From Issue II (2017)  

Whale | BRIAN D. COHEN  Etching, 5 x 5 in., 2016

Etching, 5 x 5 in., 2016



There won’t be a manual.
Don’t expect instructions to be etched,
as scrimshaw, on a tooth.
Don’t panic-flick through Moby-Dick.
Think benthic.

Begin with the insides.
Don’t try to refine the design—
just bear in mind, as you loop
and wind
its quarter-
mile of intestines,
that you’ll need to add an enzyme
which can form chyme from plastic.

Though you’ll flail many times, waist-deep
in spermaceti, you must never fail
to grin. A frown
will rigidify collapsible ribs;
a curse could shift blowhole
to fin.

When straining to start its skiff-sized heart,
cling, like a giant squid, to your task,
till your will inflicts suction cup marks
on its rippling Pacific of skin.

Make sure you’ve got thrash metal blaring
as you fill it with clicks
and breath
on the off-chance
that this’ll prepare it for decades of drilling
and seismic tests.

Be ready for the moment when it outknows you,
when the weight of its brain takes over
and it goads you
to renovate yourself.

Susan Richardson

Susan Richardson is a Wales-based poet, performer, and educator whose third collection of poetry, skindancing, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2015. She is currently poet-in-residence with both the Marine Conservation Society and the global animal welfare initiative, World Animal Day. She is also the co-founder and poetry editor of Zoomorphic, the online journal that features writing in celebration and defense of wild animals. “Build” also appears in Susan’s fourth poetry collection, Words the Turtle Taught Me (Cinnamon Press, 2018). Her website is susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk.