Summer 1996 • Vol. XVIII No. 3/4 Poetry |

Halfway: Definitions

The mouth of the thing is larger than the hovelssome of these butcherers and gawkers call a home —this whale, stranded in its 1598 engravingpitifully feet away from the ale-foam combers with which the artist signifies the sea. Nobody nears its mouth. They run along its crestlike mountain picnickers; they dare (it must be very weak by now) to slick their palmsalong its monolithic tail, two-men-high; one doughty venturer uses the sheath of its penis,as sturdy for him as an aqueduct pipe, to gain a footing, clambering its side. But no one nears the mouth, I imagine because these last exchanging vastnessesof beachy air and whale lung are too emphatic a weather for any man to stand in long. It must desire a breath so deeply clean,it comes from past the margin of this page, beyond a world defined by gravity and the limiting laws of thermodynamics—but no such breath arrives, of course. Its panting lowers into the bottom octave of oxygen need, thenfails. Whale though it is, my book-page

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Albert Goldbarth has been publishing collections of poetry for over four decades, two of which two have received the National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest, Selfish, was published by Graywolf Press in May 2015. He tests his patience by living in Wichita, Kansas.

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Wrist Beep

By Albert Goldbarth

The mouth of the thing is larger than the hovelssome of these butcherers and gawkers call a home —this whale, stranded in its 1598 engravingpitifully feet away from the ale-foam […]

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