Echolocation

The whales can’t hear each other calling
in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.
I saw one once— heaved onto the sand with kelp
stuck to its blue-gray skin.
Heavy and immobile

it lay like a great sadness.
And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.
Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,
and barnacles clustered on its back
like tiny brown volcanoes.

Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,
their blue-black webbing of the deep,
I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.
And this one, large and dead on the sand
with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.

More by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

Flight 214

The news is still falling
in our kitchen
like invisible rain

as we eat the pink salmon,
the lettuce, the mashed potatoes.

Because now everything
glistens. The candles, the soft

folds of red napkins
each in its place,

as though it all were sacred—
the rain
must still be falling.

Not me, not anyone I know.

Earlier in the day, the terrible
news lifted too easily,

a cheap Mylar balloon
cut loose—a tinny flash.

Couldn’t even tell its color
against the sky.

Work

I could tell they were father and son,
the air between them, slack as though
they hardly noticed one another.

The father sanded the gunwales,
the boy coiled the lines.
And I admired them there, each to his task
 
in the quiet of the long familiar.
The sawdust coated the father’s arms 
like dusk coats grass in a field.
 
The boy worked next on the oarlocks
polishing the brass until it gleamed
as though he could harness the sun.

Who cares what they were thinking,
lucky in their lives
that the spin of the genetic wheel
 
slowed twice to a stop
and landed each of them here.

Related Poems

Whales Weep Not!

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
   the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas, 
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and
   comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale's
   fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale's strong phallus, linking the
   wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and
   forth,
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the
   sea
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-
   tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of
   the beginning and the end.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.