In its birthday picture
The child faces the mother
And the shape of its mouth is a smile
But its face tints red
Like the blood it came through,
Like the blood beating behind
Its thin, young skin.
So I don’t know if
It is a mask of life
Its head bobs up above gray waves
As if it does not feel the weight
Of its existence: precious child of a dying tribe.
Six months ago, its would-have-been kin in hope
Died after half an hour
And became its not-yet shade in grief.
Its mother carried it for weeks,
Kept its weight above the waves
By force of love and muscle,
Weakening herself as if she would swim them both
To the boundary waters.
I know this,
And the newborn calf
Pink and smiling
Reminds me of the endlessness it came from.
How long will it be allowed to stay
Playing in this finite blue?
The pink might be a trick of light,
Underbelly catching dawn.
But I think of the fragility of flesh
And the insides of the Chinook salmon:
The orca’s dying food.
Like artificial scarcity
And reversible decline played for suspense
On live TV.
If hope perches, then its talons dig,
Pierce the soul with fear till it leans forward
Into the urgency of care.
They have named the child Lucky.
I hope it is a blessing, not a curse.
Image credit Jim Culp / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0