‘Whale’ by Gordon Gibson


Winter: windless, and a morning frost
Yielded, softening in the southern sun.
Kaikoura was still and bright, and the air carried
The sweet scent of the glass-green ocean.
We sailed in a small craft, stopping
Where, we were told, the shelving shore
Pitched precipice-like to dark depths,
And we waited. No waves stirred the surface.
Behind us the barren hills rose, pink
And grey from the beach. A diesel locomotive,
Dwarfed by distance, crept southward.
Nothing remarkable, save for a solitary albatross,
Coasting, slow over the smooth water.
Then, a clamour of gulls, orbiting
Where the sea was breached, called out
To look, look at the immensity, the wondrous
Bulk, rising with sounding exhalation,
Shattering the stillness, in a mist and grey spray
That drifted over us: a sudden waft
Of krill, and the odour of profoundest depths,
And the scent of the stupendous creature itself.
It passed us slowly, as if granting us a view
Of the scars and barnacles on its stone-dark skin,
And smoothly sank, with a final flourish of flukes,
Leaving a ring of hissing foam,
Leaving us awed, breath-taken, and astonished.
(published in New Writing Scotland vol.29, The Flight of the Turtle, July 2011)
Gordon Gibson lives and works in Troon, on the coast of south-west Scotland. He has been writing full-time since retiring from university teaching in 2010. His prose and poetry have appeared in a number of print and on-line publications in Britain and USA.