Alt-Nature [excerpt]

In 1990 over 700 Cyprinella formosa, commonly known as Beautiful shiners, were expatriated from Mexico to southeast Arizona where the small fish, their flat metallic bodies colorful in love-making, were eradicated in the 60’s through water diversion and over-pumping of underground streams.

Very little is known of their reproduction, except desire for lush riparian communities, warm vegetation to hide their bulbous young.


Relocation arrives through many terms. Sentence, reservation, subject, dam. From New Mexico the Gila River spills west, pools behind Coolidge Dam beneath which San Carlos Apache graves are concealed by a concrete slab. A sentence opens lines for a subject, physical, it predicates. Building foundations soften into water-logged records where the trout swim low, warming.


Gila River Indian Community grew most dense in the early 1940’s against the tribe’s will as incarcerated Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to barrack blocks by the hundreds.

There is little evidence of idleness, printed the Phoenix Republic in 1942. Tangible myths of the model incarcerated confirmed their confinement wholly productive. Families made model citizens, if one can be made citizen, by utility filled with their lungs.

What of the mega-annum shell sculpted birds.

The first arrived in July to dust waves. The straw sleep sacks they filled with their hands.

Copyright © 2020 by Saretta Morgan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.