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Lay for the Day
8th March

The International Whaling Commission agreed that the killing of the great whales for commercial purposes with “cold” (i.e. non-exposive) grenade harpoons should cease, with effect from 8th March 1982
. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union, Japan, Brazil, Norway and Iceland – all major whaling nations – declined to abide by this ruling.


You came to once and lately left our shores,
these continents, their seas of grass and pine,
their torn peaks no more than spits and bars
to your one ocean, grandmother of beasts.

Not cumbersome, you had the canine stride,
you knew the content of lying down here
where we walk between weather and weatherings
and people the vacant ground of your tracks.

We sailed out of the forest to find you
with fire nestled in the twigs of our fingers.
What can your musical, mapmaking minds
make of us, your quick, fine, splayed slaughterers?

From our upright livings we dive headfirst
into wormland, like you to crushing light,
but death won’t be floating ours up to Ever-
est while your bodies plumb the blackest heaven.

Between your eye that takes on half the world
from a rolling bulwark of oil and bone
and mine in its blooming box of networks,
glancing electrically, the beams persist.

You’ve swallowed your former selves, but the pride
of a carnivore crests in your back still
from the long Pacific swell, and the hunters
hear within their own your mammalian hearts.

John Gibbens
from Pisces

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar