Poetry Sunday: “Echolocation,” 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.


First published in The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series.


2ndskinSally Bliumis-Dunn teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College and at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, PLUME, Poetry London, The Bellevue Literary Review, the New York Times, “PBS News Hour,” Terrain.orgupstreet, The Writer’s Almanac, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, among others. In 2002, she was a finalist for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize. A chapbook, Galapagos Poems, was published by Kattywompus Press in 2016, and two books, Talking Underwater and Second Skin, were published by Wind Publications in 2007 and 2010. Her website is sallybliumisdunn.com and Second Skin is available at Amazon.




Poet’s Note

“Echolocation” began as a sonnet but could not remain in that form because in the end a more varied lineation and rhythm seemed to get at something I could not reach in sonnet form. There is still a relatively high dose of iambs. “Echolocation” is also the title poem of my third manuscript. I felt deeply saddened and frightened when I learned that human noise in the oceans was causing the whales to run aground because they could no longer hear each other. The whole world felt off-kilter.

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