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Recognizing order is like opening a dam in a river
                                    —Lu Chi’s Wen Fu, tr. S. Hamill

I’m trying to get my head around
            the dam whose open gates
                        release the order of the river,

dams being the solemn orderly monuments
            we traveled the country to see
                        in my childhood—TVA’s Norris, Watts Bar,

Hoover’s vast concrete towers
            with roaring generators in its bowels
                        and long drops to a thread of river—

and somewhere the fish backed up in the mud
            of the man-made lakes, which
                        we’d also come to admire:

our power to stop the river to power
            our machines that could level mountains,
                        blow up cities, scrape the sky;

but that last knowledge came later,
            I was only six and thought the vast blank walls
                         were like deserts and horrible cliffs,

and it took decades to see what Lu Chi might mean:
            time and change come to all fixed things,
                        and somewhere, now, the dams are opening.  


Robin Chapman is author of nine books of poetry, most recently the portfolio Dappled Things (Paris: Revue K, 2013) with Peter Miller’s photogravures and One Hundred White Pelicans (Tebot Bach, 2013), poems on climate change. She is recipient of Appalachia’s 2010 Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared recently in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cortland Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.