On the Kenai, Five Years Later

Smell of home pulls a salmon.
Then its metallic body, wrestled
from current, spirals in sun.

An old woman beats its skull
with an igneous stone.
Her braids rope down her chest.

A man filets it with a toothed
knife, two quick strokes,
wraps the meat in plastic.

She rockets the carcass
over the line of men fishing
to gulls that rasp and rip for flesh.

My daughter watches and comes
against me, her hands on me,
and I give her nothing.
The old woman holds the body
of the salmon, she is swift
with the stone, swift as hunger.
She steps away from the fish,
makes room for the man
and his knife with a mouth of teeth.
It happens so fast and keeps
happening: the woman, the igneous
rock, the fish, all of it pulling
through memory, mine,
my daughter’s. And still
I have nothing to give her.

Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poetry: Ventriloquy, recently released from Tinderbox Editions, Rare Momentum, Bodies of Light (a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award), and Cloves & Honey (a finalist for the Midwest Book Award). She lives in Morris, Minnesota, where she teaches.