Salmon turn the river dark with their masses.
Teaming runs, all backs jade green and speckled,
leaping up and arching clean above the white water,
exposing bright pink and orange underbellies,
and serious, down-turned mouths.
With sea-grown force they struggle
up the shrinking flow:
past brown bears, standing on their hind legs
in the current,
and beneath gray-bottomed boats
that form menacing crescents in the murk of their sky.
They push on until exhausted, they find
some shiny pebble that marks their place.
And all of them,
whether top-side of some faded and creaking river boat,
or in the greenest pool of some shallow stream,
all of them come to their end.
What pied piper’s flute or preacher’s tearful appeal
do they hear so strong (and cannot resist)
to have abandoned such a sweet and hard-won prize
as the deep and endless sea?
first published in Poet’s Gallery