INVENTING THE DOLPHIN
In a blue-painted pool sponsored by Corona & Sol,
It’s hard to see the larger ocean. Picture a lonely dolphin
Waiting to get paid. His forced smile, his blowhole opening
For coins. They call him Chuy, a Mexican nickname for Jesus.
He takes his fish lazily from the trainer, & you know,
If he could walk backwards from here to the sea, he would.
We are his 2:30.
Standing in life vests, all grouped in the shallow end like Baptists,
We’re told to stroke him, but carefully. We’re warned to avoid
His pinhole ears that hear what we cannot, also his blowhole,
A second mouth that speaks an ocean tongue of shrieks & clicks.
I can see by the trainer’s caution, our innocence is dangerous.
He says if Chuy takes a hand in his mouth, sometimes he’s curious,
We should not pull, but let him release us. Also, it’s a myth
Dolphins push drowning swimmers to shore. To a dolphin,
All humans look to be drowning. Besides, their instinct would be
To push us out to sea, to safety.
Looking close, I see in his wet grey eyes a child’s knowing buoyancy.
I feel an intimacy, like he might turn to me in some small café & say,
“I think there is something you should know.”
He’s not as slippery as I thought. And his skin, just like the moon
Shining back, that still silver, is cool to the touch, the exact temperature
Of the water. We take turns in a strange communion touching
His forehead, laying small bloodless fish on a big blue tongue.
We are educated people, but I sense among us a competition
For whom Chuy likes best. We command cheap tricks & he jumps—
First circling, gaining inhuman momentum. He fears for his job.
He works. His back bent as to a desk holding his breath.
Suddenly he leaps—pure muscle, no bones—Jesus the way we wish him
To be, nosing a blue-green ball, his fins not quite fingers or feet.
from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
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Chris Green: “Frost said that actuality and intimacy is the greatest aim an artist can have. My intimate and actual experience swimming with a dolphin in Mexico seemed like a poem from beginning to end. I hope I conveyed at least a bit of the art that I felt.” ( website)