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Excerpt from Lives Less Valuable

Dream of Salmon (p. 68)

From chapter "Part Two"

This night Malia dreams of salmon going upstream. The river roars with the flapping of their tails, and is white with froth. Salmon push against each other, and merge to form a larger body, then individuate again to leap at the falls in front of her. Salmon dive deep to build up speed, then leap against the rock wall. Gashes appear in their skin, and blood—maybe only a drop at a time but it fills her whole mind—begins to flow until the river runs red. Again and again they leap, until they make it above to continue their journey home.

In this dream there are people who live with the salmon, and who eat the salmon, and who give gifts to the salmon. She doesn’t know what the gifts are, but knows these gifts are as important to the salmon as the salmon are to the people.

Then the people begin to erect barriers against the fish, and begin to sell the salmon to others. There are so many barriers that she can no longer see the river. Malia knows this is wrong, and in the dream, so do the salmon, who continue to leap the barriers both nature and humans place in front of them.

She asks another person, who also sees this commerce as wrong, how the salmon are able to leap the barriers, and he says, “They are angry.”

Then Malia’s consciousness falls into the river, and is carried along with the fish. When they jump the dams she feels the anger in their bellies and in their spines. When they fight through nets she feels the bite of rope and the deeper bite of anger. As the salmon carry her away, higher and higher in the river, she remembers thinking, “It is anger that will bring them home.”