Whale Dad

yellow coffee-teeth, pepper beard:

hasn’t shaved in a week. this man

lives in a twin bed with

only fleeting dreams to dread.

he needs white noise to sleep: whale songs.

the elevator, old and needing repair,

makes the same sounds.

hearing them on his way,

he falls to sleeping and riding all day.

no one wakes him;

the drunk, they think, that drunk.

he goes to every floor,

staying in his sleeping corner,

til the depth of the night,

when everyone is home, except those few,

and the whales are quiet.

he wakes and walks out tiredly

not into his apartment, where he sleeps

on the tiled kitchen floor.

it’s nice and cool.


i sorried myself all my way home.

cats followed around me and grew into

a pack. i climbed the escape

into my window and they

piled over themselves to get up and through.

my ragged brown couch held

a heavy rest for me; i fell

slow into the lack of pillows,

into the springs and let the cats lay

on all around me. ‘it will be

like this,’ i said, ‘just all of

us, here and waiting.’

the couch got sudden hot; we

spread to the corners of the room, watching

it burn into itself. the ceiling

let its rain fall, the cats

left me for the children calling below.

on the old sidewalk, tired kids

brought their cats home.


where i cast my patience, i must, i

find, list the fools aloud, but when instead

i choose in patience to cast the fool myself,

some androgyny dissipates my predilection

to understand my pain and plight as narrative,

for when i undress my body from my soul, my mind

falls pale into an ocean which doesn’t believe

in land; there is no identity to pain,

pain is like joy, and joy is like the ocean;

so when again i find in isolate’s conception

the stalwart confusion that there is a life which should be lived,

i undress my soul again and drip long sugar

vaguely on my mind to sweeten breath’s significance,

so that i may see again the fool i am

to think that I am any character at all,

so when i look upon the ocean of the world,

i do not waste my bitter patience on foolish lists;

patiently, i see no fools at all.

Feston Altus is an Iowa City based novelist and poet, whose work has been published in East Jasmine Review, Down in the Dirt MagazineEunoia Review, as well as Crashtest magazine. Feston Altus is an undergraduate studying creative writing at the University of Iowa.

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