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Copyright © 2009

Ron D'Alena

Marcus & The Whale





One week after high school,

two months before going to the Middle East War,

Marcus saw a whale for the first time.


He was south of San Francisco

sitting on a patch of scraggly crabgrass

on a rock on a cliff,

bare feet dangling over the Pacific,

gazing at cloud shadows flickering across the dirt

as if they were in a hurry to get somewhere



“It’s dead,” said Private Bob Brewer

to Marcus.


Marcus shaded his eyes

against glare coated water.

Tangles of red-brown kelp

surged back and forth

with the ocean’s rhythm.

And there, twenty yards from shore,

atop partially submerged rocks,

lay the whale.


They half-walked, half-slid

down the forty-foot incline to the shoreline,

sat in the sand,

leaned against the thick trunk of a dead cypress,

sipped whiskey from Private Bob’s dented flask,

kept an eye on the whale.


Hovering gulls polluted the air with screams.

Rolling waves made gray skin jiggle

like the rump of a horse

irked by blood-sucking flies.


Marcus closed his eyes,

let the flood of sunlight stroke his face,

considered the tiny white and blue streaking lights

dancing on the inside of his lids.


He awoke,

brushed off a large black ant,

scratched the bite on his ankle.


Private Bob stood there,

throwing rocks,

side-armed with a short wind-up.

Rocks as smooth as velvet

skipped across foamy surface,

ricocheted off gray skin,

scattered feasting gulls.


Before Marcus could put an end to it,

a large wave crashed against the whale.

Huge stomach sack

squeezed through a rent under the flipper,

spilled into the ocean,

bobbed against its owner.

Ribs snapped under their own weight,

and Marcus watched in disbelief

as the gigantic whale deflated.


A sister wave freed the carcass from the rock

and after a while, it caught a current

and drifted toward Honolulu,

stomach sack in tow.