The Salmon Eater (prose poem)

The road between deadend Voluspa on the outskirts of the Bogachiel and the salt-pocked driftwood spat out by the Pacific is long, though not by birdflight. The road layers switchbacks upon itself heavy as intestines and I am only halfway inland, still looking for somewhere where I no longer feel like getting a lobotomy, so I asked to be let out of the copper Toyota that’s fourteen tones of red and rust. Actually, I’m meeting up with friends at a bar in an inconsequential town, but that’s not till night time and so I have time. The rain is only damp cold troll’s breath on my neck, so I keep my hood down and ask for a pound of smoked salmon from the man selling fish out the back of his truck on the side of the road under heavy moss and usnea. I was hungry and I can always find another ride and sitting in a car has always felt like giving away a part of my soul, anyway.

The salmon seller wears his rain jacket with his hood down, too, and his hair is heavy with mist, damp-mat of pounded cedar bark and just as rich a menstrual crimson. I take my food and rip the vacuum with my teeth, even though my right incisors are still young and soapstone soft and will die before growing old; I am hungry. He watches my first bite, I watch back and see him stripped to the blue and freckle of his skin-over-bone in the bend and froth of rivers, fossegrim without his fiddle beneath maidenhair and spiny wood fern. Blink and it’s rain jacket and hiking boots and waterbead on his blood red lashes. I don’t smile. I walk toward my game in the woods and eat fish and lick liquid smoke molasses brine from the bag’s inside and try not to think about the man who is still asleep six hours behind me and won’t wake for another two hours because it is only nine am and he spent the night counting the wrong things and now can’t attend, while I counted each hour last night—three, of course three, three (and one) says fairy tale morphology, three’s the charm (but fehu has four branches, maybe that’s why it works) three as I beg/end my try/fail cycle. But I’ve only had one, though you’d never guess from the red dry winterbleed of my hands, no white-banded skin cold as the veil I never wore. I don’t think in threes, except when it comes to men, because three hours pass before the fish-seller pulls up beside me on his way home and offers me a ride. Three hours, three hours, three men, one I left in bed, one whose bed I have never seen, though the known and unknown collide in a terrifying sympathetic note like yawping up an empty stairwell alone at midnight or hearing water dripping in an elevator shaft each time I relearn how to talk to him. In The Bed is the one I know how to leave, like I did this morning, because I had the chance, I had chance, took a chance, last chance and know I will come home because I am always coming home and that is misfortune.

There is music as we ride. I watch the fish-seller trapped in the window glass, beads of rain racing up his jaw, his chin, his cheeks to his hairline like he is crying upside down and soon I imagine him wet again with his burgundy hair slicked back, some salmon-eating undine and then—stop, stop, stop, I know where this is going and it’s nowhere good, it’s everything good like crossing the threshold when there is a storm to greet you on the road and I am on the road and I am no Loki, bound, though I am bound for a bar and drinks and god, I hope they have pear cider. The man beside me speaks and I pause the narrative always tongue lolling from inner calcified cambium to beneath my heels. He wants to know where I am going. I catch myself and redirect the palm placed over my sternum and if I looked relieved to see his understanding I hide it quickly and point at the leaf-skinned pavement, thattaway, I’ll tell you when to stop and if you don’t, if you keep driving until empty and we have to walk for the sea because saltwater is the closest we have to gasoline, then. Then we wade in until we are floating in the great kelp beds of the Pacific because it was only all ever an excuse to step into the sea and we will have arrived, somewhere.

…………………. ………………………….  …………………. . ………………..

I recommend this as musical accompaniment:


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