I am afraid of fish.

I am afraid to look at them,

to watch them struggling upstream

in the spring where the ladder begins.

Within yards of its commencement

the first dead ones begin to float down,

their eyes as blank as buttons,

their bodies floating on the surface

of the stream like leaves.

Everywhere I look there are miraculously more–

some fish already half-way to the top,

others just daring to begin.

With surging strength they fight the current

of the maze, hug its concrete, wriggle upwards

with a motion that appears stationary in the ripples

until, suddenly, they round the next bend

and slip into an eddy.

I should have come hungry to witness this,

arrived sweaty and sleepless

as I imagine them to be.

Ospreys hover overhead.

Crowds tremble on the banks,

wondering why no one thought to bring a net

–to help, or to feast?

In the pond above the ladder,

the survivors are swimming in slow circles,

catching their breath.

–Mariana S. Tupper
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