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Two Poems
Injection Molding / Whale Fall

In Shenzhen. The plastic injection molding machine considers itself, with reference to the way whales sink when they die in the ocean.

No tool to tell you

how the whale sinks down.

I become renewable,

without loss,

hoping to stop in time.


Each day the new
protagonist is here

in the factory. Billiard balls
in hot plastic. Molded parts asking

how do I sink in the sea?
can you show me?


I ignore this. Still wondering

            how does the whale fall––

            the original whale––

            his great bones crushing down…


One whale body
will equal 2,000 springtimes


through more than an instant.

Muscles tip out
from spine––parachute

to the deep sea floor––


where no tool

may register how his death
spread in the dark.

How it multiplied
where fathoms loosen,

joints unfolding.


I stretch into
a shape. Do as I’m told

in plastics. Each mold

is a house
is an ocean but

only now do I know
his death was never some renewable

substance. The whale sank away––

out of contact,

and what they wanted me for

was to make more stuffs,
billiard balls,


that would bounce


People invented
the paper bag. Invented
glass bottle factories. I tried

to measure my senses.

But there was only the sea
of my sinking: flushed

outflow. Products
marked by ejector pins––

stamps remembering the mold

pressed off after plastic pellets

melted in heat,



Am still restricted. Smell

traducing these stairs, hot

force in the vents. I house

and unhouse––not knowing

what they send down

and out through me.


I am especially spread out

among 600,000 whales sinking now

across the ocean. They wanted

some renewable substance.

And no tool ready

to make more remembering.


Am alive

in great boxes that crush

down through the mammal.

Stuck inside

            as an anecdote
            the bells and whistles
            whole greenhouses     
            with watering can, plastic plates and cups––
            all of it falling, all of it the dead

who enters the ocean



Still sketch a shape

sometimes. Become that shape, repeating.

What they began to invent

with ivory imaginations. Colonial characters

bound up on small

pages. Production which

is not just some marine snow

releasing its shadow.


Take perspective
and turn it.

The thinking body is

materials. Potential energy.

To have an emotion.

And wasn’t I the whale



If springtime

is a disgrace, I am still


through all the senses––how

the parachute escapes

off the whale––its muscle––and

I am angry, turbulent

crossing unusual smells

after ejector pins rock me

from the surface––I


from the mold––an anecdote

is forming around

myself. a house. the gate

built without any true

sense of the mammal or

smell of sea––when after all

what people wanted was

the game to go on

forever, the billiard balls

to bounce into pockets––this

is not an essay it is not

efficient, sinking

like a gift––then what

can come up to me, to my side

down here, in little clicks

and vibrations––lacerations, potential

of hope­––when smells move outward

creatures sense this

springtime arriving

where I stretch

into the story

of seen things. a staircase

still passing downwards­––

these marks my measure,

gate of ejector pins,

a witness––here

where the ocean holds

this bland mark


(Concerning the Progress of the Ship KHIAN SEA)[1]


What was the Northwest Incinerator,

            I am. Ash-only piles:

            heavy metals mobilized—

            dropped as turbidity into waters

            and easily brought airborne—


I know that ashes
are unwanted
but I want them—I feel

men cleaning me,
taking up more
to make into value

but Wayne, why
are they driving
away evidence, soft

sponging memory
pulled out, burned off
the grid—I need

to keep what we
recovered, emitted,
expelled—hold it on site

in words that name

my 14,000 tons

of weight—their taking it



My ash sailed out
on a contract—

they changed the boat’s
name, rechristened
its cargo—

for two years
they’ve carried the ash
they tip

            4,000 tons

            onto the beach
            near Gonaïves—



catches the air—

the locals say it’s killing

their goats—


So I linger, I pass

no longer
large or odiferous—

sent on over the ocean—

It has to do with
compliance: ash

stretching out
of perjury
and down under water

            where what’s burned
            spreads in materials
            not yet inert

and the words


            one crewmember
            begs on the beach:

            he says “no danger”

            to a camera

            he begs
            by eating ash—


Night advanced—

no one sees

where I spread—

men move

with my corpse, unhoused

and this extends up
out of it—what emerges

in wild flowers, in small
pine trees—

this is where I stoop

this is where I stoop

before or after

when ash drops down—opens

under the foil

of the ocean

[1] When the ship Khian Sea departed from the port of Philadelphia in 1986 it carried over 14,000 tons of solid ash waste from a local facility. This ash––the product of the Northwest Incinerator––was originally bound for a dump site in the Bahamas. Rumors of the ash’s toxicity spread, however, and the Khian Sea was turned away from the Bahamas and, subsequently, from 11 other countries. Most of the ash was dumped along the ship’s route through the ocean.

Kate Monaghan lives in New York and Oaxaca. She holds a PhD in classical Chinese literature and her writing has appeared in the American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Yale Review, and elsewhere.