Elizabeth Woody

Elizabeth Woody is an Oregon Poet Laureate Emeritus and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, of Yakama Nation descent, and is “born for” the Tódích’íinii (Bitter Water clan) of the Navajo Nation. She received the American Book Award in 1990, and the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards in 1995. Elizabeth has published three books of poetry. She also writes short fiction, essays, and is a visual artist. 

Warm Springs River

Daylight moves the wind while the river fastens
on a cloak of rippling tensions.
Through the reeds, sage blossoming, 
skin shivers from the distance of heat in the pinto sky. 
Bright with expectations. 
Thirst has fingertips of grief over remnant scaffolds
of small flowers. As one markless palm of thunder
at the rimrock, the broad pulse of the body has been overwhelmed.
A filament of light wavers on the liquid turn over lichenous stone.
It sinks in its own gravity.
It is a quick fin and tail. 
Our eventual blindness is the underside of leaves,
myopically stunning in the retinal flicker of signals.
Shallow desire is shadow cast from forms bent in embrace. 
As Salmon smell, in a spectrum of seasons, their compulsion,
we no longer possess extravagance to throw between us as shells
of dentalium bridal veils and belts.
Several loose sequins of scales fray into clouds,
beam over the hillsides, opal into swaying yellow bunchgrass.
Forgotten rivers fill their mouths with fragments from excess. 
Zigzag basalt springs, green lush V’s of moisture, 
point to the feast of supple trout and the brief thrumming
of flies.
The current floats into secretive arms of safety.
The burn of volcanic springs cools in depths of caution. 


Reprinted with permission on page 62 in Honoring Our Rivers Issue 18. Originally published in Luminaries of the Humble (The University of Arizona Press © 1994). Reprinted with permission.