At the Dalles Dam Visitor Center

by Janna Knittel Issue: Fall 2015
Looking hardly nineteen,
the Army Corps of Engineers guide 
immediately directs me to a screen:

"That's our live fish-cam
showing all the fish swimming
up and down the ladders."

I don't see any fish through the murk,
don't even see the ladders
they supposedly navigate,
but before I open my mouth, he adds,

"This time of year they slow to a trickle.
Hundreds pass daily in spring.
Don't know how those guys count them."

The one-room Visitor's Center
displays placards proclaiming
the Dam's benefits:

"The bountiful water supply
provides an endless source
of power without pollution."

(We once thought the supply
of salmon would be endless.)

Furthermore, "Studies show
fish now swim past the dams
as successfully as they swim
through comparable undammed rivers."

I copy this in a notebook,
think I will now beware
all sentences that include the phrase
"Studies show."


Janna Knittel is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who now lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has published poems in Adirondack Review, Apostrophe, Jabberwock Review, Kaleidoscope, Midwest Review, Neat Magazine, and Parnassus. She was co-winner of the James Wright Award from the American Academy of Poets in 2013 and 2015 and received an honorable mention in 2014. She has also published scholarly articles, book reviews, and an interview with Native American poet and novelist Gerald Vizenor. Her current projects are a chapbook of poems about the environment and tribal fishing rights affected by The Dalles Dam in Oregon and a book-length poetry manuscript titled Real Work.