A Thousand Dolphins

A Thousand Dolphins

Because (in part) a disgraced president invented the EPA
rockfish and croakers have returned to the Chesapeake Bay,
and new life frolics at the mouth of Baltimore’s river.
Beneath the silent bows of sailboats on the Patapsco
rarely seen dolphins ride waves like metallic rainbows,
the silvery curves of their bodies stitching clear skies
to the blueness of gently roiling waters.
Who could imagine such a fantastical outcome?
Not all those desperate fathers and sons
forced by the state to wave farewell to oystering and crab,
glad to be fishing for striped bass. In Western coves
black-flags bob at the corners of sunken nets
where watchful sailors like us shield their props
from the new explorers rejoicing in clicks,
their oceanic intelligence alien to the cities and towns
surrounding their royal desmesne in summer.
We kill the engine and call to the cetaceans like brothers,
tacking in silence back and forth in very light winds,
joining their song in the graceful waves:
welcome back we say and save us from blind ambition.


Michael Salcman is a poet, physician and art historian, was born in Pilsen Czechoslovakia. He is a child of the Holocaust and a polio survivor. Salcman grew up on East 7th Street in Brooklyn between Foster Avenue and Avenue H. He is the author of 200 scientific articles and six medical books. He served as chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. He lectures widely about art and the brain. Among many other journals poems appear in Arts & Letters, The Cafe ReviewHarvard Review, Hopkins Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, Panygyrus and Solstice. Featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and All Things Considered, his work has received six nominations for a Pushcart Prize. Salcman is the editor of Poetry in Medicine, a popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing, used in courses on Narrative Medicine (Persea Books, 2015). His collections include The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), nominated for The Poets’ Prize, The Enemy of Good is Better (Orchises, 2011) and A Prague Spring, Before & After (2016), winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. His latest collection, Shades & Graces (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020) is the inaugural winner of the Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize. He is Special Lecturer in the Osher Institute at Towson University.

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