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Portugal visto por escritores estrangeiros

Whaling in Pico

by Kathleen Willard

Now clouds dance

above the dormant volcano embracing

a mountain so tall it creates weather


and harpoons in the whaling museum

no longer pierce the leviathan’s skin.

In former times, on the watchtower


high on a seaside cliff

the spotter glasses the ocean’s surface

for whales keen on krill and cool deep water


and signal whalers to drop

their scrimshaw light out

in open boats armed only with lances


and hand held harpoons.

It’s hard to imagine the transformation

of such large creatures into oil and flour,


the island factory rendering them

to their almost original molecules,

their lowest common denominator


or the insanity of a small skiff

with seven men rowing after sea giants

sails and oars straining


to capture their prize

as I am doing today

on a small pontoon boat naturalist on board


for whales migrate to the cool waters of Pico

predictable and luminous and curious

even of seven men with simple weapons—


their harpoons and rope tethering           

the monster now captive, now driven frantic

to exhaustion disrupting


breathing patterns their boat dragged

across the Atlantic until they move in lances

poised ready for the kill.


On shore, a whale’s death warrants

a flag at half mast

and the floating cadaver rowed near land


to part out the beast,

the choicest bits

destined for cauldrons and basalt ovens.


We all scan the water for the blow and breath

of whales eager to encounter a behemoth

and our hearts break


as a small part of a mother surfaces,

rolls on her back arms length

from our tiny boat to nurse her young


most of her body submerged

her ivory milk bleeding

into the cool blue water.

by Kathleen Willard

(Written in the Azores on a visit to Tony Roma’s family home. We meet at the first Disquiet)

Kathleen Willard, MA Middlebury College, MFA Colorado State University, remembers her attendance at The Disquiet International Literary Program as a defining moment in her writing life.  Forty of her poems have appeared in  literary magazines and anthologies including: Bombay Gin, Matter, Proud to Be, and Landscape and Place. Her awards include a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to travel and write in India, attendance at Vermont Studio Center twice, the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference twice, and her poem “Theory of Flight, Circa 1704” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, published in The Progenitor and won the ACC Writer's Studio Prize.

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