They bloom like summer roses,
fall back as quickly as summer dies,
neither failure nor triumph—
the flukes simply too weak or air too flimsy
a medium to hold them at last.
It was likewise neither failure nor triumph
but a strange coincidence that the same afternoon
I watched the whales, my friend A.
witnessed the last breaths of a man she barely
knew, a friend’s father she’d volunteered to sit with.
She had stroked his hair;
he died almost without her noticing.
Who knows what occasion he rose to then
or why. But I heard them singing—the whales, I mean.
Rehearsing the distant refrain I imagine inside everything.
It was peaceful, said A., meaning his death.
She had waited before calling the doctor.
Looking back, I see myself again on those cliffs,
clutching my chest, almost panicked.
And there are the whales, a procession lagging
in his wake, with A. somehow visible in the distance,
sitting alone in the room, her hand in his thin hair,
the roses blooming all summer long.