This week’s poem connects the image of a giant whale that’s beached itself and a deep personal grief. Both are made larger by the connection between them.

This is the title poem in “Echolocation,” Sally Bliumis-Dunn’s third book, recently published by Plume Editions and MadHat Press. She lives in Harpswell.


By Sally Bliumis-Dunn

The whales can’t hear each other calling

in the noise-cluttered sea: they beach themselves.


I saw one once-heaved onto the sand with kelp

stuck to its blue-gray skin.

Heavy and immobile,

it lay like a great sadness.

And it was hard to breathe with all the stink.

Its elliptical black eyes had stilled, were mostly dry,


and barnacles clustered on its back

like tiny brown volcanoes.

Imagining the other whales, their roving weight,

their blue-black webbing of the deep,

I stopped knowing how to measure my own grief.

And this one, large and dead on the sand,

with its unimaginable five-hundred-pound heart.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Sally Bliumis-Dunn. It appeared on the Academy of American Poets’s Poem-a-day feature on Aug. 19, 2016, and appears here by permission of the author. For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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