Monday, 28 March 2011

What Little It's Worth


I wonder about that girl who sat on the bank with me, rooting for the salmon like a teenaged cheerleader for her home team. We were on the fringe of the largest protected wilderness on the planet, in northern southeast Alaska, where the Chilkat Mountains sent melt-waters down to the valley bottomland to turn the river white through glacial alchemy. We had a fire. It sent smoky forms into the air that billowed and swirled like souls released from the vessels enfolding them. We prayed for the fish to come to our net the way Indians once did everywhere along the northwest coast before the Great Unraveling. When the fish arrived like silver angels from the primordial deep, we felt our supplications were answered. It was a gift to have the “Swimmers,” as she called them, in our net, and we had this strange sense that they wanted to be reconfigured into human form through the divine exchange of eating. Stranger still was that after extracting the salmon from the river, laying blades to their necks, instinctually we knew what words of thanks to say and songs of praise to offer back to them–like we were becoming natives, returning to our essential nature by some inherent knowledge that required no guidebook to read from or memorize. I remember the girl’s face as she starred at her hands covered in oceanic blood and guts. Tears fell from her eyes as she repeated: “It’s just so beautiful.” That was five years ago. Now she’s squatting in an abandoned insane asylum somewhere near Seattle. Its residents are junkies, meth-heads, and crack addicts. They are considered throwaway people; the losers, the runaways and castaways, beaten down and masticated–thoroughly digested by Moloch’s toxic acids than flushed out of our awareness like excrement down the toilet–but for what little it’s worth, I still remember our songs.