Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2019: Editor’s Choice
Image: “Blue Whale” by Nikki Zarate. “Kenai” was written by Katherine Fallon for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2019, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.
According to the guide, had my photos
been better, we could have identified
any of the whales as individuals by their tail
flukes. Lobed and dark as glassen water,
their under-sides were stained white with
markings peerless as our own fingerprints:
secrets they chose to tell not to us but to
the sleet, which called them up, which called
for the force of the thrust of an airplane engine
(understand: we needed something human
to understand). Knowing nothing and never
having followed anything which could be seen
from far away, difference was lost on us,
and we couldn’t stop shivering, telling ourselves
how strong we were for facing weather.
We had come so far to see them breach among
the dying glaciers, which growled like predators
before calving. The whales alone were unafraid
of the ice, though we should have understood
the violent shed as sensible, effortless, a letting go.
Toothless whales have two blowholes.
They have to think to breathe.
—from Ekphrastic Challenge
June 2019, Editor’s Choice
Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “I always love learning while reading a poem, and the biological facts here not only teach us about whales, but do a tremendous amount of metaphorical work, particularly in the last line. Add to that the music of the language throughout, and this is a thoroughly excellent poem.”