Poet Priscilla Wathington explores Lamentations 3:46-54 and the history of Bloody Hill in her new poem,
“All our enemies have opened their mouths
wide against us.
We have suffered terror and pitfalls,
ruin and destruction.”
Streams of tears flow from my eyes
because my people are destroyed.
My eyes will flow unceasingly,
until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
What I see brings grief to my soul
because of all the women of my city.
Those who were my enemies without cause
hunted me like a bird.
They tried to end my life in a pit
and threw stones at me;
the waters closed over my head,
and I thought I was about to perish.
Hunt me like a winter loon, my throat
thin and mottled
if the splittail desist your proffered
your brusquely copied
consider me, relatively speaking
a poor man’s fry
paired with strings of kelp, buckeye
nuts and salt.
Before your children’s mouths turn
to bread, strip
my feathers for their musky oils
their faint expectation
of vagrancy, simultaneous
Drag me, flightless, the May Clear
Lake blooms rose,
where I swam headily among the bloodied
bands of men
who, like me, never cleared the whetted
slit of your bayonet.
From the Artist:
Last summer I drove through Sonoma county with my family, then continued north along miles of twisted redwood thoroughfares, sharply curving highways cut into bleak rock, and were only interrupted by blighted towns with firewood sale pit-stops and empty lots lined with diseased trees. I was struck by a sense of desertion and wanted to find out who had lived there before, and what relationship they had cultivated with the blustery crop of birds, the foggy beaches and teaming river systems. Among other histories, I came upon the story of Bloody Island, an often overlooked chapter of California’s past. Once the site of a thriving community, the Pomo (so named by anthropologists) witnessed the plunder of their lands, skies and waters, and the slow starvation of their people by “enemies without cause.” On May 15, 1850, following the earlier killings of Officers Stone and Kelsey, a group of U.S. Calvary descended upon Bloody Island. One recorded oral history describes dead children being carried to the water on the ends of bayonets and tossed in, while others were shot as they tried to swim to safety.
Today, due to levees and diverted rivers, Bloody Island is a hill surrounded by reclaimed lands with only a plaque to recount its tragic past.
 Max Radin and William Ralganal Benson, “The Stone and Kelsey ‘Massacre’ on the Shores of Clear Lake in 1849: The Indian Viewpoint,” California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Sep., 1932).
Priscilla Wathington is a Palestinian American poet, mother and freelance editor who lives in San Francisco, approximately 120 miles south of Clear Lake.
This artist was selected from online submissions.
This poem is copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
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