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The Whales

In honor of National Poetry Month, Lifetime Learning is featuring poems written by esteemed faculty during April. “The Whales” is the second featured poem by Lisa Russ Spaar, Horace W. Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Creative Writing Program in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. She is the author of twelve books of poetry, the most recent of which is Orexia (Persea Books 2017).



The Whales

Belied, be-laired, in sleep’s massacred vista
of blood that is the sea within,

like a god, entranced from above,
I felt the whales before I saw them, gorgeous

foetal continents, lost, glistering, parental,
mare-blue beneath sediments of stellar silks,

planktal glass, moving the wrong way
up a narrowing, inland stream.

With all my blindness, I wept
to save them, mysticeti, their kimono lobes,

pharyngeal bells, and lonely spume,
their homesick crying like a scarf of fox grapes

reaching sailors still hundreds of miles
from land. They placental. They

in four-chambered beyonding.
And my own heart, beached—erupting

into hollow room, to closet door,
to clock face, where I failed

and failed again to help them
over the rhapsodic rasures of this world.


© Lisa Russ Spaar, from OREXIA: Poems (Persea Books, 2017, hardcover; 2018, paperback)