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One spring afternoon on the Portland Esplanade while the salmon are running


Pushcart Nominee 2023

Image by roman pentin

Gulls scream and wheel, a white cloud of excitement

diving to snatch scraps from the roiling Willamette

where a head—a dog? no a sea lion!—

tosses a fish, shakes it to tear off the skin


finishes his meal and takes off upstream, south,

leaving behind the gulls and a few stray scales.

I’m running, metal ramps clang under my feet

from Steel Bridge to Burnside to Morrison


trying to keep him in sight. He swims, effortless,

faster than I can run. He dives and leaves me panting.

I picture him hunting the cold green waters

as far as Oregon City. The river smells of fish guts.


Sufi warrior poet Tiel Aisha Ansari has been featured by Measure, Windfall, and Everyman’s Library among many others. Her collections include Knocking from Inside, High-Voltage Lines, Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare’s Stable, The Day of My First Driving Lesson, and Dervish Lions. She formerly hosted Wider Window Poetry on KBOO Community Radio.

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