When you took your first breath of estuary, you were small, brackish, and clear. Into the land you inhaled amphipods, decaying seaweed: nourishment.

“Side channel,” we didn’t give you a proper name. We, your makers, hadn’t the authority.

When the flood came, we scrambled to move our tools. In the predawn, the engineers staked the peak. They brought their children to see it. The next morning, wading to our hips, we traced banks first drawn on paper. Around us, the river gulped the sky. Banana slugs clung to little clumps of dirt, and dead gophers floated, paws clenched. In the main channel, trees and couches shot by. Birds eddied out at your mouth.

What are you? Until the flood, your voice was barely audible. As you spoke to the ocean and the river, it sounded like a whisper in another room.