Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Salmon

In this shallow creek
they flop and writhe forward as the dead 
float back toward them. Oh, I know

what I should say: fierce burning in the body 
as her eggs burst free, milky cloud 
of sperm as he quickens them. I should stand

on the bridge with my camera, 
frame the white froth of rapids where one 
arcs up for an instant in its final grace.

But I have to go down among 
the rocks the glacier left 
and squat at the edge of the water

where a stinking pile of them lies, 
where one crow balances and sinks 
its beak into a gelid eye.

I have to study the small holes 
gouged into their skin, their useless gills, 
their gowns of black flies. I can't

make them sing. I want to, 
but all they do is open 
their mouths a little wider

so the water pours in 
until I feel like I'm drowning. 
On the bridge the tour bus waits

and someone waves, and calls down 
It's time, and the current keeps lifting 
dirt from the bottom to cover the eggs.

Credit


From Tell Me by Kim Addonizio. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author


Kim Addonizio

Kim Addonizio's poetry collections include Lucifer at the Starlite (W. W. Norton, 2009); What Is This Thing Called Love: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2004); and Tell Me (BOA Editions, 2000), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Date Published: 2000-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/salmon