Josh Dugat

Beloved Gray Whale Dies After 53 Days in the Klamath River

                  Light fights hard, shattering plankton to asters. Invisible skin

hinders descent—below us it’s black
                                             as an animal’s inside. From viscera of mid-sea

                  trenches and abyssal planes, rise fibrils strung with pearls of air—
                                                                          wishes loosed by lovers.

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In the time between a cry and its echo, the island falls.
         Ashes cast to ocean, only prolonging

                                                         the return of sound. We wait, salt
cakes on our faces—elegies lodge in our heads, become hackneyed.

We repeat years, and speak less—mindful of wearing thin the only words we know.

After the augurs say
                         what we divined they would, we sleep like dogs,
                                                                                     our legs ever ambling—
a sleep that in waking, we can’t help but run from.

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                  After such movement, and so many days, the breadth of our memory
         grows sheer—a horizon drawn by a bloodless sun. We call our own lungs

into question. How have the atoms,
                                in tedious constancy, not grown restless
                                                with revolt?

                                                                           There is sweetness left:
the scent of calf-hide and kidskin, her breath when dreaming,

the stamp of solace—or something
         close to love—cut firmly in the leather of the life we’ve lived.

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         You will die in the river, they say, and we smile. So do the salmon; they know
  when to go home. If we have windows, we will roll
them down. If we have drums, or chests and fists, we will be noisemakers. If we do not—

         we will find another way.              This is our attempt—our big-hearted demolition
         of the full-body casts                    that, now shed, may be shattered and spread
         to make bedrock for beaches                    and soft pillowed ground

                                                                                      for the feet of two people
                                                                                      to walk and run on.

Road to Damascus

On the drive back from Kentucky,
a couple dozen insect carcasses
are caught between the sharp lips
of my Jeep’s cracked windshield.

Mica wings flap at eighty miles an hour
and unable to lift. There are approximately
nine hundred other spatters spread across the glass
and no two are the same: green and goldenrod;

the strange, hanging red of a nocturnal eye;
ogling faces like you find when you squint
at the moon. They explode so quietly.
Some will astonish you in their symmetry—

more blossom than birdshit, like the insect
calculated the whole angle of approach, intending
to paint a starry forget-me-not. It is difficult
to tell where one gut starts and ends, and the road

grows hard to see. I pull out the squeegee
at the Conoco, dripping with greasy suds,
thick and blue as a urinal cake. I can’t
bring myself to erase them, this being

the one memorial for the hundreds of things
I cannot name. I drive more slowly
the rest of the way in the nearing dark,
and leave the great stain there for days,

drying into crust, blinking through
the afternoons until I’m caught
inside the throat of an August downpour,
twisting my wipers on by instinct—

the caked shapes soften and begin
to fall like scales from my eyes
with the rain calling down to me by name
and proclaiming forthwith, enough is enough.

Kessler Koi Pond

Lavaca County, Texas

There was no thought of China’s Yellow River
when my mother, and my father with her,
unpooled a school of fry into the trough.
Nor had they maps of myths to tie the oft-

inscripted drama of that cousin-
fish—who fought the fall’s wet bludgeon
to its top, then looking down on tumbling gallons,
grew gill-lungs and sprung wings of a dragon.

My parents only wanted to depose
the algal matts that greened and choked the flow
of water for the cattle. And it worked—
tens of carp-lips chewed and swallow-slurped

the scummy bloom. The pool grew translucent.
Cow tongues lapped their scaled and undulant
reflections into full-flown fins, and then,
one by one, they left the trough abandoned.

Where did they go, the fish that labored long
for us? We didn’t know, until the yawn
of a golden eagle bid us higher,
her eye on which last life she’d next lift skyward.

Author Portrait

Josh Dugat is a former high school chemistry teacher, park ranger, and firefighter. His poems can be found in The Literary Review, The Ocotillo Review, and Pinyon. A native Texan, Josh now sculpts, gardens, and two-steps in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with his wife, Nicole, and son, August.