A Note on Sex and Death on the Beach

When we find the porpoise, I have so much to tell you. How animals are queer. How for me, sex is everything. And how the details, like whales dying with genitals extending into the great blue sea, will be of use to you in the future. My scientist, my party-goer. I hear now that kids aren’t having sex. I get it, the apocalypse is slower than expected, dull even. Still, on the last day of the year we meander the mating grounds for harbor seals and sea birds, a place that life thrashes. We are a part of it. Then, out in the open, a body. The head and tail intact, the skin the texture of wet rubber, the midsection red and bright. The color of inside; pink meat, only a gleam of ribcage flashing white in the sun. There are no flies, no smell. We pry its mouth open with a piece of driftwood. There is a tongue, soft rows of perfectly neat teeth. Half the skull is visible, bulbous. We circle and circle. It is the last day of December, the sun is setting, we are alone on the beach with the smallest cetacean at our feet. I want this creature to tell you everything that I can’t; how one day I will be dead, and I hope that you have lived a joyous life of thrashing.

Kelly Gray’s writing appears or is forthcoming in Witness Magazine, Lake Effect, Southern Humanities Review, Permafrost, trampset, and Rust & Moth, among other places. She writes about what she knows or is trying to know; parenting, eco-grief and resiliency, relationships to self and others, and rural life. You can find more of her work and books at writekgray.com

This poem previously appeared in Passages North.

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