Vox Populi

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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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