“This Refuge, from Its Very Inception, Has Been a Tool of Tyranny” by Pepper Trail

Pepper Trail


—Ammon Bundy, leader of the armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters

The tyranny of cranes, stalking the marsh edge, their rust-red colts gangling behind

The tyranny of warblers, feathers flashing through the leaves in early spring

The tyranny of pronghorn, trying their speed across the unfenced plain

The tyranny of sage grouse, their ancient dance of boom and strut

The tyranny of winter geese, their numbers doubling the blizzard

The tyranny of solitude, the playa echoing the silent moon

The tyranny of butterflies, gliding above the rabbitbrush

The tyranny of desert trout, sheltering in willow shade

The tyranny of water, free of pump and ditch

The tyranny of land, free of sheep and cow

The tyranny of refuge

Poets Respond
January 10, 2016

[download audio]


Pepper Trail: “The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt over a hundred years ago to protect an extraordinary landscape of marshes and sagebrush steppe in the high desert of eastern Oregon. The refuge is a paradise for birds and other wildlife, and naturalists travel to Malheur from around the country to experience its abundance. I have spent many unforgettable days there. This week, the refuge headquarters was occupied by armed anti-government extremists, who declared their intention to remain ‘for years.’ Their demands remain unclear, but their attitude toward the preservation of America’s public lands for the benefit of wildlife is well-summarized in the quote from their leader that is the title of this poem.” (website)

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