Port Townsend, Washington

Downhill, a skeleton of an orca
suspended: a female beached; belly full,

at that time, of seal and fish; the seal and fish
full, at that time of poison. The volunteer,
white bob, soft face, knew too the desire

to see a body—its echoes—suspended.
Hope, the name given to a dead whale once

located by clicks and whistles in echo
in inlet in open sea. The volunteer
tells me she visited the Smithsonian

Museum of African American
History—says, The saddest part, to me,

the Emmett Till—do you know him?—exhibit.
The whale, killer, weakened by a scaffold
of old poison: DDT, PCBs,

which no prey can process but holds in its fat
its tissues its soft parts. See her Southern

scaffold: Mississippi, Alabama,
Georgia. See, I hadn’t thought to think
of him here, under the reconstructed

skeleton I had come to see, and once
seen, to mourn. She wanted to stand over

his bones, his grave on her bucket list.
She pushed into me her desire,
the sound surfacing what had, long ago,

leached into my softest parts. I wanted
to hold her shoulders, vomit into her mouth

this water full of dead or dying,
to fill her with a little knowing,
change her, heavy her, let the knowing wash

her into the Salish at low tide, past driftwood
and eel grass, hope a warning at her back.