Salmon jumping in a river
Poetry

Bloodroot

By Charlotte Hussey

 

I ride on the back of a salmon,

listening to the swish of the overhanging branches.

They rush by rustling overhead,

to the slap of his tail against water.

He slides, rippling between boulders

and plunges us upriver. Choppy

waves lap the limestone banks,

their echoes filled with the susurrations

of not-quite-human voices.

 

I ride on the back of a salmon,

breathing in the raw mud smells, the rot

of drowned logs and spent amber leaves,

the watery scents of floating reeds and grasses,

and the pitchy odor of a brush fire on the near bank.

Out of its billowy smoke, a figure

drifts towards me over the waves,

trailing long, transparent sleeves

perfumed with pine boughs and burning roots.

 

Riding on the back of a salmon,

clinging to his cold, spiny fin,

I sink into an eddy. The water touches me

all over. Something taps like distended lips

along my lower back. My thigh’s

brushed by the gliding trunk

of a massive fish, or clear body

bound in one skin like two spirits:

part surge, part meander.

 

From the back of a speckled salmon,

I see light ripple over the pebbled shallows.

Splashed with its prisms, a woman appears,

seen, at first, through a bubbling veil.

She’s dressed her body in a wrinkly,

green sheath. Her hands, dyed with a red sap,

leave rusty prints on the limestone bank:

“Rub my sap on your left palm, touch someone,

and they will willingly love you.”

 


Charlotte Hussey, who has an MFA from Warren Wilson College, teaches medieval literature at Montreal’s Dawson College. She has published Rue Sainte Famille and The Head Will Continue to Sing. Completing a McGill University doctorate on the poet H.D. awakened her love of antiquity and led to her publication of Glossing the Spoils, a collection drawing on Western European mythologies that came out in the UK in a second edition in 2017.  Her poems can be found in Garden Varieties: An Anthology of the Top Fifty Poems from the National Poetry Contest; 150+ Canada’s History in Poetry; Soul of the Earth: the Awen Anthology of Eco-spiritual Poetry; Pagan Muse: Poems of Wisdom and Inspiration, and in the forthcoming Awenydd at the Crossroads Anthology.  Her work appears in numerous literary magazines in Canada, the UK, and the US. She can be reached at charlotte.hussey@mcgill.ca

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