How I am a Whale Shark

by Sara Moore Wagner

Sara Moore Wagner

I open my mouth
so round it stops looking like a mouth,
suction moving through my body so quickly
I remember being fourteen with a boy’s hand
on the back of my head, pushing me under.
Spellbound as a ship, unmoored and familiar,
I float without coming up for air. What if my face
is another’s face I wear to make you think,
not shark, but whale, majestic breathing
creature of the deep. I can’t breathe
in the way I should. Largest fish
in the ocean, I filter what’s in front
of me: mouth a circular path smaller fish
are drawn to walk, a well they fall into.
Limited evidence suggests I’m kinder
than most sharks or whales, that if you wanted
to touch me, I’d let you, that despite my size
and lack of bones I bend at the waist, will bow
to you, will carry a platter of meat on my head
and not touch one single piece. Observe the soft
of my belly, specimen made in the image
of the whale, shadow of a shark, rows
on rows of teeth dulled to nothing, so docile
you’ll want to catch me, tank me, mate me,
display me. I am hard to keep, too. Want
a bigger ocean, and not you.

Last updated September 19, 2022