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Alewives at Damariscotta

Today's poem is Alewives at Damariscotta by Kristin Davis. It is read by Mihku Paul.

Alewives at Damariscotta

Writhing pulse in the tea-colored river, they swarm
toward birthing waters, strange
now in the absence of salt.

The shadow of a gull passes over.

One by one they fling their silver bodies against
a narrowed rush, whitewater
over granite, leap to the next resting pool.

Sixty-nine stone-lined pools, rungs on a ladder.

We come to see them through fields of wild
iris, lupines and buttercups. Swerve
around the stench of flattened skunk.

A pecking crow flap-hops away.

Some alewives slam into stone, wash back
into the pool. Some swim into the metal sluice,
slick with the day’s harvest, lobster bait.

The air heaves with stink.

Five planets and a crescent moon align
overhead, invisible in daylight. A spawning
female lays 60,000 eggs, a dozen survive.

To descend seaward, tail-first down the ladder.

Our origin stories recede, our histories
we piece together as we raise our own young.

Is there any new life that does not retrace time?

Is there any birthing that is not also a homegoing?

Only with concentration can you see a fish dart up
against the fall of water. Like watching for
a shooting star, not sure you really saw.

A momentary streak, generations old.