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.
August 29, 2007 Oakland, California From the Academy Audio Archive