The Moya View

The Death Wife’s Tale

Artwork by Lori Christopher

After nine months,
three hours of labor
and a mile of wandering

Tahlequah gave birth
in the middle
of a salted world.

For half an hour,
Tahlequah could look
into her child’s eyes.

For thirty minutes the child,
until it became silent,
was a sacrament to love.

In the inexplicable beauty
of her death Tahlequah
decided to carry her.

She remembered how
there was no real grieving
at her mother’s funeral,

no keening, no collapsing into
trembling arms, no crying,
just sniffling, shoving back tears

in the insufferable heat of
a summer’s day, a procession
through places known and loved,

things carried on her back
to this very day. Burdens
not meant to be carried alone

but carried alone— the father
having abandoned them to pursue
his own drunken vision quest.

For seventeen days, Tahlequah
carried her dead child on her back
a hundred, two hundred miles,

maybe more, until a city grew up
in front of her, crowded and
full of life, gossiping around her,
taking pictures, writing stories.

Tahlequah imagined processions,
others walking alongside her,
sharing her grief, sharing the burden.

But all they did was talk and watch this
mother with dead child walking away until
inside, the streets became dark and empty.

Tahlequah is a species of Orcas, Killer Whales.

This poem is an adaptation into a human myth based on a news story about one Orca mother who grieved her still born child by balancing it on her nose for seven days.





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