George Yatchisin

Reasonable Use

Well, when you put it that way. We 
put it through the mountains,
four miles.

Longest such in the world in the day
in the dark and it rained
inside the earth,

groundwater that never saw ground.
As we’d grind along
we’d not drown,

but soak and learn the cold of wet
stone, cradle close under
canvas, perhaps

that week’s library additions at our feet,
bestsellers that seemed to mock
us—Kindred of the Dust,

The Man of the Forest, The River’s End.
Of course we assumed as we dug 
that we were damned to hell,

a dumb joke we couldn’t tire of, as our
hearts darkened as quickly as the
lake we made

found its fill of sediment, something
the planners failed to plan
for—earth has

the last say and it’s just a dumb rock.
After all, who recalls the name
of the judge 

who stripped water rights from a down-
stream yet dry Gin Chow, setting
still-standing precedent?

The “y” of yours runs like water
but not sweat, not inside
cold earth.

So watch the nameless seven of us stare out
as we drop into our stark dark of work
between drought and flood.

After the Edson Smith Photo Collection Waterworks Tunnel for Gibraltar Dam Project

George Yatchisin is the author of Feast Days (Flutter Press 2016) and The First Night We Thought the World Would End (Brandenburg Press 2019). He is co-editor of Rare Feathers: Poems on Birds & Art (Gunpowder Press 2015), and his poetry appears in anthologies including Reel Verse: Poems About the Movies (Everyman’s Library 2019). Also by this poet “‘It Is Impossible to Defeat an Ignorant Man in an Argument