Riparian Rights

Tim Kahl

There would always be enough water for everyone,
stored, resold, so the pistachio growers need not

admit the hurt, the shortfall in a scarce August.
The biplanes scream overhead and service the early

morning with their spray. The flies, the dust, the stink
battle the subdivision, extending to the horizon,

where most believe the supply of water chooses its
singular logic for the way west to the bay.

It is the same logic of the birds stopping over on
the flyway at the preserve before they lift themselves

to judge the repetitive rat maze of the suburban tracts.
I forget whether the city will let me water today

now that I am part of the problem. I live on the edge
where spots of brown pop up in the lawn to command

where my dog bathes next. I want the merciful god
of hydrologists to text me what are my riparian rights.

Should I sacrifice my hose to the trash bin, rip out
every non-indigenous plant? Or should I get serious

about getting the most at the water table, knowing
I’ve lost every staring contest I’ve ever had with

dairy cattle. I can’t help a glance at the man-made lakes,
the canals, the great pumps along the aqueducts that

snake back to the giant holy reservoirs whose
only thoughts guide the rationing of deserts.


Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (Word Tech, 2009) and The Century of Travel (Word Tech, forthcoming). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Notre Dame Review, The Journal, Parthenon West Review, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president  and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He currently teaches at The University of the Pacific. He also currently houses his father’s literary estate—one volume: Robert Gerstmann’s book of photos of Chile, 1932.