by Madeline Herrmann

You’re a taxidermied whale, bobbing
below the surface like
whales do
but you’ve never gone up for air once
in all the years I’ve watched you.
you smoke analexycodone once and it changes
you, you melt and become a metallic boar
touched only by rust and
the urge to consume
and root around at the bases of large things
crashing about, crushing the bookshelves
we’ve made over years in dust but
you’ve had your taste now
get the fuck out. You don’t belong
where the answers are, you can’t
let a person in a place and
have them be at peace.
We must always be leaving and
falling on our faces to create
microfractures that never become
breaks because I’ve been watching you
pummeling soft sand with your bare hands, that’s
how you make bone strong, I know.
You’re an endangered bear, bobbing
below the surface like
whales do,
but you don’t have the strength
to go and breath the air
the hurt in your chest a heady
one, fire with no fuel to burn.
Is it alight, or is it colder?
The fire that has been keeping you
unafraid of the dark,
with your ugly fur and
broken teeth,
never realizing that you were being
by the ground beneath your feet.
Surely you should have known that
your days are numbered,
out of order,
someday they’ll all add up to
something, I promise.
Please, tread water
like a bear does,
and keep on swimming.
I’m begging
go up or you’ll go extinct.
You’re a person drowning, bobbing
beneath the surface like
whales do,
just below the flowers
or the possibilities you dream of
and I know you do dream, I've
spent long enough by your side
to know that you're waiting
for a chance
to go up, breathe when the surface
is waveless and full of shimmering life, when
you feel the ice is thinned
and you've made the right
moves, side step, back
step keeps us in rhythm.
believe me. This
metaphor only holds
for now
the whale goes down
but you, you reach for the lighted
space between the surface and below,
you're on your way up.