We climb to get there, to what seems
only rock or rubble from a distance.
My friends want to play,
but I’m new to the coast, still afraid
of what comes with the waves, undulating—
the long strands of kelp, sea palms
and weeds, whatever curls in on itself.
It must have known it could not go back
to fluid motion and grace, even as it
rose from the deep, gave its bulk to the tide.
I was inland when it beached. I didn’t witness
the passage of breath, the souvenir hunters,
the mourners. My friends saw
the helicopter lifting it in pieces.
No one warned me about this.
Above the sea now, it bakes in the sun
—flesh gone to the air, the rest
growing into the earth. We walk
the length of the spine in our small shoes,
we touch the stumps of its bones, we circle
the jaw, we give away our words.
I am nothing when I stand inside its head.
Santa Cruz, California