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from The Oar

I have no word for the slaying of whales.

In your tongue,
it is grindadráp or simply

nothing, the way we gesture
at the body, so familiar, or simply

accepting of the way it is.
Because it can be difficult

to understand, I explain—
how when we speak

another language, we understand
a somewhat different world.

That there are no pilot whales in Swans Bay.

That in the country where you were born,
the goats eat the trees and women

gather marsh thistle, arctic willow
to put near their beds, remind

their lovers there is always something
alive, even when cut, sawed slant.


Sara Gelston’s recent work appears in Poetry Northwest, Ploughshares, Third Coast, Versal, and elsewhere. She was the 2012-13 Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and is currently a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.