Katie Eberhart: Deleted Morsels

Lately, I’ve realized that my writing landscape is littered
with pieces of essays and poems—relics cast aside and yet that I’m unwilling to
totally abandon to the trash. Instead I think of these fragments as potentially
useful, like the contents of a junk drawer—the screws and picture hooks,
batteries, rubber bands, string and tape that might come in handy someday for
connections or repairs, or to start a whole new project.
If I were
writing a story about this landscape, the water would be the character. Perhaps
I’d give the people bit parts, but it would be the water that you’d have to get
to know. Big and slippery. Belligerent. Liking opera. Yeah. I think opera would
appeal to the Matanuska River with its sinuous curves that can’t stay put for
long in any one part of the channel, its unpredictability, its ability to get
people on the run. I like walking across the dry part of the channel in the
same way you might walk around a volcano or along a fault line. Who, me? Worry?
What are the chances that catastrophe will strike during the hour or two when
I’m in such a vulnerable location?
. . .
In the wide
channel downstream from the Old Glenn Highway bridge, the river sliced a new
course to the east. In 1991, every night on the news we watched the Matanuska’s
progress undercutting the bank. Closest to the river was Myrtle Moline’s
greenhouse. As sideline observers, we hoped the river would change course back
toward the center of the channel—but, one day, the greenhouse collapsed into
the Matanuska, and later the river also took her house.
In these tiny narratives, I’m searching for moments of
passage across the landscape, moments beyond the content of newspaper articles
or engineering reports. I’m looking for overarching themes to feed into an
essay (or perhaps a long interconnected book-length poem) and draw sense from
the many ways we wander our neighborhoods, region, and the planet. Hunting for
linkages between ideas is akin to building a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle when the
box-cover with the picture is missing.
Walking along
the base of the bluff west of the Matanuska River we saw old cars, like
post-modern constructs by a manic sculptor, steel carcasses overrun by forest
and sinking into the ground—or being buried by the slow accumulation of silt
and humus. In fall these ex-auto interiors fill with drifts of yellow leaves,
in winter a snowy camouflage or thick hoar frost smudges the metal edges. On a windless
winter day, reflections of ghostly cars tilt into the inky spring-fed channel.
How did these auto-relics end up at the edge of the
Matanuska? Was someone trying to clean up their yard? Was it (we would now
think, an ill-conceived) bluff stabilization? Was each car dragged with a truck
or bulldozer to its final resting place? Or were the unwanted automobiles shoved
over the edge? Was there fanfare and ceremony? In which case surely it was
summer solstice and there were speeches, poems, and a bonfire. Trees and brush
grow between and through the auto-relics so a wide-open landscape is hard to
Within the broad Matanuska channel south of Palmer, the
river is always switching course, splitting into two (or more) threads or
merging together, sometimes overflowing everything. Study the Matanuska River
and you’ll find many aspects of our relationship with nature, from the arrogant
to the whimsical, casual, undiscerning, and strange.
Once we hiked south on a trail across a dry brushy part of
the Matanuska River channel. It was late winter and the ice on the tributaries was
already thin and rotting so we followed each small watercourse until we found a
crossing where we thought the ice would hold our weight. Our destination was
the mini-butte, and when we finally climbed the muddy path to the top of this
small hill we found a card table and four chairs—as if we had been expected.

Eberhart is the 49 Writers featured author for April. Her chapbook ‘Unbound: Alaska Poems’ was published in 2013 by Uttered
Chaos Press. Her poems have appeared in Cirque Journal, Sand – Berlin’s English
Literary Journal, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Crab Creek Review, and other places.
Katie has an MFA in Creative Writing and degrees in geography and economics.
She currently lives in Central Oregon where she blogs about nature and literature
at http://solsticelight.wordpress.com/

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