Fractaline

 
                  The mountains keep repeating themselves—

           far and away,             ridge over ridge, swell
over swell—                                        might as well be drowned
                      and sunk                    to the ocean floor.

It does not matter that this is land, there is little water, and the water

           here on the surface
evaporates at such a rate                       even the lakes are salt.
                                         I keep expecting to see a whale

fall outside my window.

                                  What is land anyway?

           Under the ocean at the bottom of the deep, the same valleys.
The same mountains           rising to a ridge. Same canyons.

           The difference between canyon and trench:
                                                                       One is the carve
                      of erosion. Think rivers and streams. Slow,
but effective,                                  eventually.

                                                                A trench is a rend—

                       the tear of tectonic plates. Also often slow,
                                             but these are the deepest
places of our world.

                                  The mountains keep repeating themselves—

           why does it seem we also rise and fall in cycles? I mean why
do we grieve without grief

over and over again? The mountains roll blue at a distance.
                                  The same mountains nose close break beige.

                                                               God, I would tear at that surface
a trench like a bottomless grave.
           What would I find at the lowest most fathoms?
                                                                   Does it have a name? There is
                                            too much in this world to grieve. The boy

                                            was too young
                        to gain anything from dying. The woman old enough
but still:
                                            Three generations see:

                                                                 The sweet beasts fall
                                      in hordes, headless and stinking;

           loss of topsoil, ozone, ice,              dry land,           Homo sapiens
sapiens;       wars and unwars and fighting              to the teeth;

                                         our teeth,            clenched and crushed,
                              our gums                                     bleed and recede.

 

 

 

The Whale’s Name

 
All it is is skeleton

hanging from the ceiling of a church.

Or, something like a church—windows, height, and depth

suggest something

like sacredness—the museum designed

to highlight and hold the magnificent, draw the body in, coax

the visitor’s eyes first wide to take the emptiness in, then up

to all that hollowness. Call it suspended,

set in live motion the body curves as if swimming.

The great mouth opens as if to feed.  

There used to be a Diplodocus called Dippy opposite

the whale’s place—a tribute to the last great  

mass extinction. They replaced it with these

bones of blue whale as if to say look here—

we almost killed off the oceans’ greatest

with our own hands, extinction

not from cataclysmic event, but from greed.

The earth, says one scientist, is teetering on the edge—

widespread death initiated, again,

from humans. Hope is we have learned our lesson

and have not yet tipped into the sixth. But how easy it is to lose

information, knowledge, belief—

for a while we almost even lost the art of articulation

of animals large as this, the size and oil content in the bones

makes the process challenging. But not just the whale—

the very building where it hangs means to convert the visitor,

their perspective—how they can

see the whale and also beyond,

the ceiling and its one hundred sixty-two

illustrated panels of plants from around the world.

They tell a story of emerging

and fallen empires, prosperity and slavery, explorers pushing

the boundaries of the known world. Their known world. Forgive

for a moment the colonial perspective and see

what could be called the natural  

history version of a cathedral dome—each detail

meant to be read—a focus,

not just for meditation or reflection

of what once or now exists. But, like an icon,

like a narthex, this hall and this

Hope is entrance.

 

 

   

Amanda HawkinsAmanda Hawkins holds a MA in theological studies from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. She is the winner of the 2018 Editors’ Prize for Poetry at The Florida Review, and her first manuscript was a finalist for the Alice James Award. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Crab Orchard Review, Orion, and Tin House. You can find her at www.amandahawkinspoet.com.
 
Read “After the Elections,” a Letter to America poem by Amanda Hawkins appearing in Terrain.org.
 
 

Header photo by Willy Barton, courtesy Shutterstock.com. Photo of Amanda Hawkins by Trina Woods.

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