Gail Tremblay

Meditation on The Dalles Dam
for Lillian Pitt


Electricity is humming in a spider web of lines
as copper wires cased in rubber cross the land;
what sorrow builds in this sound that only whines

where the thunder of water no longer combines
with a wild rush of salmon so close at hand?
Electricity is humming in a spider web of lines.

Where fish runs were rich, everything declines.
No one explains how a body can withstand
The sorrow that builds in this sound that only whines.

Fishermen stood on scaffolds amid the steep inclines
of rock; water foamed before the flow was dammed
so electricity could hum in a spider web of lines.

Rocks watched while men made strange designs
To swell the river to places no rush of water planned.
What sorrow grows when the new sound only whines?

The bodies of old ones wash out of ancient shrines—
how can the spirits of the dead learn to understand
the electricity that hums in a spider web of lines.
What sorrow builds in this sound that only whines?


From Wikipedia:  Celilo Falls (Wyam, meaning “echo of falling water” or “sound of water upon the rocks,” in several native languages) was a tribal fishing area on the Columbia River, just east of the Cascade Mountains, on what is today the border between Oregon and Washington. The name refers to a series of cascades and waterfalls on the river, as well as to the native settlements and trading villages that existed there in various configurations for 15,000 years. Celilo was the oldest continuously inhabited community on the North American continent until 1957, when the falls and nearby settlements were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam.


Gail Tremblay is a descendant of Onondaga and Micmac ancestors. She resides in Olympia, WA and has been an artist, writer, and cultural critic for over thirty years. She shares a unique vision through her multi-media visual works, art installations, her writing on Native American Art, and her poetry. She is a professor at The Evergreen State College, where she has mentored students in the fields of visual arts, writing, Native American and cultural studies. Her book of poems, Indian Singing, was published by Calyx Press, and her poetry is widely anthologized and poems have been translated into French, German, Spanish, and Japanese and published internationally.

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