Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Joan E. Bauer: River Dolphin of the Yangtze

We sailed on a river boat down the Yangtze

twenty years ago—before the Three Gorges Dam

 

& the rising water lowered the mountains.

That day the peaks shrouded with clouds,

 

the rains torrential. We expected a river choked

with vessels, but saw only a scattering

 

of barges, ferry boats, tugs & floating rafts.

On deck in warm jackets & non-slip shoes,

 

we drank bottled water, as instructed.

When we arrived at the Lower Reaches,

 

we saw ‘the land of fish and rice’

poised for sacrifice to the power gods.

 

                                    *

 

The baiji, shy & enigmatic, nearly blind

with upturned beak & tiny eyes.

 

Twenty million years ago, they migrated

from the Pacific, but in the last half-century,

 

no match for giant nets & churning propellers.

In legend, the river dolphin was a princess,

 

drowned by her family for refusing to marry

someone she didn’t love.

 

Again & again scientists search for the baiji

in the waters of the Yangtze, from Yichang

 

to Shanghai, a distance of two thousand miles.

Each year, they find none.


 

Copyright 2018 Joan E. Bauer

.

Yangtze River: Longest River in Asia

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