Humpback Whale Tail, Greenstone

by Kelsey Sipple 

I. Origin

Down on the Southwest Coast, a genesis in cold waters
tasting of bitter brine. A hundred years unfound, maybe more, behind kelp, slick & green, bottom feeders, an icy current running between surly fjords. Then the pulling—up
onto a boat, measured, catalogued. A treasure. Do you know
your value? Do you know your weight?


II. Youth

Almost a drab green until freshly illuminated by a small lamp—now, thick with internal
badges of impurity, deep forest speckling in water-green interior. His hands employ
coarse sand, whining drills, fine metal picking tools. A soft humming as he goes, carving you down into the likeness of the tail of a humpback whale—te hiku o te paikea—as it
crests and slaps down on the Pacific.


III. Keepsake

I baptize you thousands of miles north, in the sparkle-clear, endlessly fruited
Lemonade-sea of Mission Bay. I bathe you, then me, saying goodbye to the sweet water, to the volcano arms of rangitoto island as she spreads herself over the horizon.
I put the divots of your surface to my lips, lick
salt, thank you as your fintips pierce my
underbelly of hand, clenched in the unfiltered sun.


IV. Relocation

Six months removed from barnacle rocks and manuka bush, from all that is full and lively you are placed quickly on a table, a soft humming as I go—unnoticing the slip
of your fins into a small space, hidden. Salted
tears are shed over you, as you hold a piece of soul, or so I was told. Weeks pass
reaching idly for your silk-smooth curves against my chest &
finding nothing but paling skin. But on a Tuesday
you are found again, lodged under a Samsung television
in western New Hampshire: dusty, heartbroken, loved

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