Crows alight on the bare fish-cleaning table,
cold rain splashes away lingering fish scales,
and the smokehouse door is latched tight.
The fish racks are empty now,
but these days, when our winter stories
awaken us, unfold us from our warm beds,
our bodies evoke muscle memory—
a precision slice and cut,
a cold salty brine dripping from our hands.
Our smoke-scented clothes still hang
by the door, our boots in the corner still flicker
with silver salmon scales and slime;
and on this late morning, my elder father sits
in his recliner with binoculars in hand,
watching sealions and logs floating by our fishcamp.
He recalls a summer full of lines zinging
out beyond our boat, fish flipping and spitting hooks,
a flash of salmon sinking beneath
the green sea. These winter stories waft around
our cabin like smoke filaments drifting
from smokehouse roof, weaving through
sunlight and hemlock branches.
These winter stories nurture us: smoked fish,
with a plate of salted crackers,
salmon oil seeping into the whorls
of our fingertips, our stories embracing us
in the solace of a woodstove’s fire.
*Winter Stories first appeared in the winter issue of Edible Alaska.