Sara Ryan
I Have Found the Golden Whales


I have walked through California like a ghost.
           I have left behind golden clasps of earrings,

beach chairs, and chipped shells. polished rocks.
           opalescent smoothness crusted with salt.

yes, I have learned about what sand
           is made of. quartz and weather and tumbled glass.

I have met horses in the thirsty desert. I have learned fog
           and density and darkness and the marine layer.


I have walked the Golden Gate Bridge with my father
           and we felt that summer gloom. bloom. trapped

air settling over the bridge. cars rushing through the stratus
           tunnel. I couldn't bring myself to tell him

what I thought of the height. vibrating in my throat—
           the vertigo stillness. bones of the bridge stretching

into the sky like pillars of blood. under the sun, islands glowed
           like hills of sand. like the backs of golden whales.


years later, down that strange coast: I watched a rocket launch
           into the night above the city. it glowed like a comet,

like a star unleashed from the black. I will never name this place
           home—the ocean or what fell from the sky.

I can only name the featureless gray: following my father
           across a bridge. our bodies—hazy in the deep red.

the bridge casts a shadow—a translucent assurance.
           it pushes us across: the haunting laid across the sea.

Sara Ryan is the author of the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). She was the winner of the 2018 Grist Pro Forma Contest, and her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, DIAGRAM, Booth, Prairie Schooner, Thrush Poetry Journal and others. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Texas Tech University.