Baleen Cage *Runner up for The Muriel Avellaneda Prize for Young Writers*

by Anna Sheppard

Some boys at school tell me
   sound waves move faster
under water, but I know firsthand

that when blue whales sing,
   it sounds like God is pouring molasses

down their vocal chords, that even
   when the syrup fills their lungs,
their slow moans sound like more.

I used to think they had to have known
   their limits to keep from throwing

their tombstone skin into aquarium glass
   clear enough to be invisible,
but I know now that it must have been an accident

of fate or something else
   I don’t believe in. I’ve seen the documentaries

where whales cross oceans with schools of fish
   hidden under the umbrella of their stomachs, read articles
about the mother whale who’s lost her purpose

because her calf has grown too large
   for her to protect. If only I could tell them

that just because their bones
   are large enough to hold a home,
it doesn’t mean they have to become one. 

Author Biography: Anna Sheppard is from the low country of South Carolina.
She currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where she studies creative writing
at the Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. She enjoys Fleetwood Mac
and talking too much about her twin sister.

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