Detroit Salt Co.
Under the city, the streets are lined white,
a cathedral cobbled of crystal halite. It is
here that we scrape the belly
of the earth, strip away her mineraled
skin, dead before time. We see ourselves
in the salt, we see our eyes water
and our bones dissolve to silt. The surface
bears down hard and our mouths parch
dry. They crack and sting with saline.
We imagine dying here, our bodies
forever fresh, packed with salt like meat.
We join the trilobites in the walls, drowning
in a dried-up sea. Our fingers split open on
the salt of the earth, and even our blood is clean.
Every year, the same warning: you’ve got forty
seconds in the water, down there with the
weeds and the cold, before the November Witch
ties off your lungs with her milkweed hair.
Don’t fall in. But it’s only on these days,
when the horizons disappear and the waves
reach, aching for the boat, that my
grandfather’s sturgeon can be caught.
I have a photo from the last century:
a sepia boy smiling with a bony fish, just
as long as his seven-year-old arm. Alive,
but too small to eat. The fish is all that
still moves of that world leeched of color
and breath. The image quickens. He’s grown
the length of the boat, heavier than me.
My grandfather’s religion was kindness, his
sport, catch-and-release. He tied
his own flies and never shot a buck
in his life, never tried. When I find the
sturgeon, it will remember him and know
me. The lake floods the sky.
Photo of Romania’s Turda Salt Mine courtesy Shutterstock.