The Right Whale in Iowa

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)
More Poems by Debora Greger