Amy Beeder

Hatfield
May 12, 2013 Beeder Amy

Hatfield

 

Such lovely matter, rain, abundant rain,

though Sweetwater overflowed and Otay broke

I filled your reservoirs as I was asked.

 

Yes twenty souls were lost, they say, or more;

still Hatfield was upbeat, knowing he’d arranged

the matter of such long-awaited rain  Come

 

from out of nowhere with a digging stick,

his secret chemicals & elemental price

to fill the reservoirs as he was asked.

 

The rain was free, except his cost per inch.

Did San Diego never read a fairy tale?

Such weighty matter, that abundant rain—

 

On the Altiplano in a dry December, families

still bake the dough-boy, dough-girl. Seeded children

ask the rain to fill the furrows, reservoirs.

 

Their teeth are pumpkin seeds, their eyes are beans.

Clothe them in paper, offer them fire.

 I filled your reservoir as I was asked

with lovely matter: rain, the banquet rain—

 

*In 1916, the “Rainmaker” Charles Malloy Hatfield was hired to fill the reservoirs of drought-stricken San Diego by his method of releasing 23 secret chemicals into the air. It subsequently rained so heavily that the Otay and Lower Sweetwater dams overflowed or  broke; the number of deaths attributed to that flooding is still a matter of dispute.

 

Amy Beeder is the author of Burn the Field (CMU Press, 2006) and Now Make An Altar (2012).   A recipient of an NEA Fellowship, a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, James Merrill Residence, Bread Loaf Scholarship, and Witness Writers Award, she has also worked as a creative writer instructor, legal writer, freelance reporter, political asylum specialist, high-school teacher in West Africa, and an election and human rights observer in Haiti and Suriname.