Two Poems

Tubing Under The Town

The black wind hits on the way down
warm and dirt-fresh from the tunnels below
Morden’s coal dust blowing through
pausing on the platform at Stockwell
and coursing north to Camden Town.

The men who gave these stations names
never worked underground, sucking the blast
along the Bakerloo line into the Northern. 
East and west, all the air joins, a cyclone 
under London. At Chancery Lane

or Marble Arch, descend and breathe deep:
the same soot, speeding in these dark channels.
The spices of Brixton, the heath of Belsize Park
intermingle into Tube, fading slowly up stairways
as our eyes come level with the street.

Brand New Lakes

Scanning the map, I’m taken with dams
Water-walls inspire awe in the West
Here, any cup that holds, even half-full,
Is considered blessed.  So this business 
Of making lakes has dappled the state
With hundreds of new names to navigate between.
From Lake Casitas to Castaic Lake, there’s a 
Highway to take, and what was useless riverbank
Before is now scenic lakeshore:
Shasta, Trinity, Whiskeytown, Oroville, Almanor—
Their bodies sprawl like shriveled octopi, as if
Trying to crawl themselves dry
Up the side canyons.

Some are honest reservoirs, less shy to remind us
What they’re for, shaking the dry years in our faces
Like a broken vase.  But these fake lakes,
They rankle—Lake Berryessa, for example
With her princess name, who drowned a whole town
To fill her space.

California, land of a thousand dams
We clutch our dripping faucets
Your stopped-up streams are sippy cups
For toddlers watching the deserts turning green
And all your made lakes—
Loveland, Success, even New Lake—
Are a thousand droplets drying on a dream.

—Toby Bielawski, Albany, CA