Onto the written page they march, good little minions
of inspiration cultivated since childhood, dipping pen
into wells of collective memory, stories taking shape
like the smooth drape of river water flowing
over the Penobscot Dam, where I would sit
and contemplate the lot I was dealt that brought me
to that stark beauty where ice, wind and water honed
and fashioned bones and spirit, remaking refinement
into rugged woods nymph, intrepid wanderer,
philosopher’s stone placed into trembling hands;

To these ancient Wabanaki fishing grounds came
lumberjacks floating logs down sacred rivers,
suffocating sustenance with their detritus and paper pulp,
displacing people versed in surviving extremes, easily
pushed now to the fringes of their own flesh and blood
on land nobody wanted until outsiders came and took charge,
populated it with brick and steel and drunken street brawls,
sending refugees like rats into alleyways where they sat noisily
mumbling incoherencies, greasy caps pulled low
across weary faces etched with soot, intoxicated
on sterno strained through grimy socks and rammed
down throats parched raw from lack of dreaming,
a pebble’s throw from the river, giver of life, mother
of fish, silently dying like the last breath of spring;

Time changes little of the nature of places, there is
wildness percolating in deep crevasses of memory,
every rock and watercourse recalls its origins in obscurity
like the things we forgot, misplaced keys or human conscience,
and when the last fish is caught, there are traces that remember
in the dormancy of darkness and it will be discovered
when the last plume is plucked and the osprey soars no more
and something dredges from the depths like a slow-moving thing
winding up the ancient fishways like it did when time was younger,
gills flexing lifeblood, scales shimmering in the moonlight.



12 thoughts on “Fishways

  1. This is absolutely brilliant! Ben Naga led me here, and I am impressed. This explores two themes that I am always drawn to: American Indian spirituality and the frightening consequences of the massive species extinction we are experiencing worldwide. I worked with tribal people almost my entire career as an educator, and this poem speaks to me deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thomas, thanks so much for your kind words. I have long written poetry stemming from my deep and abiding connection to the natural world. My observations of wildlife bemoan our own species’ loss of connection to what sustains us. From the horrors of eminent domain to the disregard and fear of what is perceived as Other, we have steadily and, it would seem methodically, increased our peril in a fragile system of interdependence that ensures any sort of quality of life for future generations. I write because these actions transcend any sort of understanding on my part. And I am always glad when someone such as yourself is touched, as a result. Aloha, Bela


  2. Brilliantly penned dear Bela.. A poignant reminder of how Human Greed destroys all it touches.. And reflects well what the Native American Indians the Cree stated in their well known proverb. Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money”
    ❤ Sue x

    Liked by 1 person

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