I could tell they were father and son,
the air between them, slack as though
they hardly noticed one another.
The father sanded the gunwales,
the boy coiled the lines.
And I admired them there, each to his task
in the quiet of the long familiar.
The sawdust coated the
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The whales can’t hear each other calling
in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.
I saw one once— heaved onto the sand with kelp
stuck to its blue-gray skin.
Heavy and immobile
it lay like a great sadness.
And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.
Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,
and barnacles clustered on its back
like tiny brown volcanoes.
Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,
their blue-black webbing of the deep,
I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.
And this one, large and dead on the sand
with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.
Sally Bliumis-Dunn is the author of Second Skin (Wind Publications, 2010) and Talking Underwater (Wind Publications, 2007). She teaches at Manhattanville College and lives in Armonk, New York.