From small-fry to fingerling,

Then a pinked & punk juvenile,

Delinquent high-school beauty

& beauty-school dropout—

I was up-a-crick,

Crying a river there.


Fingering my ticket out of the sticks,

With a wad of gas money saved up,

I fishtailed my finned, old boat of a

Cadillac out of The Dalles & down

The Columbia River Highway.


Child’s play! Circus runaway!

I fish-laddered downriver,

Past all the damn sluice-gates,

& floated to the big city,

Where I parked it


In Portland. Washed up, & out

On the town, I lolled around

Burnside Bridge with the other runaways.


Started putting out,

Pouty-mouthed—my one-night stands’

Mad-money was fare for space

On a cargo ship shipping out

South Seas’ way.


Crew saw me as a mermaid-type who,

Hooked, & a sort-of hooker,

Could serve as an honorary prow ornament

When I was not spit-shining their boots.


My maiden voyage: sick

In transit, I dished

At the captain’s table, posing

As a starlet Venus on the half-shell.


& Captain, Oh my! That petty officer!

He flipped for me, I flip-flopped,

Naked in his grasp, gasping for breath.

Not the pleasure cruise I’d dreamed of.


Up top & running, I decked all hands.

Shift-less & skiff-less, I was bounty, mutineering.

Pit of stomach a cairn, I life-jacketed myself,

Praying, Preserve me!

Didn’t want to be the pearl

Setting in some Davy’s locket,

Though fantasy bridal veils had

Always been a downfall.


I wanted to be the one that got away.

But he set his jib for me,

& I jumped ship, panty-less.

Hope of Water, water, everywhere

Turned to teardrops in the drink,

While I rued that old salt what rimmed me.


Knocked-up & -about,

I was pirated, booty;

Captain-hooked and –cooked,

Trying to fathom my girlishly-figured,

Gang-bang-planked near-death.


Swimming a gauntlet of an inlet,

I survived a survival-of-the-fittest

Water-safety test.


Hawaiian Punch-drunk &

Bobbing, I did the dead-girl float

Green around the gills,

Then went aground.


I beached, wailing.

Islanded, I soloed: No man is land.

Or is crash stranding.


Cried me a kettle of fish,

When I found I couldn’t get by on looks


Alone there—

Where were the Friday to my Tuesday

Weld? Ginger’s supporting cast-aways?


I powdered my nose

With the atoll’s white phosphorous,

& my mind was its land mine:

A bombshell


In iridescent make-up,

I vowed I’d give myself in trade

To escape the Pauline peril

I’d got into.


I was waving-&-drowning!—wishing

Myself back in the home waters

I’d left to better my fishy selfishness.


Bare-assed, I flashed the rocket-red

Nipples which stippled out of my toplessness

(Which the sun never set upon)

& the curvy beach of my belly

Already great with the seaman’s

Teeming leaping.

Caviar dreams!


A cutter passed; like of

Its scurvy squalor not seen since

Rule Britannia.

The scrawny conscripts

In her hold were white-as-cotton swabs

For whom I scratched a bad itch.



Borne aboard—their booby-prize—,

Pregnant with fished-up, deep-sea wonder,

I let them bore me all the way back to waters

Smelled like home.


We entered the mouth of the Columbia

At Astoria, chugged on up

To the Port of Portland.


I ran to ground & kissed it fish-lipped.

My sea legs failed me, swimmingly.

I minced along, crabby & bloated.

The sailors & I flipped out all the way

To the paymaster,


& I blanched a little, pocketing their

Bye-bye baby gifts of silver spoons

& onesies for my coming little snappers.

The cock-hatted sailors collared me

For mushy kisses I permitted

As their dismissal.


I sprang my barge of a Caddy out of

Its parking-lot dry-dock,

Then whip-tailed upstream,

Coasting into Hood River.

Gunned it to get home to

The berth I hadn’t booked well, back when.


Felt foreboding at a

Marina®     Welcome Home!

Sign at the landing. The annual

Salmon Festival was on. They went & named me

Salmon Queen because they’d missed me.


My at-sea time,

That ocean-going & return?—

A sea-shanty I’d reenacted,


Running away in the shanghaied vessel

I was. Only to find myself

Home-sickly, a dull copper spectacle

Hungry & spent.


Guys from high school

Followed me around,

& maybe had tailed me all along, circling

In my wake. At it.


Milt they exuded spread

Through the water like dew

On the redd where I nested—

The profligate

Spending on the prodigal.


I brooded in my puddle of shallow

Streambed from-a-dream,

& belly-ached,

Hollowing out nest after nest

For my cosmopolitan spawn.


Rainspatter’s water-colored light

Guttered, & I exhausted

My natural resources in the pooling dusk.

My turned-up eye

Reflects sky-s salmon-skin colors.

I’m an escape hatch-


ery for the eons of homecoming queens

I would egg on.