Samish River, Skagit County

Past the wheat stubble
And spent spinach seed crop
The bridge is littered
With trucks, men and tackle
Boxes awaiting the big Kings
Or maybe the fall Chum-Coho.
Salmon carcasses loll like stones
Along the river floor.
The fall, a last hope
For home.

Farmers and bankers stand shoulder
To tartan shoulder to snag
A wearied one. In water this low,
You could almost yank
A tail by the hand
(if no one is watching).

I hear a cough and then a
“Fuck!” Two teenage boys
Scramble up from under the
Bridge, coughing, with their trick
Bikes, backpacks, baseball hats
Backwards. They are not in school,
Nor do they see below the water.

The salmon is sport.

The salmon is spirit food
For the families that paddled
This river first.

When fishing was closed,
There was blame on both sides
For the dwindling harvest.
How quickly hate is abandoned
Now that permits are open again.

We are all irreverent teenagers, loitering along the bank,

Watching nameless eddies circle and pass.
Conservation shouldn’t cost more than consumption,
But it always does.