mike baird on flickr.com
From bradcran.com/vancouver_verse/, the website of Brad Cran, Poet Laureate for Vancouver, 2009–2011. The poem was inspired by two gray whales that swam into the harbour in downtown Vancouver in 2010, one in May and one in August.
An armoured lung, a living castle of barnacle and bone; a peaceful leviathan moving with the ease of a dark cloud. 2 The child knows more about the gray whale than the adult. When given crayons the adult says he does not know how to draw. The child is already drawing the gray whale with blue and pink. 3 In the world of opposites the gray whale is an ocean cave populated by sea otters. 4 No I didn’t see the whale but the man behind me at Starbucks did. Everyone was talking about it and someone said “did you see the whale?” his eyes danced and he shouted across the store I did, he kept saying. I did. I saw the whale. 5 And the whale said Behold the natural world. 6 The woman died and the man grew frail and ashen. His life slowed to the pace of the gray whale. 7 Forget the secrets of elephants. The gray whale thinks in music. 8 In the Oregon aquarium, the children sit below the skeleton of the gray whale drinking cola. 9 The thing is, my dad doesn’t like people much. We saw the whale on the pier outside the market. Even after the whale had gone, my dad wanted to stay and talk to everyone else who had seen it. 10 Do not live in habit. Do not take the most basic assumptions for granted. Consider the city of whales. If you seek it with your eyes you will never find it. It lives only in the symphonics of the ocean. Its music is to the ear as the pavement is to your foot. 11 Can you believe it’s August. Can you believe there is a whale in English Bay. How lucky we are to walk through Stanley Park. My heart beats at the speed of birds. I’ve stopped believing in loneliness. Here we are. It’s summer. I want to be in love. 12 Some were trying to decipher what the whale was telling us. Others already knew. 13 And there you were below the mountains in the heart of the city gazing at the gray whale. You must change your life.