Beached Whale at Point Mugu
Mary Kay Rummel

They say the whale slammed into a ship.
Her great grey corpse floated east
twenty-six miles, carried by Channel tides
and currents to this shingled beach.

In our minds the whale still heaves
against splatter and squall, erupting,
falling back, power translating
to bone and fat and muscle
until the driving spirit leaves.

We can't turn away, but breach ourselves,
heaving sideways out of old visions,
seeing with ears and noses.
In the silence below all things,
those few moments of sunrise—
anemone opening deep purple
melody of oil-shining streets—
we believe in muscle, hidden bone
and soft, soft flesh.

Every scrap of clothing worn near the body
has to be burned. Even our shoes reek
of oily decay spilling into sand.
Only the whale shaped trench remains
to be bitten away by the sea
that would have taken all.

And we are left, lashed to hands and faces,
breath cascading throat to lungs,
simple and tortuous as the journey
of water over rock now rising
in the spray, shivering,
plunging into silence, drifting
seaward, always wanting
like water, to be somewhere else.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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