By the Taiya River by Penelope Moffet

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By the Taiya River
by Penelope Moffet

I let the wind blow through me
where alder and willow
grow in sandy soil, where
light green cottonwood leaves
vibrate against the darker greens
of spruce and hemlock.
Stones pummeled by the river,
some white flecked with black,
some orange or gray or brown,
some round, some angled, mix
like curved snowtops next to peaks
that survived the glaciers. Sometimes
Taiya the golden retriever
delicately mouths a rock
and brings it to my feet,
then won’t release.
Out on the Dyea Flats
where the Taiya River pours
freshwater into salt
driftwood trees clench stones
in their stiff roots.
I’ve let the river smooth me
and the wind comb my hair,
my snowy top. I go
where the river goes
and I take it with me.

First published in Afield: Literature of Human Ecology. 

PHOTO: Near Skagway, Alaska, the Taiya River estuary and site of the former Klondike gold rush town of Dyea at the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail. Photo by Luigi Zanasi (October 11, 2005).

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NOTE: Dyea is located at the convergence of the Taiya River and Taiya Inlet on the south side of the Chilkoot Pass within the limits of the Municipality of Skagway Borough, Alaska. During the Klondike Gold Rush prospectors disembarked at its port and used the Chilkoot Trail to begin their journey to the gold fields around Dawson City, Yukon, about 500 miles away.  Dyea was abandoned when the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad chose the White Pass Trail (instead of the alternative Chilkoot Trail), which began at Skagway, for its route. Dyea is now within the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. All that remains are a number of foundations surrounded by scraps of lumber and metal, three cemeteries, and the ruins of the wharf. Visitors can usually spot brown bears, black bears, and eagles. Brown bears use the Dyea inlets to feed during salmon spawning season.

PHOTO: Dyea, Alaska, waterfront during the Klondike Gold Rush (March 1898).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the spring of 2016, I spent just over five weeks in Alaska, two weeks in Ketchikan, then a trip up the inland passage by ferry to Skagway, followed by three weeks at Alderworks, Alaska, a creative retreat in an area called Dyea, located about 10 miles northwest of Skagway. Alderworks is right up against the wilderness, with brown bears for neighbors. When I went for walks up the mountain and by West Creek, I invited the Alderworks dogs to go with me, and when I biked to Dyea Flats I often sang, both because I was happy and to let the neighbors know I was passing by. I loved it there. I hope I can go back someday.

PHOTO:  Near Dyea, Alaska. Photo by Penelope Moffet (2016).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penelope Moffet’s most recent chapbook is It Isn’t That They Mean to Kill You (Arroyo Seco Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Natural BridgePermafrostLevure LitterairePearlThe Rise Up ReviewThe Sow’s Ear Poetry ReviewThe Ekphrastic ReviewVerse-VirtualThe Missouri Review, and other literary journals, as well as in the anthologies what wildness is this: Women Write about the Southwest (University of Texas Press, 2007), Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press, 2016) and California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology (Story Street Press, 2020).

PHOTO:  The author on the porch of her cabin at Alderworks, Alaska (2016). Photo by Penelope Moffet.

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