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Saturday, May 25, 2024

When You Return

Highland PostWhen You Return

When you return,
your hair will be longer
and your Koniag skin darkened
from the sun’s reflection
shining off the Pacific Ocean.

“Ukalah!” I will hear you shout
as the boat pulls into the unloading dock.
You’ll be standing on the deck of the Gallant Girl
in worn out deck loafers and weathered jeans.

I can imagine you now, squinting,
searching the horizon.
I think you must wonder if it is worth it all,
though I know you could never quit it,
this way of life, your raison d’être.

It is in your blood, like it was
in your father’s before you.
And you court these Northwest waters
like she is your secret mistress,
always leaving me for her,
leaving me to understand
she is the one you fell in love with first.

To you, it is just another salmon season
in Kodiak, another summer
of late night deliveries
and storms spent in bays,
openings and closings,
the herring, the salmon,
the humpy grind.

Another set with
sweat rolling down
your windburned face.
Blackened spit,
a cup of coffee in your fist.
You’ll step into the skiff
and joke with the crew,
hoping for a good catch
and a good price,
though we both know
you’d still go out
if neither was good.

(be careful).

Gwi utaqaluni
(I wait)
for when you return.

(our way of life).