Poet Priscilla Wathington explores Lamentations 3:46-54 and the history of Bloody Hill in her new poem, Landmark #427.
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46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us.
47 Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction.
48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49 Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission,
50 till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.
51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart, because of all the daughters of my city.
52 Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause.
53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me.
54 Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off.
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.