Michigan Grayling

 

That was when our long-distance runners,

                                                                         The rivers,

                                        Ran with the taut sleek muscles of artic grayling.

 

  This ice maiden of the glacial meltwaters,

                                              A small tenacious salmon,

                               Reigned in the torrents of pure and cold desolation,

 

With an eccentrically high sailfin

And silver sides that flashed when it fought

 

Its wresting to shore for sport and provender.

 

That historic plenitude,

 

                  And then—

                                     The only forever we know,

 

When time was up for the ravishing timepieces

Of our sparkling boreal rivers.

 

Overfished overlumbered overwarmed—

 

This ice-veined purist would have none of it

 

                 (Better a striking absence than unseemly persistence)

 

                              And the silver rush was over.

 

Its twilit brilliance thrashed in the keel of the last compleat angler

         And never bent a rod again.

 

It was the miracle of the fish and loaves told in reverse—

                   And maybe no more believably.

 

Another fish story:

                               The one that got away—

 

                With a small northern town left holding its name,

 

And waters murmuring its unwritten epithet:

 

No one betrays the artic grayling in the same river twice.