Huge schools of them, home from the Atlantic: flakes
of iced mercurial steel, each body surging upstream
through the flint-flecked crevices as in a dream,
entering the crush of falls to reach the upper lakes.
Spent now by the journey, they have returned in a bright
kenotic ecstasy to spawn at last and die.
A salt-stung moiling everywhere, as each frenzied eye
diamonds the irised spindrift waters to fight
the killing currents and reach their final reckoning.
This is the way with those who sing the glitter
going of the final cry, the light looming in the bitter
coalescence up ahead, as if beckoning.
I too would follow if I could, but the body’s cold
from battling nightly with the tides. Bliss—bliss—
they sang, though I was likewise warned that this
would mean the final wringing of the ladder’s rung, the old
truth the shad and salmon sense: that we are bound
for home, whatever home means, waiting for us out there,
wherever there is: blue-black water or blue of air,
bright Abba or bleak abyss, the thing that will be found.
Call it what you will: you, the stranger who follows after, faring
forth to meet the Other. Call it the awful leap into the whirling
world of which we know so little, as self goes hurling
toward the light waiting just beyond the final, fated daring.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.