Gray Whale

By Sally Bliumis-Dunn

Featured Art: Submarine Series Introductory Lithograph by Eric Ravilious

When they read the metal tag
on her pectoral fin—
a surprise of dark Cyrillic letters

on this Gray Whale
who had swum some fourteen thousand miles,
inter-braiding continent

with continent—
strange that I think of you now, father
though you too had lived

mostly below a surface,
the breadth of which we could not know—

until they read her tag,
the cetologists had thought
the gray whales off the coast of Baja

were of a different species
from the ones in Minsk.

When I found your lacquer boxes,
so small they fit into my hand,
with their depictions of our home,

the pots above the stove,
their odd discolorations,
the cheerful curtained window

that looked out at the pines,
I felt sad I had not known your heart
would swim such distance for us—

you had never shown us one.
And how small you had to make yourself
to see each scene and paint it

like an ant stepping carefully along
one of those dark passages
in its hill of dirt that nobody sees inside.


Sally Bliumis-Dunn teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her poems appeared in Plume, Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry London. Her third collection, ECHOLOCATION was published by Plume editions/MadHat Press in March, 2018. Echolocation was long-listed for the Julie Suk Award and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. In 2002, she was a finalist for The Pablo Neruda Prize.

Originally published in NOR 18: Fall 2015

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