Shadow, ripple, glint of sun-splashed scale
I imagine the return of salmon to this stream
which only half-remembers itself without them.
My fingers trace arabesque patterns on the surface of this still eddy
drawing runes as if through some ancient conjuring
I could bring coho or sockeye to this place.
Willow breaks and rip-rap, log weirs and re-vegetation
slope stabilization, habitat enhancement – no talisman or prayer alone
can restore this watershed to its memory.
Could it be, without salmon here, that I have lost
some vital memory of myself as well?
In the shade of red cedar, amid the bending of vine maple
and the incessant whine of mosquitoes, at the curve of this stream
this confluence of earth, body and water,
I wonder what it means to restore a full run
of salmon to one another’s souls.
Restoration of any kind is never so straightforward as we would wish.
This stream, pained by its longing, is comforted by its forgetfulness –
now used to the silt sheathing its gravel beds, adjusted to the uncluttered,
straight-line channels free of log snags and boulders,
currents which no longer invite salmon to their dance,
grown fond even of the introduced moments
of brook trout and catfish.
To remember salmon is to welcome a certain pain.
It is not easy knowing that, in the endless cycle of riparian time,
in order for something to live and spawn
something of you must die.
That is the way of salmon.
That is the way of souls.
I can not divert your heart from this.
It is not easy to know the law of salmon rivers – heron and eagle,
otter and bear will come to pluck the richness from you.
The river does not allow its abundance
to flow unshared (while desire chafes at such limits...)
Nor is it easy to recognize that in order for balance and integrity
to return to the course of a river or a life
everything must continually restore itself each moment of its existence.
But still I want these things for you, for me,
because there is no other way to know ecstasy and wisdom
but through the movement of salmon
in these places which have long forgotten them.