Sunday, 8 February 2015


A friend asked me the other day if I wrote any poetry. I took a poetry class a few years ago, and the teacher advised us in the well-mangled epithet to "write what you know," so I spent most of the time submitting poems about dragons. I branched out once and wrote a sestina about whales. While I would love for my work to be validated by a recognized poetry journal, I had a hard time finding one with a category dedicated to earth's great flying mammals. 


It was the day that hung in perfect agony under
the heavens, and the sun sank its claws into the plains and cast
an unfamiliar light into the world; the birds fell silent in the red.
The earth, arrested in its turning, trembled at the sudden sound
of wing-beats in the east—the dark and dreaded sky-whales
had returned to face the dragons and mock them in their keep,

and now they numbered endless on the horizon, all eager to keep
pace with their gold-gilded leaders, sworn into allegiance under
oaths strictly taken at the Great Gathering in the north to sound
the depths of their devotion to the tribe. They flew, minds overcast
by tight tremors of war—silent, swaying, brine-crusted war-whales,
strapped with silver helmets, delicately hammered with scrolls; red

war-paint around their eyes and down their curving spines; more red
around each fluke, drawn in twisting loops and circles, to keep
with old traditions. Blowholes, too, were marked on each whale,
according to their rank, and pressed ‘round with gold. And under
each fin, leather lashed a metal strip onto its edge, a shield cast
in the hot mountain-fires of the north. A hollow, steady sound

beat out across the land; whale-tongues clicked, a martial sound
that throbbed inside their hollow bodies, pulsing, a red
drumming that echoed through the air. The smallest ones, cast
in doubt by their small size,  were made to earn their keep
in other ways. They bore the banners, belted tightly under
their bellies, and held the flags—a crimson whale

emblazoned on a golden cloth.  As they approached, a wail
rose up from among the mountains, a terrifying sound
that lifted from the land’s bourne like a ghost under
the beat of the war-drums. A winged serpent, red
and silver scaled, rose up—a lowly guard, ordered to keep
watch over their borderlands, hissed and quickly cast

his eyes out to the sea; his wings beat fast, and he cast
away his post and darted back towards the mount. The whales
soared over the spray of the ocean, stilling their ranks to keep
to their call. In unison, they swooped low to cross the sound,
glittering in the sun, a low murmur with every stroke of their red-
stained wings—the stillness before the storm, the under-

tow beneath the waves. The keep was emptied; the dragons cast
themselves up, a surge from underneath the earth, up, up against the whales.
Thunder deafened the air—a great sound—and the blood ran red.

Have your dragon poems been overlooked too, fragile poet? 
Send them to me and we can rejoice together. 


Sarah B said...

You should read Livia's poem the color of trust, I'll tell her to send it your way.

S Gabriel said...

Oooo. I do so love comments on my blog. Yes, I would love to read Livia's poem.