Restoring the San Francisco salt ponds

Five years to make a pinch of salt,
to turn seawater into sodium chloride,
longer still to return salt ponds to bay.

From the bridge, the saltscapes are
bright white sand beaches. In motion,
they are not bright, but monochromatic

mirages etched in white. Closer still, say,
the height of a motorized kite, they are
Rothkos of rust, mustard, and lime.

As paint clings to canvas – each brush stroke,
swath of color layers upon another –
the earth holds on to itself.

Layer upon layer, bones, excretions
of microscopic creatures cling and bind,
do not evaporate. Antecedent stream beds

patiently wait for tides to return
like veins under skin. Like family blood lines
keep their histories alive, generation after

generation, in stories told and re-told
around kitchen tables, same version pounded
into the wood. Salt rubbed in old wounds.

Even as bay water rushes through
unblocked channels, hiding the scars
of rusted sluice gates, crystallizer beds,

dredged scrapes on the land,
unseen injuries roil beneath the dirt.
How long?

Celia Lawren is the author of the 2020 poetry chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Among Dead Things, a chronicle of tragedy and resilience. She has been published in Caesura and Tule Review. Celia resides in Knoxville, Tennessee after many years living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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