“Spring Salmon at Night” by Nancy Pagh

Nancy Pagh


I thought the west wind called me from bed
the night the river ran so hard.
I followed it over the moonlit lawn
across the road and into the woods,
climbing fallen cedars and moving
beyond the skunk cabbages. I followed
the west wind to the river bed and
plunged my legs in dark water
that sucked and swirled behind my knees
and tried to pull me beyond the bank.

And the wind stopped.
And I forgot why I came out in the night.
And I clenched the underwater moss with my toes
and was lost
until the spring salmon came,
their torpedo-shaped bodies knowing me
as another follower of currents.
In the cold gray river the spring salmon
found and circled me, their forms almost warm
as they touched the backs of my legs
guiding me back through the forest
across suburban lawns and down my own hallway
from bedroom to kitchen
until I found myself standing at the cat-food cupboard
and recognized each cat circling my legs
and my own gullibility
or desire to be lead
in the direction of someone else’s hunger.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

Recording provided by NPR’s Seattle affiliate KUOW.

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