On Ross Dam

Joshua Dugat

How much water must gather

for a body

to become another body? You and I

are small as birds

in the basket of the North Cascades

and my breath catches

to see the terns

plummet below us,

one thousand feet

along the curved thumbnail

that holds the whole Skagit

back. Downriver there is a house

in which turbines draw

flecks of power from the water

like a prospector. In two nights

we will be in Seattle,

with Ben and Michael and

your brother, where all the gold

glows. The gray waves

on Ross Lake cannot imagine

they will be stopped

where we are standing, changed

into another kind

of wave. We cannot

help but wonder

how the dam will one day

give way, enjoining us

into a current as sudden

and cold as a mountain. The canyon promises

the concrete, despite its youth

and tensile strength, that it is already

washing away, grist by grain. You are twelve weeks

pregnant and peering at the terns

as they wheel above the rocks,

riding the lip of the wind back up

to play in every pocket of sky

the dam has found

for them. Your hands are on your hips

and your back is to the lake. You turn

to see if I felt it too, these vibrations

underneath our feet, that groan

to stave off any breach, and long to

age like the cliffs

of basalt, to let

the water fall

and break.

Author Bio


Josh Dugat was born and raised in Texas, and now lives with his wife and young son in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he teaches with the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project. He’s been awarded residencies and fellowships from the likes of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. Josh holds a MFA in Poetry and MS in Geography from the University of Alabama, and his poems can be found in journals including the Literary Review and Floyd County Moonshine. A former school teacher, park ranger, and wildland firefighter, Josh enjoys making woodblock prints, fishing, and two-stepping.​