Wy-Kan-Ush-Pum

 

Unfed were the children of the Haida matron

who trawled the riverbank, hips squared, dress hiked,

when into the soft of her net plops a salmon

 

who was her son as recently as last autumn

and who, taken by a fast current, was drowned.

She knows him by the copper necklace she gave him

 

as a newborn, and said he could never take it off

because it tethered his soul to a physical body.

“My son,” she cries, “where have you been?”

 

And the fish says, “Mother, that day I left you

after spitting out that moldy salmon of yours

I went swimming with my friends, and drowned.

 

My soul floated like driftwood down the river

until I met the Salmon People on their way

to the ocean, who left behind their own bodies

 

for the hungry stomachs of bear and Haida.

They took me to their village in the deepest ocean,

which is just like our village, where they too

 

hunt for salmon in the streams. There they

taught me how to throw all of the fish bones

back into the river after I was done eating

 

so the salmon would come back to life intact.”

The mother scoffs. “Your father and I have been

telling you for years now to throw your bones back.”


R. Charboneau

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