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Poetry

Zipped inside a nylon whale, breathing air
pumped into that fishy tent, hard not to think
of Jonah, sorry and scarved in seaweed,

hard not to picture the ship receding,
huge watery acres of abyss, breakers
sweeping over. And jaws, the tight squeeze
through baleen, stew of stomach acid…

Until then, easy for him to not want
Nineveh spared—no TV image to show
funnel or mushroom cloud, barrel bomb

falling on market stalls, hospitals, schools,
on children like ours now in the pretend
grocery paying play money for empty
cereal boxes and wooden apples. Jonah,

like any self-declared judge and jury
justifying jihad, Jim Crow—until, cast down,
cast off, banished from the living, shut

inside the jail of himself, he cries out.
And does he hear the whale sing its eerie
God-speak, like wordless Jehovah in high-
pitched echo and reverb? After which, he’s out,

hurled, as if he’s just stumbled from a club
after how many volts of trumpet or sax
have jolted through him from some quartet’s

live socket, stumbled out, all circuits blown,
no sense who he is, where he’s from, no calling
down judgment on another soul. So much
unknowing—what would you call that? Joy?


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