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.”