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