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Colorado Ditch Rider

by Rob Littler

…anchored at the edge of the floodgates on the Number One,
an arm extends from the backhoe over the lip of the ditch,
grabbing the debris in a toothed metal bucket freeing the spillway
in an early morning register of diesel and graying November skylines.
This water has a whole world of places to go
and people to appease. This is irrigation country.

The hopes and dreams of each field rest in the channels I maintain.
More precious than oil, it seems this nectar is, siphoned off
the South Platte River and transported to each wasteland farmer
through spillways and reservoirs and waterways. A network
of veins making the landscape green with its brown milky water.

Below water-level, I catch the underside of a fallen oak,
once thought destined to rot the streamside woodland away
upstream, a wet season’s final catastrophe not long ago,
swept away by a recent spring’s rising river; gone too are its dreams
of becoming grand Gothic structures. The beast lies
overturned, flooded out of its foundation.
I lift its end out of the water, balancing it on a few teeth. Still,
its trunk might make much lumber, possibly wood floors.
I lift it higher, and see root tissue exposed
like a web of nerve endings. River water trails
the fine silt away like blood. The odor is black
earth and pungent, mixed with fumes of diesel exhaust.
It is at once a surreal and gory site. Tomorrow,
if the rain is not too great the trunk will be heaped
with the other casualties by a Caterpillar, where it can
dry and age. Eventually it will be burned, and given a proper burial
behind the sandbar dam.

“Progress will make this land
perfect,” purrs the motor of my backhoe.
I hear that engine-humming, and I start to think a pattern:
I guess we must
stand at the brink
of the next brand
new adventure.
It almost makes
one paranoid
enough to start
constructing lists
of things to start
to consider


Posted on 11/11/2011
Copyright © 2021 Rob Littler

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by James L. Auerbach on 07/07/13 at 05:46 AM

An excellent narrative, interspersed with just enough granular imagery to inform the reader but not mate their perception to a rigid interpretation. Thank you for sharing this with us, Rob.

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 07/11/13 at 01:28 PM

You must have countless stories of things you've had to clear out to let the water flow. Fine descriptions here, great depth of experience felt.

Posted by Chris Sorrenti on 07/14/13 at 02:35 PM

Rich in vocabulary, imagery, descriptiveness. Really enjoyed this, Rob. Sound like you know what you're talking about.

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