Returning to the river where I spent my childhood,
I watch salmon, already beaten raged
from the rapids,
heroically charge the falls, jump and fail
jump and fail.
In the hour I am audience to the pageantry
of ripping chunks of scales
and flaring gills
I do not see a single fish
make it to the top.
But, I know that as a species
they make it every year,
bellies full of spawn
carried to exactly were the carrier
was born.
In searching for some image to jump start my brain—
I have turn to the salmon.
Their incredible devotion, the sacrifice.
Their commitment to survival
of their kind.
I have come to steal from them a metaphor
describing some deep part of the human condition—
the emotional gauntlet of close relationships,
the suffocating grief of lost love,
the mind-numbing grind that doing
what you most want to do has become.
I want to see the hidden path to moving on
when there is no joy in moving on.
But the salmon have no metaphor to steal.
They make no compromise, feel no grief,
and determination is a word completely
out of context.
When the brain conjures no alternative behavior
the remaining behavior works its work.
Salmon, as far as we know,
have no sense of self-pity and do not imagine
a more perfect world.
They swim, they jump, they spawn, they die.
If there is a metaphor in there—
I don’t want to know about it.