If I were to write concerning whales, I would not write about their lessening numbers or their sadness, but their invisible harmonics and how they disguise themselves as floating islands, pod archipelagoes. Islands that sing; Kalypso had one of those.
They gather the secrets that flow away from continents on their drifting shores, water them with spray from the reliable geysers of their blowholes. Each island garden greens in the long salt years, tangling threads of root and rhizome prickling through cetacean skin into nourishing blubber, dangling into the sea. In the mat of trailing branches, multitudes gather, creatures that look like the writhing contents of an Italian restaurant menu.
The mass insanity of flowers casts away a wake of maddened petals that wash up on the beaches of crabs, gulls, and plutocrats. Palm trees shoot skyward from stranded coconuts; rising cypresses grasp the shoreline; a baobab spreads its knotted arches; lianas thread toward sun. Thickening jungle quickens with a pair of colobus, a flickering spectrum of lost birds, an errant peccary, and one leaf-green snake.
Sinbad and his exhausted sailors beach their boat, fall to the warm sand, find a fountain of clear water. Later, an aroma of roast pork and monkey-meat lingers above the empty ocean.
But whales are warm like us, and if I wrote about whales I would mention their vast journeys, the taste of plankton and giant cephalopods. I would have to say something about the currents, the dark nights, the harpoons, the cold.
Here; here’s my hand, on your softening mouth,
here’s my thigh against your side,
my weight sinking down around you,
pelvis, knee, calf, ankle, my heel
trailing sparks along your skin.
You, crystalline, quivering, becoming translucent;
I am oscillating toward equilibrium.
The moonbounce ruckus of earlier days
gathered into steadiness, all predicted
by tendons and tendencies.
You are my nestling, my starship.
Once you were yourself and whole, inviolate;
now we work within each other,
no longer complete alone.
Our balance slowly shifted;
speed and leaping glee imperceptibly transmuted
into deeper, subtle power. We asked and received,
floating in the freefall dream of fire,
always on the cusp, rising to rise again,
each thrust suspended at perihelion.
We moved into increasing heat
and over hardening ground
as the grass gave up its little ghosts.
The rains finally came, too little, too late,
and lasted long past autumn.
We shivered in the cold wet mist
and followed the visible rhythms of our breathing
around each curve, the serpent loops of struggle,
ascending toward the solstice,
descending the slope of spring,
straight on the diagonal across the horizontal,
lengthening stride into warmth and lightness,
orbiting the years,
eyes on a planet just above the horizon.
Now the horizon recedes to a ribbon of distance,
where the clouds slow and fade.
The carousel finally shudders to a halt.
It is snowing in the winter pasture.
Mounted for one last ride; bareback, unbridled,
we drift out over dead and frozen grass,
under dwindling stars, and disappear into the shadows
reaching out from an ancient forest.
F.J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com) and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. Work appears irregularly in Analog, Asimov’s, Polu Texni, Pulp Literature, Silver Blade, and elsewhere. A Catalogue of the Further Suns, a collection of dystopian first-contact reports, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest. Drop in for a visit at fibitz.com.