POETRY March 4, 2022

The Confluence

This is the bull’s-eye of the sun. At the narrowest point, a natural crossing place of the Colorado River where the banks were, back then, less than one thousand feet apart. Thus they built a ferry crossing so people, no, not all people, but some people, we all know which people, could get to and from California. Colonials sat down crisscross and armed at the confluence of the two rivers: the Gila and the Colorado, sure, but also of Fort Yuma and the Cocopah, of smoke and water, of heat and cicada, of Arizona, California, and Mexico. And they violenced a Western colonial town out of the valley of smoke where there wasn’t empty nothing. It wasn’t empty nothing. They built a siphon into the river. It pays to be upstream. Built a prison, built a “school,” which is redundant, and the cowboys and politicians held up their greed to the sun, lines over lines; they obscured the existing footprints with their jackboots. The smoke valley with her smoke from hearth fires, dwelling fires, cooking fires, drying fires, rain-call fires of families, of the Cocopah, Kokwapa, and Quechan, Kwatsáan in their homes. And the colonials told them they had to pay six hundred dollars in property taxes. River’s valley ransacked as an afterthought of how to cross the Colorado and get to the gold in California. This is the sunniest place in the world, the fifth-driest dot on the marble. Not towel dry or ash dry—air of casket dry, cracked-open petrified bone dry, crumbling skin dry, three millimeters of rain in a year, diatomaceous place, dried-up ocean, salted valley can’t cry, it’s made of tears, driest place in all the states, dry. Have you ever tried to take a bite of cricket flour and silica from a spoon? Now swallow it. An encyclopedia entry for the end of days with the King of Arizona presiding. And there, two rivers converged and made love to keep The People alive. The Gila and the Colorado. There. Right there. Grab it, that spot, build a river pass. Let’s call it a migrant’s crossing a welcome from the people just arrived to those already there, bullshit over bravado. Wave the cowboy hats in the air. Say hello. Turn a river into an American dream using a siphon. Turn a river into a ditch. A ditch, a military fort. It’s a Gateway. OK? A way to welcome some, but don’t ever forget it’s never all, to the proving ground. Proven ground of the river’s two thousand years of inhabitants. The autochthonous made into the unwelcome. The Colorado was the savior of the colonials. It delivered life to the driest land they’d ever taken.

Yuma is home to the Yuma Proving Grounds, one of the largest military installations in the world. KOFA (pronounced like sofa) was the name of the King of Arizona mine, which operated from 1897 to 1939, and the acronym is now used in multiple places in Yuma, including a wilderness area.

Tennison Black is a queer, disabled, autistic writer who received an MFA at Arizona State University. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in SWWIM, the Seattle Times, Hotel Amerika, Wordgathering, and New Mobility, among others. She has taught composition, creative writing, and/or publishing at Arizona State University, Western Washington University, Perryville Women’s Prison, and the National University of Singapore. They are the managing editor at Sundress Publications and also at Best of the Net.