I recognize them
just as I recognize
that rise and fall
in solemn sleep,
picking up speed until
finally falling from sight.
The height of their great
bowed backs that break open
the sea’s skin is the height
of a gunwale overturned.
“A child could walk upright
through the aorta of her heart,”
our guide says, then smiles.
In a far channel, off Ventura, California,
the great Blues
dirigible the darkness, surface
to breathe the air we breathe,
and measure a rising tail fluke,
that mythic flesh of angel wings,
against our meager float. Then, they slip again
beneath the rolling edge of air and water,
tearing giant rounds
like monstrous lily pads
to signal they have gone deep,
deep, to plumb themselves
into the underworld of our lives, swim
our swelling vessels, falling
and falling, until they reach the dark chambers
of our small childs’ hearts.
Paul Bowers lives with his wife and daughter on a ten-acre farm in Ringwood, Oklahoma. He earned a B.A. from The University of Tulsa, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Oklahoma State University, and he currently teaches writing and literature at Northern Oklahoma College in Enid. He has published a number of short stories in literary journals, including Southwestern American Literature, Mid-American Review, and Indiana Review, among others, and critical essays on James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, and the contemporary Irish poet, John Montague. Honors for his fiction include a Pushcart Prize nomination and the Herman M. Swafford Award for Fiction. His collection of short stories, Like Men, Made Various, was released by Lost Horse Press in March 2006. His most recent publications include poetry in ’Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me’, an anthology featuring Oklahoma writers, and in Sugar Mule, an online literary journal.