In the Belly of the Whale

By Kate Kastelberg

Last night I dreamt of
walking to Auger Beach
at dusk
only to find the tide
too high again:
breakers crash
straight down,
quick and silver
on and around
beach goers’ heads,
their hands flapping
dramatically above
their eyes,
their shrill cries
like diving
swallow-tail kites.
The wind froths
the waves
in unnatural directions:
entire lines of breakers
to the East
colliding perpendicular
with lines to
the West.

To my right
a swirling eddy
has formed in
a sand bank,
the gushing form
of a killer whale
thrashing about in too
small a pool,
its tail moving constantly
from C to U to Y
to stay in the water—
its back is warm and slick
as my fingers brush
down the writhing spine
and a sunburnt fisherman
to my right screams,
“don’t pet that, it’s a killer whale, it’ll eat you!”
I keep caressing, inquire of the whale,
“you won’t kill me, will you?”
It opens its snow-globe maw
of snow-cone teeth and says,
“no, I won’t kill you.”
“See, we’re friends,” I croon,
not facing
the flush-faced man.
He backs off stumbling
into a blurred horizon—
the open O mouth letting
sand and spray chisel a
last image of marvel
into pearl cheeked marble.

the whale never did harm me
and now that our bond was kilned,
we had each other’s thoughts—
wound talismans
in grey matter
in the gull-grey
echo sea—
and could reside in them, these
slipstream signals
formed deep in
the belly.
No longer having to speak words aloud,
through beta, theta, alpha and delta
transmitted and received,
the whale circumnavigates
to skirt the sedimentary shored sands
of terrestrial walkers
and bellows to warn
companions of keels
dangling barbed hooks,
harpoons and nets.
With each oscillation
I fear less the benthic deep
and slowly future and past dreams
of drowning
A primordial pod
even with vast-tentacled leagues
and hemispheres apart:
we shapeshift between
diaphragmatic breath
and involuntary breath
hour after hour
silent exhalations
into the constellated clockwork crannies
of pooled thoughts
from an ancient time,
before ink was ever laid and dried,
‘fore chisel found stone.

Headshot of Kate Kastelberg

Kate Kastelberg is a writer who lives in Durham, North Carolina and is a North Carolina native. She currently lives her husband and two cats. She has won several awards in creative writing for fiction prose and poetry. Among them recently include first place prizes awarded in poetry for poems entitled, “Worm Moon” and “New Stones in the River: A Life Insured.” She revels in nature, travel, mystery, mythology and the fantastical.

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