Dolphin, Dolphin, Dolphin
by Jeff Whitney
There are certain cries the body makes once.
Which is not the same as the butcher
knife’s sorrow, blue rain filling a blue bucket,
or the crow’s head beside it unspooling her
cloudy dreams. The abacus slides one way
for god then the other and we are only children
who can’t reach the counter. The frightened cat
at the sound of footfalls. Those men who find hope
in broken things. A pram turned over, a city below
water. Our mothers, drunk, come home.
Bees halo their foreheads. Like bones,
our online souls paint a bigger picture.
The bells are birds calling each other
is a thought I had on a train from Castilla
La Mancha to Granada. That night I ate
the tentacle of an octopus like an undergod
slurps up souls, the ribbon of it smacking
each cheek like a kiss. The body
nowhere to be seen. Later, in an alley,
a person I thought just a friend sucked each
of my fingers. I learned then the difference
between the two bears in the sky, Ursa
minor, the sailor’s star, the one that stays
above the horizon always, and major, the same thing
but bigger. I once had a mouth for Spanish
but now can barely tell you how Sancho Panza
actually kept Quixote alive—or was it the other
way around? Now I mourn some future calamity
as the dead hold legs of flowers like a lake monster
holds the legs of swimmers beneath soil.
Oh Oz, you are so beautiful. Your fields of poppies
and fire. How do I get back to you?
The addict asks. Some people gone quiet
years ago put fire in their mouths and then
the sky. They were, after all, only emulating
the first god who swallowed halogen and spit
stars like watermelon seeds. If I could come back as anything,
I remember my dying friend saying, I would
come back less broken. Pray the world becomes clear
like it did for him, like it does every fifth grader
at the poster meant to encrypt an image
that, suddenly, when they look behind the swirling
static, becomes dolphin, dolphin, dolphin. Pray
that sheathed swords win wars, too.
Believe me. Everyone dies twice
but I never learned how.
‘Dolphin, Dolphin, Dolphin’ has been shortlisted for the 2016 Berfrois Poetry Prize.
About the Author:
Jeff Whitney is the author of The Tree With Lights, available from Thrush Press, while Radio Silence (Black Lawrence Press) and Smoke Tones (Phantom Books) were co-written with poet Philip Schaefer. His poems can be found in journals such as Beloit, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English.