Salmon Run, Kagawong, September 2013
Lovers who met in our forties, we decided not to have a child.
A year later, we hold hands along this teeming river, where the cold
is already prying a few flushed leaves from the maples.
I want my wife's breasts. She undoes a button and takes my hands
into the warmth under her clothes, against the living skin,
and I waver near regret, never knowing if the choice was wisdom
or cowardice, unwilling to risk chaos, unwilling to pay the time,
our melancholy, grown-up caution before the violence of desire ---
but, as if her body were knowledge, I touch
her beside this water and tell myself I know our child,
curled hank of vein and bone swimming through her
that would have knotted our temporary blood to all this falling and surge.
I have never seen this before:
the traveled fish thrash uphill,
stubborn as hammered spikes,
hovering to fan their gills
in the lucid pools, then bursting out,
tails beating the ice-water
over ruffling shoals,
urgent toward reproduction
and death. When one loses
its grip on the water, the current
sweeps it far back, until it catches
somehow and climbs again,
each a thick, single-minded
sleeve of flesh pulsing
like a horse's thigh muscle.
The untiring, convulsive salmon
whip themselves over
the slick, algae-green stones,
against the also stubborn
invisible current, yellow-
black ripples of shimmer and
thrust --- or, each a fist
clenched on roe or milt,
they punch a tunnel through water
to quiet where they will gasp
and drop their milky heatinto the dangerous chill of this world.