A Failed Poem

Kaveh Akbar

Once I drove eleven hours to watch a whale
die on a beach.

I arrived and saw her blistered body heaving,
as long as three of me laid end to end.

Forgive me—
I tried to write a poem.

When the scientists drank
from a hose they were using to spray her,

I wrote in my notebook
oceanographers drinking water—irony?

It became clear she would not return to the water
and to spare her the already gathered gulls,

the scientists decided to open her veins,
cutting where tail met body.

It took nearly an hour for the blood to empty.
I thought it might never stop.

The air, I wrote, smelled like
wet coins, coconut meat, tallow.

Downwind where this smell arrived
without narrative,

I imagine people breathed it in,
felt quite glad.