Fall 2010 / Issues / Poetry 2010 / Volume 41

The Whale Hunt — Kai Laursen

Tilkut prepared for the whale hunt,

fasting on fern roots and wild lily bulbs,

purifying himself in the sweat lodge.

On the fifth night of prayer and fasting,

Tilkut invoked the spirit of the whale.

He danced like a pine bough in a gentle wind.

Sage is burned. A haunting song began:

Salmon crooned in the whale’s belly,

baritones and high-pitched trilling,

the drone of plankton swimming,

a sea lion howled. And the whale joked:

Tilkut, all your preparation was in vain,

for as you cook me, I will rise up in smoke.

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