her back, grabbed hold of her tail
and was towed to the opposite shore
not understanding the sense of loss.

Years later, my uncle said, I feel guilty
taking that salmon before she laid her eggs.
My uncle said, Before Kent dam was built
the Cataracts were alive with falls.
When the wind blew, dense stands 
of pine and redwood roared like fire.
Now, silt feeds the azaleas, stream orchids
and huckleberries. No coinage of fish.
The forests, the dairies—nearly all gone now.
Perhaps, forseeing the end of civilization,
this is why the Romans named the rosemary for remembrance.

Creamery/Lagunitas/Papermill Creek fed by all the tributaries:
Arroyo, and Barranca—where, in the small summer pools
I caught trapped fish bare-handed; a bagpipe skirling
Amazing Grace from some forgotten canyon at sunset.
Devil's Gulch, Crystal Springs. All the names—even Kit Carson left his mark.
At the headwaters of Creamery Creek—named after Jóse Revere's milking barn
where Alexander Graham Bell set up the first telephone system
in the San Geronimo Valley—did they shout through copper wires
at midnight, The Indians are coming! The Indians are coming!
to those recording the historic event in the kitchen of the main house?
We are already here on the last wild ride of the long night.
And what of the Miwok names?

6/4/88    Marshall/Pt. Reyes

1991 San Geronimo Valley Resource Guide
1989 First Leaves