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About this Poem 

"This poem began as a vivid dream of dead pilot whales, and its first drafts were meant to double for a friend, Spencer Hanvik, with whom I am completing an album of songs—though Spencer is responsible for the music and the tailoring of the verse into song lyrics. There’s a repository of some of this work at spencerhanvik.bandcamp.com."
—Norman Dubie

For Transtromer

Norman Dubie, 1945

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens, 
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving 
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile…

I’m certain this woman is moved
as anyone would be—
her disciplines, 

a warranted gift to us,
to business, government
and our military,

and still she exhibits care and patience
this further 
talent for counting,


Copyright © 2014 by Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 15, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Norman Dubie

Norman Dubie

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Norman Dubie is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association.

by this poet

The birches stand in their beggar's row:
Each poor tree
Has had its wrists nearly
Torn from the clear sleeves of bone,
These icy trees
Are hanging by their thumbs
Under a sun
That will begin to heal them soon,
Each will climb out
Of its own blue, oval mouth;
The river groans,
Two birds call out from the woods
You were never told, Mother, how old Illya  was drunk
That last holiday, for five days and nights

He stumbled through Petersburg forming
A choir of mutes, he dressed them in pink ascension gowns

And, then, sold Father's Tirietz stallion so to rent
A hall for his Christmas recital: the audience

Was rowdy but
                     —an ars poetica

I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps 
like immense museum masterpieces
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping...

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did