October 1, 2009

J. Arron Small

THE DAY IT RAINED A WHALE

For the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.
          —Paul Linnman, eye-witness

Rolling heavily in on the tide, it came to us and waited.
A limp submarine. An eight-ton gift the sea deposited
on the public beach.

Dead upon arrival, its skin rent by fissures, the carcass
of the whale darkened daily while blubber and baleen
ripened in the summer sun. A thick whale bouquet

settled over the sand. Damp, distasteful. But there it lay,
the whale, impossibly large for the earth-bound logistics
of flummoxed bureaucrats. How to remove it? Too large

to bury. Too large to move all at once. too large to return
to the sea, or cut like a summer sausage and remove, piece
by piece. But, if explosives were placed just so? Perfect

for detonation. A thousand pounds of TNT on the nearside
of the whale would blow it back into the water. Soon word
got out. There was to be a show. We keen spectators perched

on the bluffs above, waiting with picnic hampers, watching
hard hats lay dynamite, attach wires. At the appointed hour
the foreman depressed an old-fashioned plunger—in an instant

the whole whale vanished. A cloud of sand and smoke
roared angrily up from the beach, dear God, towards us.
A red mist of cetacean chunks hung frozen above our heads,

held aloft only by disbelief until disbelief wasn’t enough.
Old Testament plague. Frogs. Locusts. The rivers of blood.
Showers of spoilt meat horrifying all within a quarter mile.

In the ensuing silence that followed, a full two-thirds of
the carcass remained, ghastly. But the rest covered people,
babies. Bits of reeking flesh clung to hair, to clothes. And

the beach? A smoldering crater from the Western Front.
The Somme decorated with unrecognizable human crumbs.
The gaping hole of Messines Ridge shattered by sappers.

No. But I still couldn’t bear to see the rest of the whale buried
by hand. That huge body beside the crater. Seagulls being seagulls,
running up and down the beach marveling at their good fortune.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007