Watermark

From a microlight, the Owens River,
cut and siphoned to an aqueduct:
a corridor through banks of trees,
into scuffed desert dunes, mountains
scaling to the right, to the left dry veins
in the valley, saline and pink, the water
channeled slowly through scatch grass,
under dirt tracks and fences, twenty miles,
thirty — black line turning silver in midday sun,
dipping beneath the roar of Route 395
into the shade of the alkaline hills.
It zigzags past farms, arcs around quarries,
swipes the bar code of a glinting new town,
the alien discs of pivot irrigation
growing sunflowers, roses, and corn.
Then follows the highway, just after Big Pine,
rejoins the river north of Fish Springs,
is diverted again, south of the reservoir — 

And does water care, if it’s river
or aqueduct? Its vessel curved concrete,
but the same constant flow, gunneling south,
hugging the contours of eastern Sierra,
past Independence, the airport,
the golf course, along the right hand of Owens’
dry lake bed, red swirling dust clouds kept down
by sprinklers. From up in the air
the twin Haiwee Reservoir is knuckle
and knee joint where the line disappears — 
becomes pipeline and conduit
under the desert, punching for groundwater,
surfacing riveted over Mojave,
two hundred miles on from its native cradle,
gray zombie spring tracing through forest
to Santa Clarita, the treatment plant:
the last reserve and loud cascades
above the lights and life of Los Angeles.