The trail leads me away
into the quiet of long ago
towards the bay,
into the forest, where the wren calls,
and two hawks soar above.
Through a marsh, dry now,
waiting for fall rains, a shower of
falling leaves covering my tracks.
Soon salmon will be in the creek,
struggling upstream for renewal.
Spruce grow bigger, taller,
shading the ferns, crowding out the
salmonberry, until only dark mossy rooms
remain, much like long ago.
They lived here once, those who came before,
in long cedar homes, tending fires,
living their lives with salmon, elk, and eagle.
Tides still come in and go out, and rivers rise and fall,
and salmon come back every year, on Spirit’s time.
Silent now, except for Wren, Chickadee, obnoxious Crow,
and the breeze off the bay, fresh with the change of tide.
The warm smell of summer almost gone, last night’s
rain bringing promise of the winter, the storms,
the dark nights, and the fires of the long house.
I hear them now, proud Killamooks, Chief Kilchis, too,
their canoes slipping up the bay on incoming tide,
all pulling together, all singing their song,
the laughter of children greeting them on the beach,
home again, and dinner almost ready.
I think I smell the smoke, see the peak of the longhouse roof,
and hear the women sing as they pick the last of the berries
before tomorrow’s storm, and next week,
the return of the salmon,
as it always was, and will ever be.
–Neal Lemery 1/6/2013