Poetry from a Time of Drought

Today we feature three poems by Julia Baker, which were written during the long-lasting California drought from 2012–2017.

Eden’s Drought

I had forgotten the music of water touching earth.
My tears have been the only rain.

Drought is slow death, shroud of smoky sin
keening between the mountains.

“In the red,” they say:
“Air unfit to breathe”

Bodies are made for the taking in,
Valley lungs are dust.

Kin of Adama, we too are
created from dust and water—

Spirit breathed life.
Alive here in this dry ache, my mother prays

collecting dishwater, anointing
lemon tree, grapevine, and fig leaf.

At winter’s first rain, January late.
Rain pearls grass,

a moon rolls off each blade.
Tomorrow our grief will breathe clear sky.


Wildfire smoke and ash. Photo credit: Tim Nafziger


For the victims and survivors of California Wildfires

When asked to survive, we rise above.
Burn or freeze. Submerged in a pool for six hours and sixty years
they held each other, speaking deep love.

Hearts aflame with everything and nothing to speak of.
The helicopter can take only four of yours
when asked to survive, they rose above.

To go above is not a pushing down, letting go of
your hija’s hands, courage flowed tears
while they held each other, speaking “if I don’t see you again” love.

Courage beings with, Cor our beating heart, the rest of
the word rages, fire of passion, the shape we were made appears.
When asked to survive, we rise above.

Survive ends with live. Living starts in love
and has no end. The question whispers in your ears;
“can we hold each other, speaking our love?”

Everything now ash, free of
we see beyond, smoke clears.
We were asked to survive, and have risen above.
since all is well, we will hold each other, speaking our love.

Oak tree coming back to life. Photo credit: Tim Nafziger

Holy Water

The trees are blessed,
anointed by midnight rain.

A row of tiny droplets, delicate pearls
dangling like on a baby girl’s earlobe,

baptism at first light.
I reach to lift a shining bead
from bare apricot branch.
The priest blesses
bowed heads
flung water
from a cut sapling.

I cross the garden wetting
my forehead, lips, heart, root.

In Peru people line up at the
side-door of the cathedral,
carrying empty Inca Kola bottles
waiting to be filled.

The devoted, the thirsty.
One and the same?
A simple spigot, pours
from stone temple.
With painted signs,

Agua Santa.

One-by-one we fill our need,
reaching heavenward with
each splash down.


Photo on 3-8-18 at 10.49 AM #2.jpgAuthor Bio: Julia Baker has been gifted with many watersheds she calls home. The poems published here arose from a season in the San Joaquin River Watershed of Fresno, CA. She is currently in the Scioto River Watershed in Columbus Ohio for a summer poet-in-residency where she is joyfully learning and writing with the residents of this place—the cardinals, magnolia, and pine.