Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Two Poems by Pepper Trail

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Evening, Malheur

Sagebrush. Its redolence.
The chrome yellow of rabbitbrush,
and in the dust beneath,
granularity of basalt.
Juniper berries, fugitive blue.

A slim thrush
sits against the sky,
its call all rust,
sound of the falling sun
scraping against the butte.

This landscape,
no older than another,
but at end of day, to me,
leaning against the dark,
it seems so.



Klamath Basin, Drought

I have swallowed a stone
heavy as the Earth
the Earth
I cannot stand from the weight of it
can even almost not breathe

This grief
heavy as the Earth
the Earth
here on the rim of a horizon
in pieces, dry and cracked
the dead lake’s corpse, coffin, and grave

Insects strike my face
water boatmen, easy swimmers
driven into the awkward air
signaling, with their flailing arms
the name of their vanished world
they struggle onward, and are gone

There were ducks, geese
swans, herons, egrets, cranes
pelicans, cormorants, grebes, rails
gulls, ibis, harriers, wrens
forever of this place
now, of nowhere

I have swallowed a stone
it tastes of nothing
the nothing that remains




Pepper TrailPepper Trail’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Catamaran, Ascent, and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. His collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, >was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. He writes and explores the world from his home in Ashland, Oregon.

Read Pepper Trail’s Letter to America poem “Red Flag Warning” appearing in

Header photo of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by William T. Smith, courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.