Kate was tidying up around the house yesterday and found a folded sheet of paper under our bed amidst the great clumps of dog hair that had accumulated there (mute testimony to the incompleteness of my periodic vacuum-powered housecleaning). On the paper was the following poem about the salmon, and about other things too. Kate said the paper must have been mine, and it must have, given my sometimes-preoccupation with the fish in question. But I can’t remember how I came by this piece at all, and I don’t really remember having read the poem. David Whyte is a Scottish poet, I believe, whom I know for a book he wrote back in the ’90s called “The Heart Aroused.” It was a call for humanizing the workplace, for recognizing the role of creativity to excite individual passions, a recognition he argues leads to more satisfied employees and more successful employers.
Song for the Salmon
by David Whyte
For too many days now I have not written of the sea,
nor the rivers, nor the shifting currents
we find between the islands
For too many nights now I have not imagined the salmon
threading the dark streams of reflected stars,
nor have I dreamt of his longing
nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn
I have not given myself to the depth to which he goes,
to the cargoes of crystal water, cold with salt,
nor the enormous plains of ocean swaying beneath the moon.
I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
opening its white hands on the seashore,
nor the salted wind, whole and healthy
filling the chest with living air.
I have not heard those waves
fallen out of heaven onto earth,
nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
of a thousand miles of ocean
giving up its strength on the sand.
But now I have spoken of that great sea,
the ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
moves in the dark sky above
and I am ready like the young salmon
to leave his river, blessed with hunger
for a great journey on the drawing tide.