That’s What You Call
a Baby Whale?
by Adam Penna

It was a long time since my parents tucked

me in at night and kissed me. But it was a long
time too since I counted not sheep (what

did I know about sheep?) but carlights passing
over the ceiling, and until I was ten I slept alone.

Then my brother got afraid and my father knocked
the wall between us down. At night, even now,

a middle aged man, I hear the sound of that hammer
through sheetrock, the soft give of it, and the

discovery in my ten-year-old mind that what holds
us up surrenders to force. Not long after that

the wall went back up because I was a teenager
and needed to be alone. Lesson two: growing up

means being alone, and my brother found the change
more unbearable even than my mother, who cried

and punched her way into our lives, the way I’m sure
I saw a calf punch through his mother’s womb to

be birthed into water. That’s what you call a baby whale,
a calf, and they swim in pods. My brother and I

were calves and we swam all night in a dream
around the humongous bodies of our parents. When

we were old enough to separate, we did, and he moved
to Chicago and I as far east as this island goes, except

the lighthouse throws its beam out into the waves.
Look at the seals duck under the swell. And farther east

the lonely adult whale breaches, ecstatic, happy.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 17, Issue 3.

Adam Penna’s first full-length collection, Little Songs & Lyrics to Genji, was published in 2010 by S4N Books. His poems have appeared in magazines like Albatross, Cimarron Review, Basilica Review, Nimrod, The Same and others. A sonnet published in the Cider Press Review was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010, and an earlier poem appeared on the site Verse Daily in 2004.

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