Natural Aesthetics

It shouldn’t surprise that an animal’s size
determines its voice’s timbre

or that too much regard for technique
loses the image that tricks presence

and absence, both honey-
dipped daggers. Speed up

a humpback song and a nightingale calls
in rounds, in codas, in fermatas

and repeats. Speed it up too much
and the rorqual disappears.

It took cetologists long
to discover that whales

croon in patterns, like humans do,
in different pace and pitch,

learn songs line by line,
verse by verse. Like the Vedas

or Bible verses I’ve memorized
now lain as sunbaked brick,

still, unmoving, unlike
deep music’s liquid. What poetry

have I missed, missing the silk
for the worm, filling

my cetacean-cello chest
with the mud of naming; damning

with the noise of repetition
my own quickly beating sea.

Rajiv Mohabir is the author of Cutlish (Four Way Books, 2021) and Antiman (Restless Books, 2021).


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