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
Three generations see:
The sweet beasts fall
in hordes, headless and stinking;
loss of topsoil, ozone, ice, dry land, Homosapiens 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
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 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.