Giant backs of whales pace
the anchovy-rich river
and I pay good money
to see it all up close.
A brownish powder moth
flies onto the corroded
rail, near my hand.
I’m cold but it’s shivering,
holding tight. A woman
draped in a Navajo rug
finds my eyes and smiles.
She wonders aloud if the
moth is her husband,
reincarnated. He always
wanted to see the Columbia.
And then a child: It doesn’t
belong here, grandma, it’s
suicide. I think of my brother’s
best friend who booked
a room a mile from home
and took his life with
a gun that fit perfectly
into his callused hand.
The boat turns to pursue a
breaching California Gray
whose barnacled beak
gushes above the water line.
A tiny spastic flash launches,
takes flight above whitecaps,
winging and dropping through
empty pockets of air, heading
straight for what’s left of
the baleen glow still burning
in the dark hole of my brain.
The river grows a calming circle,
fills with threatening clouds.
This footprint, the only evidence
that the creature ever existed.

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