Poems of the Week ~ The Whale Heard Around the World

 Our Home

“I’m a radical environmentalist; I think the sooner we asphyxiate in our own filth, the better. The world will do better without us. Maybe some fuzzy animals will go with us, but there’ll be plenty of other animals, and they’ll be back. Anthony Bourdain”

The moon is a peach in the sky.
The stars are sparkling grape tomatoes.
The cicadas are singing now.
They’ve emerged from their underground homes.
Watching the garden grow
in the dark of the universe.
I hear the nightly owl fluttering overhead.
With all the beauty around me
I mourn.
The orca’s skull can be seen beneath her blubber
as she carries her dead calf on her emaciated body.
The calf kept sinking as the mother
tried to push her towards the surface of the water.
So much beauty in this earth
and it is rotting beneath our feet.
The earth is an overripe peach
long past its maturity.
One day maybe we will be gone
and all that remains will be the skeletons of cities
poking through the overgrowth
with whales and deer and wolves
living in our place
roaming free and safe.

The Wake

Tahlequah carries her dead baby gently –
either by the fin or on her nose,
refusing to let go of the calf who died
within a half hour of her birth.
The mother kept using her nose to push the baby to the surface –
She is hungry.
The bones of her skull can be seen through her depleted blubber.
Salmon farms are starving a race of beings out of existence,
Tahlequah carries her dead baby,
day after day.
Her pod is helping her carry her baby
mourning the loss of her baby with her.
They communicate with each other
in a complicated language only they can understand.
They mourn in their unique rituals,
forming circles around the mother –
Like a human wake.
Like mothers holding close the mother
whose baby has died,
crooning and holding the mother close.
We are starving this race,
We are depleting this race,
We are lessening their birth rate.
We are killing a race
more human than we are ourselves
who think only of ourselves,
not caring who we kill
in our killing of this planet.
Tahlequah carries her baby gently.
The mother continues to mourn.

1000 Miles Later

Seventeen days 1,000 miles later
Tahlequah has dropped her dead calf.
Perhaps she is no longer sad and has
accepted the inevitability of death and life –
Perhaps she was where she wanted to bury
her dead calf – perhaps her heart said
Let go.
I picture the dead calf slowly sinking
to rest upon the bottom on the sand
asleep and at peace at last.
Tahlequah is healthy and leaping in the ocean.
The heart can only take so much grief
before it kills you
or sets you free.
We humans saw and wept with her.
Now perhaps she is telling us to move on,
to leap with joy, to wipe our tears.
I have been carrying my dead mother
for over a year.
The heart can only take so much grief
Before it kills you or sets you free.
I am sitting on my back porch
listening to the birds singing,
taking in the warmth of the sun,
watching the clouds dance overhead.
It is time.
It is time.
It is time.

LESSONS FROM EARTH AND OZ

Dis ease hit all poets simultaneously.

Perhaps, we thought, the cure was writing depressing
poetry so no one could think we were untouched.

Though we did little else.  We couldn’t imagine
what else to do beyond words, letters and protests—
that is, not until Orca whales carried their dead.

Carried their dead for days and weeks and maybe years,
carried them so everyone could see, like open
coffins forever, saying, See? We won’t keep this
out of sight.  Look.  Look at my calf.  Look at your crimes.

See my community carry me when I’m tired.
And then it came to us: We could carry objects

more real than metaphor and signs.  We could carry
our dead outside our laden emotions.  We could
sanctuary and caravan, though we’ve lost

very little—not yet—but when the poor are gone
and the powerless fall silent, who will be next?
This is an old song, one the whales are carrying.
Songs without words.  Living beings objectified.

Let’s lift up death.  Refuse to bury it.  Insist
on sight and smell. Press home. Ease on down the road.

We don’t want wizards  We want hearts, minds and courage.

WHEN I COME BACK, I WILL BE GRIEF, PART II

We start out whole,
losing pieces of ourselves
along the way
and then reclaiming them.
That is the journey.
I am collecting the last few bits,
before I fly into the light.
I pick them up:
ah, there you are!
and add them to my pack.

When I return,
I will change my shape.
I will be cattails,
standing dry, bent and broken
at the edge of the dried-up pond.
I will be wolf-pup,
peering fearfully
from my den,
knowing, to survive,
I must elude
Earth’s biggest enemy:
the predatory Two-Leggeds,
and they are
everywhere.

I fear
I will find a planet burning,
humans and animals
on the run.
I will be Tree,
gasping for air,
a sudden irradiation
as the orange tongues
lick greedily at my corpse.

I will be deer,
fleeing the flaming forests.
I will be mother orca, holding
my dead newborn calf
above the water
for seventeen days, grieving,
unable to let her go,
saying to we humans:

See! See what you have done!

I will be grief itself,
watching the world I love
burning itself up.

As I am now.
As I am now.

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