Tyee

I have been writing too many condolence letters lately.
I am using the same sorts of words and the words have
Become husks of what they used to be. Like the people
I am writing about. Who are there on the page, illusory
But adamant. Good thing for ritual. How else could we
Say anything without saying anything? Could it be that
Most of what we say aims at something other than what
We say? Could that be? We use words so casually, such
Flow and fluidity and panache, but what we want to say
Are the rocks in the stream, the occasional brilliant bird,
The serpentine mink, the lugubrious heron, the drowned
Ancient fungus-riddled salmon. I am writing about tyee,
The great chinook, the king of fish, and he held adamant
Behind a boulder for a while as he began to dissolve and
Now his time has come and he slips away and I type this
To his widow using words like my most sincere sorrows.
She knows and I know what I mean but for a moment all
I see on the page is the weary dignity holding in the pool.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of nine books of essays, nonfiction, and “proems.” His most recent book is Mink River, winner of ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award for Editor’s Choice –Fiction (2010).