Poetry: Lost stream

Forgotten one, you remember what you were:
mossy banks, fringes of fern, rivulets, riffles,
cool passage for salmon. On a map
of old streams spilling out to the strait
you were one of hundreds
of capillaries threading through earth
muscled with rock, lavished with forest.
Then the city donned concrete
masks, civilized grids. Smothered
into park, you were culverted, diverted, yoked,
locked into pipes while we romped above.
But you refuse to be choked
under clearcut, brushcut tracts. Playing fields
soak back into marsh. Bog permeates playground.
One by one, oaks topple in sodden soil,
upended roots like tangled claws.
Submerged roads around you
ripple in wind. Water above seeks
water below. Deep underground,
you gurgle, chortle, ready to rise.


Dedicated to Rita Wong and streamkeepers everywhere.


Fiona Tinwei Lam's "Lost Stream" from Odes & Laments. Copyright © 2019 by Fiona Tinwei Lam. Anthologized in Sweet Water: Poems for the Watersheds, edited by Yvonne Blomer (Caitlin Press, 2020). Used with permission of Caitlin Press. All rights reserved.

Fiona Tinwei Lam (BA’86, MFA’02) is Vancouver's sixth poet laureate. Her legacy project involves community outreach to encourage the generation of new poems and poetry videos. It also aims to foster greater understanding about significant historical, cultural, and ecological sites on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, now known as the City of Vancouver. See fionalam.net for details. 

A map of Vancouver's old streams
The location of the lost stream referred to in this poem is Connaught Park.  
“It is not known when Connaught Park officially became a park; In 1912, it was referred to as a duck-filled marsh with a creek flowing through it, and in 1921, parts of it were being used by locals for a market garden.”
~ Vancouver Heritage Foundation