My friend Charlie — excuse me, my brother Charlie — often sends me pictures that he takes with a certain camera. Either Charlie has a strange talent or there is something unusual about this camera. Maybe both. Yesterday he sent this picture of a dead salmon. I wrote and said:
“Okay, let’s face it, this is a magic camera. Dead salmon aren’t really that pretty.”
He replied that the salmon really did look like the picture.
Kindly note, dear reader, that gold light seems to be emanating from the salmon’s wounds. I thought, “The camera is adding some kind of posterization or over-saturation effect.”
But Charlie wrote, “The gold was very bright and truly gold.”
Charlie’s poems are like this too; gold light emanates from them, and other colors, and intangible things. Sometimes I think the knowledge that was in the second tree in the Garden of Eden, the one that Adam and Eve never got hold of, has somehow wound up in Charlie’s poems. I guess this sounds like excessive praise but it’s my opinion so I’m writing it down.
This poem is one of my favorites.
For more of Charlie’s pictures and poems, see his blog.
Salutations to the salmon, who swam him or herself to death in order to make more salmon. I thank you for letting us use your picture. You were very beautiful.
Photo by Charlie Hopkins and his magic camera.
3 thoughts to “Charlie’s Magic Camera”
Yesterday when I went back to the river, after a night and a day of heavy rains, the water level was four and a half feet higher than before. All the dead salmon had been washed away. I was there a long while but when I got up to leave, I saw a still living salmon barely moving on the edge of the water. I knelt down and put my hand on her back. She was so worn out she didn’t swim away, stayed there moving her tail fin just enough to stay where she was. So beautiful, lot of gold in the fins. So I said a prayer and left her there. It is truly humbling to see beings in nature letting go so quietly. Hope I’ll do 1/1000’s as well.
Re the camera, certainly many of the colors in the photograph are more vivid than my worn out eyes could see, except the gold. The gold was startlingly gold.
How can you tell she was female?
I wonder if this instinct that drives them to swim until they die, operates through desire. A tremendous desire to return up river and make babies. They want it so badly that they pursue it even though it kills them. Desire is cruel.
Do they lay eggs at this place in the river or are you seeing the ones that didn’t get far enough to lay eggs?
I am not an expert on salmon and decided she was a “she” by whim alone. The place on the White Salmon River where I walk and sit takes a bend and pools there. For 50 years or so there was a dam just above this spot so it was the end of the long river road for salmon. They spawned and died here for generations. Now the dam has been removed and the river returned to its wild status but a hundred or more salmon still come here to breed and die. I am humbled to bear witness to their sacrifice. I will never know what the wild salmon know. I can only feel what they help me feel at the end of Fall.