The Right Whale in Iowa

By Debora Greger b. 1949 Debora Greger
The shag rug of a Great Plains buffalo,   
      a flightless bird
gone to stone: over its fellow keepsakes,

      into the archives of air,
the whale hauled a harvest of dust.   
      In the ripples of glass

sealed over songbird skins, I wavered.   
      What could be said for love?
From the Full-Serv to the Self-Serv Island

      at the Gulf station next door,
landlocked waves shivered in a row of corn.   
      The great flukes lifted.

A Milky Way scarred the underside more vast   
      than the Midwestern night.   
Dark cargoes would give themselves up

      to these shallows
that waited to take home the sailor,   
      home to the sea

of fossilized coral upon whose shoals   
      just down the road   
the motels of Coralville lay sprawled.

      Here would lie a ring
scratched by a scrivener with florid hand,   
      In thy breast my heart does rest

flung back to shore, here rest two coins   
      face to face, joined   
by the salt that turned them faceless

      as they turned to each other.

Debora Greger, “The Right Whale in Iowa” from Off-Season at the Edge of the World. Copyright © 1994 by Debora Greger. Used with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Off-Season at the Edge of the World: Poems (1994)

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Poet Debora Greger b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

 Debora  Greger


Poet and artist Debora Greger earned her BA from the University of Washington and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has published numerous books of poetry, including Men, Women, and Ghosts (2008), and her work has been included in issues of Best American Poetry. As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed, Greger “rarely rejoices, though she can surely console; her pruned-back, autumnal sensibility and her balanced lines . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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