November 2, 2023

Whale Fall

I thought I was done with you
until I heard the story of Tahlequah,
the orca whale whose silky calf

lived only a few hours after its birth.
Tahlequah balanced the corpse
on her forehead and her back,

kept it from sinking, and pushed it
for seventeen days and one thousand miles
through Puget Sound and the open sea.

She lifted up the body as it sank—
hundreds of times—hoisting it
out of the water to take a breath.

When at last she released her calf, the carcass
sank to the sea floor—whale fall—
fare for scavengers in the dark.

I have carried my grief as Tahlequah
carried her dead calf, determined
not to let go. Pushing it to the surface

when it drops down. When
will I let it fall? Where might it settle?
My sea floor is a blanket of sand,

smooth and abiding.
What creatures in my darkness
might flourish with the gift of release?

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