Porpoises
by Laura Davenport

In college I spent whole days by the river
watching yachts drift, toward dusk
finding a bench on the white gravel path
to catch the harbor breeze. I filled page
after page in notebooks or sketched the palms
outlined against the sky. And once, deep in a story
I was writing—about seeing myself as a twin,
the twin and I were talking—a man approached
in a halfhearted jog, and stopped, and turned to say
something about the weather. Yes, I said, it’s nice
and he asked my name and whether I went
to the college. Yes, I said. I did not know what to say
to a man that old, so I pointed to the river,
said look, where the sleek fins lifted
in uncatchable rhythm, my favorite thing
about that place and, still, about those days.
Though I could calculate their speed, the current,
where they’d surface was always a surprise.
The man sighed, and now I am not sure
whether he sat or only hovered there, but I believe
he would have sat, and the sigh was like dropping
a heavy load, with the knowledge that soon
he would lift it again. Actually, he began.
The words were far away or I was already retreating
into myself—actually, those are porpoises.
I stared ahead as he explained the size of fins,
or blowholes, their gray flanks lost in the dazzle
of ripples from a boat. I couldn’t tell you,
even now, but I am certain they were dolphins
as I was certain then that something was beginning—
in airports, the polished wood of bars, a corner table—
I would never again be allowed to sit alone
with a book, or keep my own council, or stare off
in silence. Either you are nodding now,
or you are shaking your head, or you are putting down
this book to tell me I am wrong,
that no one sees a woman alone
like a coin to pocket, a sunset to photograph
and keep. I don’t remember how I got the man to leave,
unless it was to become so small and still
I blended with the bench, with the stones and water.

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 3.

Laura DavenportLaura Davenport is the author of the chapbook Little Hates (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2009, Crab Orchard Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, among others. She is the recipient of a Hackney Literary Award, James River Writers/Richmond Magazine Best Poem award, and a Meridian Editors’ Choice award. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.

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