Before beaching
The stench came before we beached the boat along the sandy rim of the island. Waves of it thick with the tang of black salt, rotting onion, sweet scallops cooked in wine, fish blood. My stomach turned to water, my body ebbing and flooding up and down the beach. Héctor, the whale biologist, began his work with a smile of quiet amusement, but hours later I could still conjure the odor, still feel it move my core.

Héctor’s measurements
Body: 22 meters
Tail: 4 meters
Fin: 3 meters
Penis: 2.5 meters

Its body in the flesh
Bloated and shining: pink and white blubber exposed by the gulls and a thin black blanket of skin peeling back from its body in strips. A fin keeled skyward. The entire framework of its throat accordioned out like an unplanked ship. I touched the coarse bristles of its baleen and felt the texture of keratin bound up somewhere between hair and nail. Blood dripped into the shallows, making red rivers in the ocean. Bubbles of air moved beneath its skin. I thought about the limits of flesh.

The letter “I”
For a long time, the only word I can think of is immensity. People think I must be good at games like Scattergories because I’m a writer, but as soon as the timer flips the only word I can think of is immensity. Parts of the body: immensity. Things at the beach: immensity. Things that grow: immensity. Things you dream about: immensity.

Subirse el muerto
I don’t write about it for a year. Instead, I read that in Mexico, sleep paralysis is called “Subirse el Muerto,” which roughly translates to “a dead body climbed on top of me.” A ghostly oppression. A pressing spirit. Pisadeira with the long fingernails. Across the world, people wake to the unmovable sensation of an unknown being holding them down.

What I know about blue whales
They are the largest animal on earth and consume tiny creatures in enormous quantities. They are at home in every ocean except the Arctic and although the fact of their migrations are known, their movements remain largely mysterious. They tend to travel alone or in pairs but can hear one another from up to a thousand miles away. They live as long as we do, usually between 80 and 90 years. This knowledge is layered in the waxlike plugs deep within their ears.

What Héctor knows about blue whales
Héctor knows the whales as individuals, by the patterns of nicks and scars on their fins. Long has he tracked and monitored whales in the Gulf of California as they feed and calve and nurse. Most winters he sees blue whales, but fewer in recent years. He doesn’t know where the whales have gone, but he knows they move in seasonal migrations, driven by conflict, sex or krill. He is working to understand the patterns of what they follow and what they flee.

We take its measurements, photograph its parts. From its jaw, Héctor peels a sample of skin. Cuts baleen from its mouth. My body is in waves. The urge to turn from this great unspooling overtakes me. I can’t look away. I want to say its name, but the letter I gets caught in my throat.

Before beaching
The boat slowed as we approached it, its body growing larger and larger until I could feel the gravity of it before my senses could make sense of it, making me know I would try to write it, try to catch the feeling in my chest that grew with it, knowing, even before I got to it, that to write its dimensions would do nothing to resurrect its weight.

All the Parts of Things

Another dermatologist, his voice a baritone of confidence, a foghorn, a steady hand, said, “We will be sure to treat this very aggressively. Because it’s the worst thing that can happen to a pretty young woman, her hair falling out.”

I stared at him for a beat too long, my thin brown hair knotting like brows.

“Well, you know,” he grinned and a hand fluttered in front of his face, a butterfly of bashfulness. “One of the worst things.”

Fossil Record of a Drowning Carp

I wonder if they will call me moon goddess; if I will / chisel away a past life with carving knives / and grieving.