by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Inkblot, sperm on a slide, a squirm
of minnows from the helicopter's
view, the whales have beached.
All day the volunteers have poked
and prodded, but they will not
turn back. Behind them their salty
element foams and rushes: how often
they sounded the dark layers,
past the lacy skeletons of coral,
the squid preparing his black cloak
for a getaway-the ease of gliding.
motion in the midst of motion,
through water! the pull of water
as they stored breath and dove again
and again, looking for bottom, down
to where fish blossom among the sponges
and fossils, where the plants are meat-
eating and sexual, where the ocean
opens to cold drafts that clamp
an iron vise against the skull.
Graceful in water, they labor now
toward palmetto and tufted
hillocks, the hot sun bleaching
and drying out. Their fins dig into
something solid, the broad flukes
spade, then anchor in the sand.
Last updated March 12, 2023