Not in a wide rush like the Columbia,
rather in dribbles from a palm-sized pipe,
protruding out of the hillside,
the rusty liquid spills.
Pulsing with invisible flatworms,
the precious fluid pools and lazily crosses
sparse fields of rice, which shelter
mosquitoes and malaria.
Silent children stoop to fill discarded bottles-
drop by drop. This is what they do each day.
I use their water to flush waste down my toilet,
or rinse off the dinner I was too full to eat.
My clothing is named for that great
Northwest River, which flows down from the Rockies,
but hid in my pocket are snapshots of children
who bear heavy burdens in the Valley of Clay.