Camerawoman: The Cove, Taiji, Japan
“A dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest deception. It creates the illusion that the dolphin is happy.” The Cove, Richard O’Barry.
Panicked, wrangled by the thousands
they pommel tails against boats, these browbeaten slaves.
Already broken things.
Finless, songless, comfortless,
They smile and bob like drowning children.
Their splashes wane as though they volunteer.
Already conceded, already abandoning
their bodies to the deep: unable
or refusing their last nozzle of breath.
Their blood glazes the rocks,
flushes the cove the color of currency.
It will happen again
in September. The dolphin-raid, money trade.
Bloodcaught. Business. Bloodbought.
Ritual. Cultural. Accepted.
Like a handshake. Like a bow.
Lined up tail to nose, their slick
thick abdomens become a dock.
Jarred awake, they bellow, moan,
barely (but still) alive under the trample
One escapes the great net, beelines for you.
Its frantic tail-pumping rivals the knockbacks
of your own heart. It is impossible to capture
the sound of your heart as it breaks. Perhaps
it is the sound of this pup’s desperate mewls.
You, diving into dark, offering up yourself
to save this pup, will not make you its mother.
So plant your feet. Film the babe’s sad, sweet smile,
its last small struggles,
almost ballet. It bows once, twice,
then surrenders, descending
into the undertow.
About the Author: Michelle McMillan-Holifield is a recent Best of the Net Nominee. Her work has been included in or is forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Jabberwock Review, Sky Island Journal, Stirring, The Collagist, Toasted Cheese, Whale Road Review and Windhover among others. She hopes you one day find her poetry tacked to a tree somewhere in the Alaskan Wild.