A landscape image of the Colorado River.

Photograph by Richard Foulser / Trunk Archive

As She Rises: Poets Pay Tribute to the Colorado River

For the third season of climate podcast As She Rises, poets lend their voices to an urgent cause: the rapidly drying Colorado River. Here, read all six poems commissioned for the new season, hosted by activist and Intersectional Environmentalist founder Leah Thomas.

After Sacred Water

by Kinsale Drake

after Sacred Water


we inherit:

every gathering pool   a blessing

formed by careful hands         each monsoon

a heartbeat       turquoise vein

the sound of underwater

brimmed          with mosses

here laps the quiet tide of


in the summers we would flock to my great-aunt’s

swimming hole           down the canyon

dizzy from the jumbled journey in a truck bed

poke at the tadpoles squirming in the red clay

my mother watched from orchard shade

she had been down here many years before

with her sisters            her brothers

picking apples, following the bend

of the river      leading the goats to the wayside to drink

now the water glooms

with cow manure        uranium

we trace the mud with our eyes

watch the petroglyphs stretch in the shadows

miss the feeling of the sun      wicking river from our skin


in 1956/ the glen canyon dam began construction/ with an explosion/

was hit with a demolition blast keyed/ by the push of a button/

in the oval office/ the bottom of the canyon/ dotted by navajo/

ute/ paiute footprints/

still cooling/ the explosion/ a scar in the earth still aching

with uranium mines/ yellowcake/ yellow corn/ tumbled


by Coleen Kaska

I run freely. I belong to no one.

The mother earth chose me to run freely. I belong to no one.

For the earth and its beings, we are all as one a unit. I have carved my way under my mother. No one can see me making small and big channels. I can run freely, splashing the sides of the canyon wall, running freely. I make my mother earth look beautiful, blue green and the clear crystal blue water running freely.

I belong to no one. I am so useful in many ways.

I quench thirst for the animals, the plants, the trees, and human beings.

If I should become contaminated, I will contaminate all living things that I come across running freely. I need protection. I am a living thing running freely.

Monsoon Musings

by Amber McCrary

Fill me with your water

I see your gray clouds from afar

We aren’t scared

Yet celebratory

Your gray clouds, moving fast but not violent

Desert winds increase

As our hearts beat with excitement

This undulation of drops

Come fast as they leave

We wait all year for you

Celebrate around your arrival

Olla’s hollow for your yearly presence

We all muse into your monsoon

Dance for hours

Sing with throats uncollapsing

The sand dances for you in this stiff air

Fill us with your language

Fill us with your breath

Tell us you will come back

Then we will celebrate until the next time

Remember you as our muse

Remember you as our life

our love

The Salton Sea

by Adriana Torres Ceja

Not deserted, not dead nor dying


We Are the life, hope, and responsibility

That she needs now

More than ever

Without proactive action and results

She continues to bleed to cry

To dry

Breathing her tears in

And her cries for help out

Toxicities that leaves the lungs of our children and elders

In substantial danger

Existing health disparities that are now only widened for us

Us who want to see her succeed and safe


We’ve made her

We’ve drained her

Now we must take care of her

Pulling Down the Clouds

by Ofelia Zepeda

Ñ-ku’ibadkaj ’ant ’an old g cewagi.

With my harvesting stick I will hook the clouds.

’Ant o ’i-waññ’io k o ‘i-hudiñ g cewagi.

With my harvesting stick I will pull down the clouds.

Ñ-ku’ibadkaj ’ant o ’i-siho g cewagi.

With my harvesting stick I will stir the clouds.

With dreams of distant noise disturbing his sleep,

the smell of dirt, wet, for the first time in what seems like months.

The change in the molecules is sudden,

they enter the nasal cavity.

He contemplates that smell.

What is that smell?

It is rain.

Rain somewhere out in the desert.

Comforted in this knowledge he turns over

and continues his sleep,

dreams of women with harvesting sticks

raised toward the sky.

Un Radio Pierde Su Señal

by Maria Cisneros

las flores

de los laureles

parecían algodones

como los que

mi mama


en aceite de olivo

y enrollaba con ruda

para mis dolores

de oídos

se escuchaban tantos

cantos distintos

desde la huerta


un paraíso en el desierto

algunas canciones

salvajes y urgentes



tiernas y brumosas–

un latido de corazón


los limones

y las naranjas

brillaban como estrellas

en los árboles–

las estrellas de antes

cuando apenas extendía

mis raíces hacia lo más profundo

de La Tierra

del Desierto

que me robo el corazon

cuando apenas era niña

incesante las canciones

a todas horas del dia



y de repente–




ningún movimiento frantico

de antena

de gancho de fierro

regresaba la estación

paraíso perdido

señal perdida

si pudiera perderme

también para siempre

en un sueño

lo haría

Listen to the new season of As She Rises here.

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