Despite dying, the whale really enjoyed the afterlife.
Dying, you see, is messy, and long, concerned with harpoons and the razor hooks of giant squid that leave round fungal marks across your hide, even when they don’t push you into the business of dying. Death, and what comes after death, is really something not like that at all.
Pearlescent bath of sand sawing off barnacles and parasitic crabs and remora and casting them out of the light and into the sea of ink. They will not come with you; they still have battles left to fight, little squabbles of the material. They will sink with an ancient ship, blubberclad behemoth shot through with a cannon, to a land without light, while rise, foetal, beached in someplace new.
Leviathan eyes opening and casting out a gaze across all the will be, that is; endless sands combed by neon gulls. tumored by volcanic outgrowths of tube worms casting out fiery rose flower mouths to catch quarks and dark matter like snowflakes on the tongue of a child. This is The Beach, the first step; you feel your situation alleviated by invisible buckets, sinking upwards again.
Whales like monoliths standing in circles, each pod a stonehenge, broadcasting radio waves of memory through dinosaurian apartment-block heads or mouths of baleen that shimmer with the light of a million galaxies. Each must reintroduce themselves because each is new; your scars, marks, your alphabet of the self has been removed, and you’ve never felt so free, yet so sure of something before. You are in a bubble in an ocean with no color because it is every color, The Beach a universe below you. You look through the bubble, past a million congregations of your ancestors, and see yet more bubbles; giant squid drifting as shooting stars, giving off faint burgundy light; tattooed wailers hurling harpoon and net across thousand-miles expanses to each other, a game of catch by way of gods exchanging thunderbolts. Even here they are with you. But this time, you think, those things that make up ourselves might arrange differently were you to meet them again. Things once loved are lost here: surfacing in the choppy waters of the Atlantic to meet the sun, children, growing old, death and dying, in a strange way. But so much has been gained. You wonder, then, if the North Star too had been a whale once.
One Memory, Everlasting
Shimmering bodies, waves on skin, skin as waves, a body with no color in all colors, blending and melting and becoming something beyond. People see you in the sky and wish upon you and love and lose and sacrifice to you ambergris and white bone. A hermit builds his hut out of the ribs of a right whale and you watch it float up to meet you, land on The Beach, float to meet you again, and you two are like gods to his bright eyes and wrinkled face, every crease and fold a reminder of what has been left behind. One night another shaman caves his head in with a carved club made of seal and obsidian and you watch as his body glows with alien light. The rival loses his cloak in the commotion and flees, an unidentifiable tinge now singing his skin, tobacco stained forever by spiritual secondhand smoke. The hermit will be in his bubble soon. All children of the ocean drift together, in the end. Together in the wine-dark, heavenly, void-like sea.
That is all to say that the whale liked the afterlife. It liked it quite a bit.
— Noam Hessler is a poet from New England. They are currently a student at Vassar college, and can be found on twitter at @poetryaccnt1518.