Salmon Becomes Them by Kathy Powell

I am chiseled by the plane of your brow. The pattern of your features and line are simple, elemental. Provocative, haunting and familiar like a well loved ghost story told in winter in the musky cedar long house.
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Meat hung low, a fire burning small and mindlessly tended. Children are gathered sleepy and helter-skelter on planks one tear up from the fire pits. Aunties and brothers busy over berries and hides but comforted knowing word for word the story that will come again from the grandmother’s own personal weaving of the Salmon Boy story.

Generations of winter tellings about when he will be swallowed by Salmon and the promise Salmon makes that the people can always sleep well knowing the lost boy will return each Fall and Spring bringing the Salmon for his people to fish and dry. Children are crumpled in the laps of the older ones. The littlest ones are asleep before the Salmon Boy returns. They swim among silver sided Salmon in their dreams, strong and plentiful enough for there grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Salmon swim up through our lodges, up in the rafters in rows. They swim through the waters dappled with fallen leaves, keeping us safe from snow hunger. And then again, they swim again into Spring waters, carrying us with them into silvery summers.

Salmon swim and dive in people’s dreams spawning stories in bellies to come out of our grandmother’s mouths. The stories call the children back to bellies of the Salmon, bewitching them so that they will always know they are Salmon people and crave the Salmon to spawn around, through and among them and become them again and again until they become Salmon and Salmon becomes them.

edited by niya sisk

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