UPON HEARING THAT SNAKEHEAD CATFISH PASSED THROUGH THE
CONOWINGO DAM FISH LADDER
I think about shad struggling to find that ladder trying to spread their seed upstream and how amazing it would have been to see silver schools running up river clogging mouths of small streams each spring. Tumbling and tangling under the surface, sometimes breaking through like coils of chrome holding all the tension of a spring pushed down bursting apart into river waves crashing against dolomite boulders sandstone cobbles zigzag rocks and long thin shale slices. A convergence of geology and germination. Maybe when they slowed you could see yourself, concave hubcap mirrors pulling skin taut like a caudal fin. Maybe these trees have DNA deep in their rings from rotting shad spawned out left laying for heron eagles osprey. Each year fewer and fewer make it up that ladder. Dwindling decomposition stuck behind a wall, shad flakes glittering Conowingo Dam concrete. This spring Snakehead Catfish passed through after scouring up the Chesapeake Bay taking hold and eating everything they could. They say they can crawl across land.
Maybe shad are like these Appalachian Mountains - eroding into riverbed. Soon this will be a long valley. Snakeheads gathering in deep pools behind dams, Channel and Flatheads spreading through riffles where water moves. Smallmouth bass and carp hovering around island shallows. Even they were once invasive. We all were. Except those shad. A catfish river. That’s what this water will become - a new ecosystem of non-native invasive species. But this river will still be here, holding what’s left of us.
Michael Garrigan writes and teaches along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and strongly believes that every watershed should have a Poet Laureate. He is the author of two poetry collections - Robbing the Pillars (Homebound Publications) and the chapbook What I Know [How to Do] (Finishing Line Press). His writing has appeared in Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Hopper Magazine, Permafrost, and Split Rock Review. You can find more at www.mgarrigan.com.