Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our 2012 contestants

Owed to a Dead Salmon
By “Anjha”

we’re known for throwing them.
Rubber-gloved gutters in aprons,
shaved ice-packed boxes
                line the market and appear in commercials.
We are known for our dead salmon throwers.
where salmon die, not for novelty
or the amusement of Pike Place shoppers,
                you are known for catching them.
Rough, terrifying waters
                bastardized by television production;
endless living rooms filled with voyeurs.
they used to worship them
(they remembered they swam in their veins)
                swimming upstream, red, ripe
bursting with future generations
of dead salmon.
we close the runs early -
still thinking we’re singing the song.
The music plays from the gills of the salmon
                Ode to Dead Water
                Dead Earth
                Dead Air.


Ode to a Dead Salmon
By Mary Albanese

I snagged the great beast, it was thrilling
As he darted and dived, water spilling.
He put up a fight
But was skunked by my might
Now his corpse on my barbie is chilling.


One fish, two fish, red fish, more red fish
By “Sam N. Cook”

Cooler of blue
salmon of red
Now they’re alive,
soon they’ll be dead.

Blood lust be howlin’
under the clouds
Our neighboring netters
are boisterous and loud.

It’s not yet eleven
but that one dude is drunk
and hollering at me
to come check out his trunk

full of fish I should envy
but I cannot go near
‘cuz it’s way too early
to smell that much beer.

Veering away
toward my friends and our nets
How is it possible,
I think with regret,

twenty years an Alaskan
but first time dipnetting.
It’s a regional ritual
I’m finally getting.

An hour and a half and
we’re already done
with ten fish for the two of us.
But the fun’s just begun.

Did I mention I did not
grow up around fish,
nor gutting, nor cleaning,
and hours later I wish

we had just stopped at five.
But we’re not that bright,
so we two first-timers
were up late that night.

Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat I’m thinking,
but next time around,
I too will be drinking.


Ode to a Dead Salmon
By Matt Shields

I never ode nothing to a dead salmon. That’s just dumb. First, how could you even owe something to a LIVE salmon? What, you borrowed money from it? Salmon don’t need money. What, it saved your life and you owe him big time? Right, how? You were drowning and he swam up and gave you a ride like a dolphin?

Whoever thought up this contest is either dumb or they are not thinking right. If you can’t owe something to a LIVE salmon, then how could you owe something to a DEAD salmon.

I’m trying to be a serious writer so I enter contests, cause that is the way you get noticed. And I heard that the 49th Writers people are serious writers, so naturally I wanted to be a part of what they are doing.

No thanks. Who is going to read a story about someone owing money or their life to a salmon that’s dead?

Not me.

Unless they are trying to get you to write essentially, like the essentialists Dostoyevsky or Nietzsche. That’s another thing, you have to be well read to write. And I am. It is so frustrating not having an outlet for my talent.

No one is going to take my complaint seriously, but that is okay. You know why? Because I am going to post it on Facebook, and then all 326 of my personal close friends will realize how difficult it is to be a good writer.

Fine. You win. I need the money. Here is my entry:

“Ode to a dead salmon: Exactly one dollar and fifty-three cents for the Three Musketeers bar (including sales tax) that I lent the stinking, rotting carcass of a humpy I befriended at the bus depot… “


I’m sorry. I just can’t do this. I do have some self-respect.


Why Hast Thou Forsaken Salmon?
By Lesley Thomas

Down on the soughing wild grasses
Six geologists drunk on their asses
Toast the largest manmade structure on Earth
Their own mommas sad they gave them birth

What does this have to do with fish?
If only if only it did not, we wish
Pebble oh Pebble, sighs the boss
The Sockeye slips down from the Cross
And lies a skeleton upon the shore
and washed away,  
is seen no more

A second coming not in store

Wind blows insane across the tailings
A scientist disgorges off the railings
Capitalists frolic in the deadly water
Gone is Bear and Fish, gone is Otter
Only one villager got paid
Several of the miners got laid.


A Portly Run of Salmon
By Dennis Lattery

A portly run of salmon, especially the lowly Pink,
That returns to our pristine rivers should give us all some pause to think.

Although the smell is gamey, especially if the river drops,
It’s a fact that nothings wasted in the scheme of nature’s crops.

We pride ourselves by thinking that waste is just to you and me;
But if you quarried Eagles, Hawks and Seagulls they would surely not agree.

The Otters, Mink, and Martin take some part of what’s behind
And the fetid flesh of parents feeds a generation of its kind.

So if you feel a stomach tightness and revulsion at the smell
Just remember it’s in the scheme of things that salmon go to hell.


Salmon in the Trees
By Amy Marshall

Note from author: Excerpt from a short story entitled “Salmon In The Trees” (with apologies to Amy Gulick and Ray Troll). Radiation from the Fukushima Power Plant meltdown has played havoc on the ocean’s ecosystem! Worse yet, THE SALMON HAVE RETURNED TO ALASKA! This is a B-Movie homage complete with Alaskans, Fishermen, Federal Fisheries Biologists, and Zombie Salmon!

“You’re so full of it, Ben,” Marla scoffs. She pokes a stick into the campfire. Beyond the circle of light, the river rushes by.
“Yeah,” Liz agrees. “This is the part where you scream ‘BEHIND YOU!’”
The friends laugh.
“It’s true,” Ben insists. He clicks off the flashlight he had held beneath his chin during the telling of the tale.
“Radiation from Fukushima,” chuckles Paul. “You’re a riot.”
“It is true,” Ben continues to insist. He leans forward conspiratorially. “Missing fishermen. Weird goings on. Why do you think this section of the river’s been closed?”
“Demon salmon,” Liz starts.
“Irradiated salmon,” Ben corrects her.
“Lame,” Marla snorts.
Liz rolls her eyes and scoots a little closer to Paul who smiles and drapes an arm around her.
“Zombie salmon,” Paul chuckles. He pecks at Liz’s cheek.
“And they’ve spawned.” Ben nods seriously. He gestures upstream with a toss of his head. “They’ve got the fry at the hatchery.”
“Undead baby salmon?” Paul smiles around the lip of his beer bottle. “Dude, you’re deranged.”
“You think I’d camp here if there are killer salmon?” Marla always was the blunt one.
“Aren’t you curious?” Ben’s eyes shine in the firelight. “Don’t you wonder how Bill and Michele disappeared?”
Paul’s smile fades and he lowers the bottle. “They aren’t the first to go off into the woods and not come back.” He casts a furtive glance around the campfire. “Doesn’t mean some zombie salmon ate their brains.”
“More likely a bear,” Marla offers.
Paul frowns. “Zombie bear?”
 “It’s sad,” Liz agrees. “And you’re a jerk to make up a story like that.”
Ben smiles benignly. He makes a theater of a stretch. “I’m tired.” He scratches briefly at his blond hair. “I’m gonna hit the hay.”
The silence that greets his announcement is deafening.
“You guys are no fun anymore,” Ben chuckles as he rises to his feet and turns from the fire.
“What’s wrong?” Paul grumbles groggily inside his sleeping bag.
Liz sighs and sits up. “I can’t sleep.”
 “C’m on, babe,” his voice is heavy with sleep. “Just cuddle. I’ll keep you safe.”
Liz fidgets. “I gotta pee.”
Paul snorts through a snore. “Don’t let the zombie salmon get you.”
Liz slaps at the top of Paul’s head.
“Jerk. Be glad I didn’t aim lower.”
Outside, the moonlight spills across the river. Liz shivers as she moves away from the tents. Ben’s snore is a chainsaw. No surprise there.
Zombie salmon.
There’s nothing like a good pee in the woods. Liz hesitates, looking back toward the river.
A solitary figure casts across the water. A ghastly white hand guides the line. Liz’s brow furrows. Her hand is flat against the trunk of a cedar. The solitary figure does not turn.
Liz glances back at the tents. She moves cautiously forward. Her throat is dry. She can feel her heart race.
“Hello?” she ventures.
Liz chews at her lip. “Hello?”
The figure hesitates. Liz watches the fly rod falter slightly.
“Are you all right?” Liz feels herself moving toward the river, toward the moonlit figure.
“We’re fine here.” The voice is an echo.
A rasping breath behind her raises the hairs on the back of her neck. “Like this.”
Paul startles from his sleep, struggles from his sleeping bag.
Marla and Ben scramble from their tent. Ben struggles to his feet and catches at Liz.
“Liz!” his voice is desperate.
“Run!” Liz wails.
“Oh, my God, what is it?” Marla breathes. Paul staggers from his tent and turns.
“It’s them.” His eyes widen.
The creature takes a rasping breath. “We are in the river.”
“All of us.”
The four friends turn abruptly.
The thing that was Michele leans closer. “Like this.”

Ode to a Dead Salmon 1
By Lee Goodman

A salmon that rots in the silt
Is like Onan whose seed would soon wilt.
Onan wanted no lads,
But the fish wanted scads,
So into the silt both spilt milt.


Ode to a Dead Salmon 2
By Lee Goodman

I love salmon, I said with a smile,
Not knowing this fish had turned vile
So appetite whetted,
I ate what was fetid
And barfed till I only had bile.


Salmon Rapture
By Lynn Black

Elegant salmon in sweet repose,
Why does your visage offend my nose?
Olfactory buds scream a denial,
Of your sudden death without a fair trial.
Snuffed in the prime of your young salmon life,
Nature and man put an end to your strife.
Your legacy lingers to this very day,
Compounded by an odor that won't go away.


Stinky Pink
By Jim Thiele

Most people thought Bob was a nice guy, but he could be a real ass at times.  I don’t know if he was just thoughtless, or if he was arrogant, but he could rub you the wrong way. 
I won’t detail the event that pushed me over the edge.  In retrospect, I should have just let it go.  But my mother used to say “don’t get mad, get even”.  I’ve even said that myself.
We went fishing out of Whittier and stopped to take a photo of a nice little waterfall just before coming back to town.  A small run of pink salmon was in the creek and it was easy to grab a small male that had been chased into the shallows.  He was kind of beat up and kind of a runt, so I didn’t feel I was depriving the world of his offspring.  I tossed him in the freezer, guts and all.
Later in the summer, Bob went up to Willow to visit his niece – he had an old Harley motorcycle and it was a nice day for a ride.  He also had an old Ford F150 pickup – the kind with the half-baked crew cab with little fold up seats.  That space served mostly as a trash bin for Bob.  He would lock up his bike, but he never locked his car. 

The back of those crew cab seats is attached directly to the wall of the cab.  If you know the trick, it is really easy to pop them off.  There is a little bit of space between the cushion and the cab wall – just enough for a small pink salmon stuffed into an orange Anchorage Daily News bag. It is a tight fit, and you may have to do a little trimming, but it will fit.  If you sit in the seat you might notice a bump in the back, but nobody sits in a trash bin.
Unfortunately the first benefactor of this effort was Bob’s dog Bo.  I saw him tied up out in the yard – he was never tied up.  Bob said “he must have eaten something real bad…I took him to town yesterday and he had the worst farts he has ever had, and you know that dog – he has bad ones already.”

A day later I saw Bob out there washing Bo down.  He had enough Johnsons Baby Shampoo on that dog to do the preschool class.   “That damn dog musta rolled in something”, I was told.  I was glad Bo was a water dog…he actually seemed to enjoy the scrub.

A couple days later Bob was out there with his pressure washer.  He had gone to West Marine and bought something called PINE POWER –The Concentrated boat wash.  He was going over the Ford, including the floor mats.  He had a small bucket and had hit the dash and the inside of the doors.  It was kinda nice…the whole neighborhood smelled like Colorado.

By Dar Joseph

Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, & Sockeye
Fresh water birth, ocean bound, olfactory memory, our natal streams are found
Egg, alvin, fry, parr, smolt, adult, spawning adult
Troll caught, gillnet & purse seine that’s the commercial game. Hey! sport
Coastal streams, rugged rivers, miles of rapids, waterfalls to leap.
Alaska's Kings, Dogs, Silvers, Humpys, Red, maybe white all fresh & wild
Abundance variety about, Rainbow trout
Great off the grill, baked, smoked, dried, fried, let a receipt decide,
Spawning, egg laying, fertilizing the stream then off to die in your natal stream.


Santiago in the Studio
By Jean Bundy

It is a gray blustery day and white caps are visible from my beach shack. OK…it’s a typical Anchorage July with my house fan whirring and two toy poodles are wrestling on a lawn across the street. I’m in my studio painting salmon imagery onto medical lab coats for a fundraiser, the new Neighborhood Health Center soon in Midtown.  Fishing is not my thing, well, only if someone invites me, which hasn’t been in ages.

I rummage through books on Alaska’s sea creatures and print some examples off Google. What would a painter/writer like me do without Wikipedia?  Lab coats aren’t flat like stretched canvas. They wriggle and bounce as I pencil on a fish and begin to mix some paint, besides I don’t know what color a salmon really is. They seem pink with grey skin when picking out a pound or two at Costco, much easier and I don’t have to hit the plastic package on the head!

I phoned my son-in-law who is dangling from a beam off his house. He’s adding a roof to a porch so my daughter’s terrier won’t get her feet wet this winter. “I don’t know,” he repeats several times, “…all I know is that they get all torn up a lot when swimming up stream.”

Realizing that salmon are more three dimensional than what a Google search delivers, visiting the local tackle shop might be a good idea. I show up on a Sunday morning, clearly when everyone was doing more than fishing the night before. Strolling down aisles and looking at all the glo-in-the-dark-hook-do-hickies and drawers of plastic-ball-thingies is kinda like looking at rows of oil pastels in an art shoppe.

“It’s ok Miss, a not too hung over clerk assures me, “artists come here all the time to make jewelry.”

“Do you think I could photograph your mounted fish?” pointing to an array on the wall, all looking like they just jumped out of water ready for a fishy  beauty pageant.

I look around for my husband who has the camera. He can operate our Sony better than me, I’m always asking him what button needs pushing. I spot him cowering behind racks of rods and reels.

“ C’mon, we don’t know anyone in the store,” I plead.  He hands me the camera as photographing stuffed fish apparently isn’t a macho thing do.  So I proceed to click away, politely sliding myself in between serious conversations about bait and hooks, “Hey lady, why don’t you catch a real fish!”

Now I’m beginning to understand why my husband remains camouflaged behind pricey foul weather gear.

Back at my studio I’m trying to merge some reddish salmon from Google along with photos of wall mounted fish from the tackle shop. I get out my 2B pencil and start sketching on the sleeve of the lab coat. Mixing up some paynes gray, I begin outlining. In order to get a purchase on the fabric, I have to slip my arm down the sleeve which causes splotches on a now not-so-clean coat that won’t stop wriggling around.  I imagine myself as Santiago, no Ernest Hemingway, no Spencer Tracy.  I wrestle with the sleeve trying to get the hook onto the beak of the fish, just right (I’m sure beak isn’t the correct word for what’s on a fish face but, hell, I’m not Ernest Hemingway either). I add white to my paynes gray and scramble for the tube of magenta and cadmium red to get some color onto the belly of my salmon. I’m grappling with hanging onto the sleeve while waves of paint continue to slap my arm.

Just then sharks appear on my work table! They approach my arm, jaws open!

“Really guys, it’s a faux fish!” I cry out.

They back off and roll onto my palette. Don’t worry Ernest, it’s only Winslow and Phylly, my two Maine Coons and not your Gulf sharks about to eat my very two dimensional fish and spoil your epic. By now blood is dripping off my worktable onto the floor. OK, it’s the cats splashing and pawing my dirty paint water.

I remove my arm from the sleeve and hang up the lab coat to see how it looks. It’s still full of splotches which need to be removed somehow, I sigh.

The sun is beginning to burn through the gray sky and the poodles across the street have been called inside.  Like Santiago-Tracy I am becalmed as I stare at where to place another salmon or add a mollusk or two for variety. I return to my workbench to cut bait, mixing more pink and gray for the second coat on the salmon, letting the splotches become the endless sea.


Death of a Salmon
By Carla Beam

Spawn of a Norwegian fisherman, my mother despised salmon...their smell, the slime of their skins, the scales that stuck, shimmering their presence long after the fish were fileted. She told me tales of their treachery, warning me to watch for the spiny little bones that might become lodged in my throat, causing a slow death by choking.

Her father sailed north from Seattle each summer and some winters, to harvest halibut, herring, salmon and cod. The herring he pickled; most of the rest was sold. Somehow, each season, a sufficient surplus of salmon survived, to be transformed into gelatinous masses, which were soaked in lye and served during the long, dark winters of the Depression. They made her gag.

She married a landlubber from a place with no seas. She met him in the Cascade Mountains. She thought she was safe. He bought a boat and learned to fish. Secretly, she hoped his ocean forays would be fruitless.

He loved salmon. He loved them so much, he couldn’t kill them. And so it was at age six, I became a serial salmon slayer. Hammer in hand, I’d wait, watching for the tightening line that signaled me into action. I’d smack them until they were silent. I was good at it. Too good.

Twenty years later, I made my way to Alaska. Like a fish, returning to the river of its birth, I too was connected to the North by a mission I could not escape. I came north, not to spawn and die...but to fish and kill....ah, the sweet, salty smell of revenge...I only wish my mother was here to see it.

Stupid, Stinky, Slimy
By Vicki Penwell

To the children I misled during one of the many school and summer programs I have given about salmon:

You remember the story; salmon hatch in a lake or stream, then bravely swim down stream to the ocean where they eat ocean stuff for a few years while evading orcas.  When they reach sexual maturity, they head back up stream.  After they reach fresh water, they stop eating, living on fat reserves.  Starving, they heroically dodge fish wheels, bears, and eagles.  The strongest salmon survive, their bodies gashed and bruised.  They go on to the river or lake where they hatched, build redds, and spawn, defending their redds until they die. After hatching, the off-spring eat their parents’ carcasses.  Bears, eagles and other wildlife eat the carcasses too, and the decaying flesh returns nutrients to the soil.

I created salmon life cycle games like the one where you built redds in dish pans and instead of real salmon eggs, you hid tiny glass beads.  You defended your redd by answering salmon trivia questions.  I found coloring pages to color, stories to read, and Ahtna Elders to tell about the importance of salmon to their culture.

Well, children, I apologize.  It is time for the truth.

Salmon are stupid, stinky, slimy fish, and that’s while they are alive.  Dead, they are even stinkier and slimier as you know if your dog ever rolled in one. There is nothing noble about salmon.  They don’t “think” or “decide” anything.  They are hard wired to obey biological signals that tell them to swim, eat, spawn and die.  Yes, they are important to the ecosystem but so are a lot of other things.  In fact there are people who will tell you fires are good (I’m sorry for that too but that’s another story).  Salmon don’t sacrifice themselves; that would require thought and they are stupid, incapable of thinking.  Did I mention stinky and slimy?

It is cool that salmon living it up, getting fat in the ocean, find their way back to the same river that brought them to the ocean and then back to the place they hatched.  But honestly, kids, their brains are too tiny for them to problem solve getting home.  They need clean water and clues like chemical smells and glands to make slime so swimming upstream easier.  You would never cover yourself with that stuff if you had a choice, right?  Have you ever tried to wash that stuff off your hands or clothes?

So why be upset about this Pebble Mine thing?  Salmon are important, but it would be foolish to think they are more important than Gold. Salmon are stupid, stinky and slimy and delicious but so are a lot of things.  How could that be better than Gold?  Gold is shiny, worth money and everybody wants it.  Mining Gold is a noble pursuit, requiring skill and perseverance.  Fishing is all luck, requiring only a net and very little skill. Salmon don’t bring as much happiness and aren’t worth as much cash as Gold. 

And forget wet lands.  Have you been to Alaska?  The entire state is one big marsh with more mosquitoes than a squadron of dragon flies could eat in a year.  On the North Slope oil companies have a way of dealing with mosquitoes and it would work at Pebble, too.  The boss just gives a signal, turns his back for a sec and a guy from Texas loosens a cap on some pipeline letting a hundred gallons or so of oil drain out over the tundra.  It doesn’t seem to bother the caribou one bit.  And I don’t think Gold mining would bother the salmon or bears or other animals, either.  In fact, the roads that will be built to Pebble Mine will provide easier access for animals.  Anyone who says roads bother animals has never seen all the moose near Alaska highways.  It’s too bad some of them are too dumb to move out of the way of traffic.

As for tradition, write it down.  Nobody wants to work that hard any more anyway.  And they raise salmon on farms now.  What could be more convenient? 

So, children, let the Gold company build its mine in the Bristol Bay headwaters.  Strip off the tundra, dam the waste water and put a few locals to work. That’s got to be better than taking your chances on salmon for making a living or getting something to eat.  There’s no downside to the mining.  Nothing will go wrong and even if it does, big deal.  Alaska is full of watersheds that are full of stupid, stinky, slimy salmon, watersheds that don’t have Gold.  That we know of.  Yet.

Remember?  Stupid, slimy, stinky . . .


Ode to the Dead Salmon
By Constance Caparas

Oh, Salmon of the Midnight Sun
I thank very much
For catching you is very fun
With net, and pole, and such

Oh, Salmon of the Midnight Sun
You taste so very good
Eating you with salt and a bun
Like everybody should!

Oh, Salmon of the Midnight Sun
You will not go to waste
For even once the season is done
We’ll eat you up with haste


It's Cold in Alaska!
By “NCFerretMom”

Moving to Alaska has been a life-long dream
But once you arrive things are not all that they seem;
Arrived in November with snow upon the ground
Quickly bought a bus pass so I could get around.
Rental cars each weekend so I could see the state,
Check on the chechako if I’m not home before too late!
Drove up and down the Seward Highway,
Saw eagles, moose and bear;
Found the AWCC and became a member there.
Discovered Talkeetna and Kasilof, too;
Stopped in Clam Gulch to run a dog team – that’s new!
Time passes.
Snow on the ground by Halloween
Still there in May when they crown the prom queen!
Breakup comes and I fall down;
Get up and fall back on the ground!
Baby moose on the loose, bear cub in the shrub;
Geese and ducks and sandhill cranes,
Ferry rides, small planes and trains.
So much more that I can say, better to just walk away
Or else this may start making sense – and what has past becomes present tense!

In case you are wondering why there is no salmon in my post, it is because
I have bought a fishing license every year
and have yet to see a salmon here.
I can get it at the store or market,
but have yet to catch a king, pink or sock-it-to-me, sock-it-to-me,
sock-it-to-me, sock-it-to-me . . .

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