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Fred Wah reads at Vancouver Island University on October 26

from beholden: a poem as long as the river

On my way to get a pail of water down by the creek
buhdum, buhdum, Columbia River starts humming its
invisible Kootenay sluice trick sings out to a river that
exists through itself called meaning “Going to the
Water” feels its harmony as a wet prelude to Pacifica
meanders slow and murmurs love this skin of earth’s
contour hello valley Sister Tongue hello winding
mirror klahowya goodbye Mother goodbye weaver
woman hello David Thompson now this quiet water
maps diesel in the marshes of locomotion crossing up
North down the map of the River of Heaven Steamboat
Mountain worrying about a future Nowitka truly
every Edge does Water make these islands of its life


Before the canoes of memory were

Before the canoes of memory were
perpendicular to the Columbia’s “own-goal”
North was stolen by Gagliardi’s road map
substance democracy bored into interior strate
just because he disliked the hyphen in Thompson-
Shuswap that hard pill to swallow you see
he had no intellectual property rights
yet tried to narrate gauze over the flow
where the source kicks in ‘round Kinbasket
who knew there would be this silhouette of greed
this litter of a new domestic bliss.


Provided by the author