for Ralph Waldo Lindahl

Settling in, at the Lake Wenatchee
ranger station, my father
transmutes the fall of creek water
piped from several hundred feet
up the hillside. Engages shaft,
pulley, belt to agitate Mama’s
washing machine. Coaxes a jet
of water to turn the bucketed blades
of a Pelton wheel, power
a generator, short-wave radio,
illumine the log-cabin.

When water spurts
across the road without a nozzle
and a hot-water tank bulges
and bursts, he tempers pressure
with a borrowed gauge.
Stations Mama to monitor
the concave bottom of the replacement
while he opens spigot and valve.
Sinks pulley and cable deep
within the lake, teaches a pail to dip water
at Mama’s bidding, fill her washer.

My father, our own Merlin,
conjures pools of light
with a generator he bought cheap
one time. Ties six twenty-
five watt bulbs in a parallel series
of three, cross-gaiters circuits
upstairs and down. Always six lights
burn. Settling down with pulp science-
fiction under a two-bulb light
in the front room, says Sure beats
the hissing of a gas lamp.

© 1995, Barbara L. Thomas

Barbara L. Thomas is a member of the North West Native American Writer Circle and a performer with The Avalanche Poets; her most recently published or forthcoming work is with No Exit, Mocking Bird, Damaged Wine, and Between-the-Lines.