Poems by Charles Ries

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Seed of Greatness

by Charles Ries

From Canary June/July 2009

Some thought of him as a throw back to the Cretaceous
Period, a yellow belly bottom dweller who, in the midst
of spring’s spawning season, could leap like a porpoise.

We tagged him in Lake Winnebago in 1978 and named
him Mike. He swam down the Fox River, over 14 dams
and locks and into the Great Lakes. Mike was to sturgeons
what Christopher Columbus was to Italy: the outsider,
astronaut, citizen philosopher who followed his own stream.

Washing up on Sandusky Bay in Lake Erie, Mike was
Found ignominiously dead on arrival in the grip of a
commercial fishing net. Wisconsin/Ohio wildlife authorities
concluded his death was the result of spawning stress.
He had lived 100 years. Mike had wandered nearly 400 miles as the
crow flies from a lake his species was never known to leave.

God bless fish like Mike, or men like Mike, or reptiles
like Mike. For out of the million aberrant matings and
progeny they produce, a few mutant seeds grow wilder
than the rest, seeds that carry the promise of leading a
flock, a school, or a race out of its pond and
into a vast uncharted sea.

Originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/7/03

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