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Cetacean Stranding


Nico Escalona

I exist by the shore, inhaling the sharp salty dusk breeze.
I am standing here, oxidizing, by the dying body of a beached whale,
And I still haven’t read enough scripture to administer a proper funeral.

Instead, I recite all the prayers I do know: one Our Father, three Hail Marys,
One plea that it does not roll over and crush me when I press my hand
Against its body, three pleas of forgiveness for my morbid delight

At the ups and downs of its fading breaths. The last glorious
Thing it can do is decide whether or not it should kill me.
If it had chosen a lovelier graveyard, it might have mothered

An ecosystem, generations birthed in the dark from its virgin bones.
Only hours after death, it will begin fermenting inside itself,
Not long until it is near-bursting from the build-up of its rotting gas.

I pray that when you see the corpse in the sand, posthumously baptized
In lightning-struck saltwater, you think of soft skin and soft eyes
And the smell of cold, clean metal. I pray you allow me my selfish prayers.

When you stumble down to the beach, whatever it is you find,
I pray that you remember something glorious happened here.

Nico Escalona studies chemistry, which he thinks of as the science of names and transformations. What most intrigues him are the inhibitors: the factors that prevent change and cause stagnation.

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