ONCE, LEVIATHAN

Some nights a bear wandered into her dreams.
She’d be polishing brass, or cooking supper
and there he’d be, thirsty,  peering in her window.
She’d fill a tub with water so he could drink,
and carry it through the flimsy door.
The bear would drink and drink, never enough.

Once on the roadside she traveled only in sleep
she found a cat,  paralyzed but still alive.
She brought it home and fed it bones and cream.
One day it stretched and staggered away,
meowing from one side of its mouth,
blinking its one green eye.

Sometimes at night a dead whale would wash up
on the shingle beach, brown flesh
draped loose like blankets tossed.
She’d step through the lipless mouth
into that rib-walled room.  Once
she found Jonah, asleep.
Every other time, she was alone.

But one night, a living whale swam through.
Stretched along its back, a woman riding.
In vision luminous, rare as sapphire,
she knew the rider,  felt blood heat
of her own muscled arms, great flukes.
All night long she swam, unmaimed;
one creature, her long thirst quenched.

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