What I said at the public meeting about the dam,
after dozens of people praised it as the stone embodiment of our heritage
and vowed to oppose its removal,
(a man said: “without the dam, we’ll only have a river”)
(a woman said: “without the dam, the river will be an eyesore”):
I, too, spend a lot of time in the park along the river.
I hike there often.
From time to time, I teach there.
I, too, deeply respect our town’s history,
the mills that shaped us,
the dam that powered the mills.
but free-flowing rivers
and the wildlife that depend on them –
the coldwater fish,
the freshwater mussels that now exist only 22 places in the whole entire world,
and which live, miraculously, beneath the stone arch bridge in our river,
and which cannot survive in the warm, silted murk behind the dam,
and which cannot, so long as the dam remains
(generating no power, offering no protection from flood),
travel downstream for a chance at life-giving DNA from other,
equally precious members of their own species –
are our heritage too.