Questions for the Orca J35 Tahlequah

“A grieving orca whale has released the body of her dead calf after carrying it for at least 17 days through the Pacific Ocean in an unprecedented act of mourning.” –Washington Post

I won’t ask if you miss
your daughter or if you
even know how to mourn,
because I know the answer.

But as you carried her, did
the weightlessness of water
make you more aware
of the weightfulness of grief?

I will not ask if you think of her
specifically when you see other orca,
or if grief shadows everything
and everything is her.

I do not like to think about death,
although my mom calls
every week and asks me
when I’m coming home.

She asked me one morning
if I’d heard of you and your daughter,
and it was enough to make us
both cry and maybe

there’s relief in knowing
that I’m not so shut down
while the world burns itself away,
which is not to say thank you

for your grief. But, do you think
there’s a difference between
localized grief, the body
held at the end of your body,

and the hazy grief circling my heart
like an ocean’s whirlpooling eddie?
What made you finally decide
to let go and

do you still feel just as heavy
as before? I guess what I mean is,
I know there was nothing easy
in letting go, but

I also know your kind separate
grey whale mothers from their babies
and did you ever think of that
when you were holding your baby?

I mean: will I always feel like
I’m balanced at the end of another’s reach,
beyond myself but
never fully floating?

Or, as I cling so long
to what I hold,
when in the world will I know
to let go?

Robin Cedar is a poet and teacher living in Oregon, where she spends most of her time drinking tea, grading papers, and thinking about whales. She currently serves as Editor-in-Chief (formerly poetry editor) of Random Sample Review. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best of the Net, and has appeared in journals such as Blue Mesa ReviewPacifica Literary ReviewMoon City Review, Leveler, among others. She received her MFA in poetry from Oregon State University and served as poetry editor and social media manager to its lit mag, 45th Parallel. When she remembers it exists, she can be found talking about nothing on her Twitter.