Williamson Brasfield, Strays, Etna, from Cathedrals in the Desert, 2016 (photograph)


those who cry when they learn another whale’s
washed up dead, its stomach full of garbage, 
or those who say the beach is far away

and I’ve also forgotten the last animal
its bottle cap belly dissected by wind
and kelp flies. There are two kinds of dead

whales on this beach: those who died
because the water was too warm,
and those who swallowed too much plastic.

There are two kinds of plastic on this beach:
the kind we’re holding, and the kind the sand
is holding. There are two kinds of holding:

the kind when you hold it all in, like an academic,
and the kind when you hold forth, also like
an academic, but also like an animal, tearing

into its prey, and there are two kinds of animals
on this earth: those who are killing it, 
those who are being killed. The killer whale

is the latter of these types, even though
we’ve given it the sort of name we like to offer
those things that keep this world alive:

instinct, or bees, the hybrid ones, they call
them Africanized honeybees, they’re the ones
we created when we were playing one

of two kinds of odds.


Maya Jewell Zeller