PHOTOGRAPH BY AMANDA COTTON

 

To celebrate Earth Month, Parley for the Oceans and Atmos team up for an ongoing eco-poetry series on the connection between the environment and the human experience. In “Echolocation,” poet Sally Bliumis-Dunn reflects on the power of communication between sea species.

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The whales can’t hear each other calling
in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.
I saw one once—heaved onto the sand with kelp
stuck to its blue-gray skin.
Heavy and immobile

 

it lay like a great sadness.
And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.
Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,
and barnacles clustered on its back
like tiny brown volcanoes.

 

Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,
their blue-black webbing of the deep,
I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.
And this one, large and dead on the sand
with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.

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