Bowhead

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I can hardly stand the rot
our cargo wafts: the redolent fat
of a Greenland Right, this year’s legislated
cull of ancient rites stacked
aft of me in plastic-strapped
waxed boxes, despite which snappy
package, the stench of maqtaq
drenches this Hawker, as it did holds
of Victorian whalers, the same reek
at sixteen thousand feet as a hundred
stripped crangs corrupting
on Pond’s Bay floes — London’s
streetlamps aglow and Oxford’s dons
dry ‘neath baleen-ribbed brollies —
the same as it must have been — and still is
in this land that hoards scars
and preserves what it kills —
cached under stacked stones
a thousand-odd years ago.

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