FNS: Narwhal by Kevin Carollo

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Every Friday night we feature a short story, essay, personal narrative,
poem, spoken word, or short film for your enjoyment.

Helen Presents: a poem from Kevin Carollo


I was fishing for a definition in M when
narwhal made me want to party like it
was 1646. From “corpse” and “whale,”

the lonely narwhal looks clumsy with its
long twisted ivory tusk. I was waiting for
my manatee. It felt like 1555 all over again.

I’d been ending something inside me for
some time, or some thing inside was ending
me. Dugong, we cannot pretend the record

began or ended in 1800. You have not
just been christened, friend, nor I for that
matter. It was never a question of taking

space or time for granted as much as not
letting the bitter patter to hurry up nature’s
last hurrah matter. Think about lonely

narwhal. “Take care.” That rap is
automatic, but I want it to give us pause
on par with the little weir of an exhaustive

dictionary definition. I want an environment
suggestive of its name. Take care should
take a century to type in. Sea cow takes us

all the way back to 1613, somehow before
the cow as we now know it came to be. There
should be a word for that original animal

swimming in the ocean centuries before
the naming. Guitar air and the birds just
tiny humming things. An unlikely water

landing event. Even saying land might be
giving away too much already. We’re not
yet nineteenth century, when grasshopper,

horse, and cow alike shall all be drawn
and quartered in any collegiate lexicon.
We are far ahead of the first lepidopterists

mapping out the myriad and wonderful
genealogies of butterfly and moth. We are
still getting used to getting our mouths

around the word world, actually, seeing if
its weight and heft will hold. We are barely
wrapping our heads around the idea of clocks.

Biosphere, wait right there, a minute or a year.
I want to add a final word to my postcard to
the world: take care, narwhal. That’s about all.


Kevin Carollo teaches world literature and creative writing at Minnesota State University Moorhead. A regular contributor to Rain Taxi Review of Books, he has had poems in Conduit, Court Green, Cranky, Cream City Review, Ellipsis, The New Guard, Thin Air, and elsewhere.

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