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Whale Feathers

They sing, they soar, the whales of our time,

whales of the tropical shallows, the streams

and rivers, the courtyard ponds.

Stone records say there were giants in the seas,

but grudgingly supported, and no more.

Much as the mouse outlived the titanothere,

tiny whales and whales the size of chickens

perch on white twigs of coral, pipe shrill melodies,

pluck up tube worms from cracks

with one neat turn of the head,

or flit through cloudy fathoms

snagging luminous particles one by one.

Much as lizards in shabby plumage

filled a kingdom bereft of tyrannosaurs,

these timid, swift creatures have sprouted

a specialized fur like penguin feathers:

most are brown or gray, but some wear

iridescent amethyst, ruby, silver, trailing

scarves and plumes of musical bubbles.

Little Sargassos of sodden down

form in their molting seasons.

You can keep in your basement aquarium an echo

of beasts large enough to be taken for islands,

to snap the ribs of a ship, to swallow

a man and vomit up his implausible story.

You can ply with cracker crumbs a puff

whose ancestor, Leviathan,

divided the surface with its brow

while its open jaw scraped the ocean floor.

You may cup a whale briefly in your palm,

stroke its back with one finger,

feel its heart beating like wings, and marvel:

oh the precious, the comprehensible world.

from Debt to the Bone-Eating SnotflowerFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Sarah Lindsay
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Poems Sarah Lindsay

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