The dolphins used to wake us before dawn
spitting river water into our faces to hurry us
to our nets. We called them by name, tapped
a familiar rhythm against the hull with dowels
to bring them alongside. The bright palm
of their bellies would wave as their tails slapped
to signal hidden fish. Now we dwindle—
just sixty-five remnants, the final fishers
of the Irrawaddy. We strain to hear each other
over the thrum of engines. Lazier men,
not bothering to learn our language, use
electric current to shock-kill catch or set nets
that tangle the lithe wrangle of dolphin fin.
Boat propellers cut through. Mercury and
farm waste cull the unborn. We are old.
Our children crowd the cities for other work.
My wife and I paddle the shipping lane,
calling to the few who remain. A tourist
boat pulls alongside. Cameras capture
the dying light on spangled water.
In a fragile partnership, dolphins help catch fish in Myanmar [The New York Times]
Devon Balwit writes in Portland, OR. She is a poetry editor for Minute Magazine and has five chapbooks out or forthcoming: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press); Forms Most Marvelous (dancing girl press); In Front of the Elements (Grey Borders Books), Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books); and The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry). Her individual poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Fifth Wednesday, The Stillwater Review, Red Earth Review, The Fourth River, Posit, Emrys Journal, The Inflectionist, and more.