“Whale Bone” by Steven Brown

Steven Brown


In this field of fireweed and wild oat
that leans for ten thousand mornings to the east,
I see the wind coming
from miles and miles away
like wakes at the back of an unseen boat.

At first, it seems an incredible distance
between the wind and where I stand, but then
as if it knew my time on earth
unpredictable as lightning path,
as if it knew that for love to work,
it must catch up, it must travel fast,
it blows over me, its body an enormous swimmer.

It is in this place I know the truth of things:
that whales, when they die, swim out of the deep water
into the bright blue, their heavy bones forgotten
with effortless glide, that is to say, with grace.

They know and are a part of what is always,
what is true in the wind and the long grass.
I watch as the whales go by, all breath,
touching the things that cannot last.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention


Steven Brown: “VW vans, pickup trucks, El Caminos. I often wonder about them, parked on the side of an interstate, abandoned or broke-down. Nothing but fields of dry grass or dark pine. Where did the owners of the vehicles go? There are cows everywhere and crickets. I like to think they’re out there somewhere—the permanently fed-up—thousands of them in the woods who’ve got it all figured out.”

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