Jul/Aug 2020  •   Poetry

Painted Whale

by Rachel Aviva Burns

Painted Whale

Antwerp's chocolate hands
have nothing on Diesbach's
Antwerp blue—his experiments
with chemistry of color
led to this deepening shade,
the belly of the whale.

We hunted them for blubber,
for soap, for fuel, and for sport.
Now, our plastic bag pollution
does the job for the harpoons.
We must paint them while
we can, while they still swim.

Have you ever seen one
at evening near the shore,
tide high enough for supping
on minnow and fish, diving
low and long but occasionally
showing fin above the waves?

I wonder, if a humpback cried
would her tears taste like salt,
would they mingle quickly
into the ocean waters, or
would they splotch her face
like drips of blue paint?

She is the captain of the deep,
the longest swimmer, the warmest,
and the most intelligent and when
she surfaces and shakes her
tail, she splashes her portraitist
with joyful, gleaming droplets.