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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 14: August 2022
Poem: 186 words
By Penelope Moffet


Slowly rising 
up and up 
as if the waves 
had formed a fist 
beneath me, 
and all I could see 
was flesh 
gray as the hair on my head 
but mottled with barnacles. 

Smooth like 
a glass-walled elevator 
fish had decayed in 
overnight—the creature’s 
breath that bad, 
its rise that easy. 
It must have turned, 
aligned itself 
to lift me 
on my board 
facing the direction 
the whole gray world 
was heading. 
The air had never 
seemed so clear. 
Sheen of light 
off slate and pearl. 

Nothing you can do 
when something that immense 
decides to take you 
or to let you go. 
A few huge breaths 
before it sank, set me 
softly on the sea. 
Below my legs 
expanse of whale 
submerging. Last, 
the vortex of its tail. 

It could have killed 
or maimed me 
but it let me live. 
Sometimes I think 
I was a giant’s plaything, 
sometimes that it felt 
my ocean-loving 
thoughts, offered a gift 
I couldn’t ask for or refuse. 
Sometimes I rise up 
from deep sleep, 
glimpse the massive flukes 
before it dives, 
leaves me whirling. 


Penelope Moffet
Issue 14, August 2022

is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Cauldron of Hisses (Arroyo Seco Press, 2022). Her poems have been published in Gleam, One, Natural Bridge, Permafrost, Pearl, The Rise Up Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Verse-Virtual, Gyroscope, and other literary journals. She lives in Southern California.

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