Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Herman, The Sturgeon” by Tricia Knoll, a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and this week’s Poet of the Week. A biography of the poet may be found in the “About Our Editor & Frequent Contributors” section.
Herman, The Sturgeon
My palms press against the thick glass wall
between me and Herman. I nudge in
next to three young girls with ponytails.
Herman glides, a profile of fossils.
The sign to my left:
Species: acipenser transmontanus (Pacific Sturgeon) – the largest freshwater fish in North America
Age: 70 plus years, born during World War II
Eyes: Steel gray
Length: Ten feet
Weight: 450 pounds
Genealogy: Species to 175 million years ago
Residence: Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River –– since 1998 captive in a man-made pool fed by Tanner Creek and groundwater. One Herman or another has circled this pool for over sixty years.
The blonde mother distracts her kids with goldfish crackers.
I’ve got the window.
Am I as irrelevant to him as barnacles
crusted on the container ships on the Columbia
heading through Bonneville’s locks to Lewiston?
Does his brain sense how near his river is?
How high the wall to the upper Columbia?
I lean in as if to weigh the theft
of his wild identity, this land-locked fish.
Does he always swim clockwise?
Ignoring cycles of spawning?
His eyes give away nothing.
Bottom dweller. Four barbell sensors,
armored scutes. Yet – a brain that integrates.
My blessing to this fish
through my hands, through the glass.
Does he feel how my laying-on pulses the water?
Bless his terrible beauty.
Poet’s Notes: I believe the Columbia River Gorge is one of the wonders of the world. I lament the loss of Celilo Falls and centuries of petroglyphs under Bonneville Dam. Other losses include robust fish migrations. Herman is a real fish (pictured), a humongous fish, incarcerated for his lifetime in a small pond at a hatchery as a tourist attraction.