Human Nature Theater: Queen Salmon

Written by David Simpson

The Spirit of Salmon’s Lament. Act I, Prologue, from Queen Salmon. A Human Nature Production, 1994© HAPA Archive
Jane Lapiner reading The Spirit of Salmon's Lament, HAPA event, July 2023, Arcata

The Spirit of Salmon’s Lament

We were so many once. 

The sea itself would churn with the wake of our endless schools. 

When we turned, in our great gyres, the head of the school 

Would be half way down to Kodiak while our tail would still be deep in Siberian 

Waters, pecked at by Aleut hunters brave enough to pursue us in flimsy skin boats. 

From frigid Kamchatka  to the balmy southern coasts, we were known as 

The Providers, who guaranteed meat to bear and eagle, and raven and human 

And a multitude of others. When we entered the rivers, compelled by the sacred, fatal 

urgings of our loins, a huge wave preceded us to let the hunters know we were coming.  

The rivers swelled and the fishermen roared with glee at our spirit churning the 

Water to foam. We were royalty visiting from a larger, more exotic realm, charging 

Each valley from Siberia to Point Conception with the power of the deep, and 

The exaltation of purest sex. And when that was over, our carcasses sent to the 

Peaks a stench that sickened even the skunk people but spoke of oceanic riches  

Being returned to the rivers, and the land, to put spine in the green growth and 

Recharge the cycle of life. We were the mortar and thong that bound river and ocean, 

Land and sea.  We were the Lifebringers. 

And now, the animals who ate us have almost forgotten our taste. 

Only the oldest humans can remember the last of our glory. This cursed age 

When all of nature, is made so small, so diminished. When all that stand 

Of size or greatness or is so tiny and fine as to go unnoticed, is punished for its

Very existence by losing it. Oh how has the world been so reduced? 

We, the salmon people are few now in so many places where we were once a 

multitude. What was glorious is now furtive and quick, no longer a din filled with 

the thundering Power of creation.                  

We seem a tattered remnant.The barren shadow of a once brilliant shimmering.                

Why? Is it humans? They were part of the scheme once, native to 

The land, brave and humble players. What is this curse we all suffer through 

Them? Why must it be so? Do our people have to go down to dim perdition 

Never to show our brilliant silver sides to any eyes anywhere in the universe? 

Will not even the humans lament our passing?