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March 15, 2016 Poetry

Two Poems

Melissa Queen

Two Poems photo

Morphology of the Whale: A Story of Migration

The whale was once a land-anchored mammal—misshapen and clumsy—til she acquiesced to the ocean’s pull. This proves three things:

1. Our bodies are capable of shedding the skin and bone and breath of places once considered home:

On days after a storm, the water from your shower refuses to drain. The standing level is above your ankle and rising; strands of hair spiral in the gray wash but go nowhere.

2. We can unlearn what we once knew of ourselves, flushed like water through soft levies of baleen, of hair, skin, or nail:

When she still walked upon weak legs, dragging her distended belly across the sand, the whale learned to swim by undulating her pelvis and spine. The longer she remained in water relative to on land, the further her spine distanced itself from her womb. And her legs, no longer of use, tucked up into her folds of flesh like the landing gear of a plane after takeoff.

Millions of years later, she washes ashore again. After her layered flesh has dried like leather hide, the baleen between her jaws has bristled like straw from a broom, and the seagulls and crabs have feasted in full, they’re still there: tiny vestiges of hind legs. A mutation of home.

3. Being out of place crushes you in ways your body won’t let you forget:

You’ve cast yourself from the city’s gates. You’ve fled from Nineveh. In your thirst you’ve flung your bones across dry land. Could it flush out the feeling of loneliness that scrapes at your chest and lungs like breathing sand, you’d swallow this whole bathtub of water. Even when the jade sea is soft, in the pit of your stomach black ambergris is anchored. What you cannot heave up swallows you down. You breathe and scream so deep, underwater it sounds like song. 


The Wind with Little to Say

“Out here, somebody with nothing to say might say, 'It's a little windy today.'”
—from The Car that Brought You Here Still Runs by Frances McCue

Better to be loess or ash than
wood plank or window shutter.
Better to be high grass than oak tree,
unless you're a single leaf, only yourself
to account for. Out here
even the shapes of the rocks,
the skin of an old man’s cheeks,
the slant of the sloping barn
suggest the direction the wind's
most prone to blow. So
it's better to be fence wire
than telephone pole. River trout
than clay bank or railroad trestle.
But best of all these:
to be a river-rounded pebble—
smooth and steadfast,
not yet broken into sand.


image: Carabella Sands