Full size model of a Blue Whale heart, Te Papa Museum
The boy enters the whale heart. He finds his way.
His hands slide down the peachy aorta, his body
swallowed into the central chamber. My face pushes
after him because it’s just fibre and glass, and he’s
my first child, on his knees, his back to me. His hands
perform their work of play along a smooth ridge of cartilage
like a cardiac surgeon. Interpretations of the “whale” fall
into three categories: The whale is real and my son
lives in her heart. Or the whale is the dream
I have for my son. Or the whale is an allegory
that should not be taken to heart. Some things take time
to understand. Last time we visited my grandmother
I knew she would die before I saw her again.
She’d been having regular blood transfusions—
pulsing circles of bright red tubing—which helped
for a few weeks before another fall, after which she’d rest
one cheek on the carpet. My son sat on her lap and she played
at biting his fingers, her grey dentures clacking together,
and he squealed and pointed, and then pointed to the fireplace,
and then pointed to the window where a dried floral arrangement had sat
for twenty years. Everything was there for him.
She took his pointing finger between the soft pads of her lips.
How do you enter the biggest heart? Do you say
that it weighs up to fifteen hundred pounds? The largest heart
is like a compacted Volvo! Maybe you must imagine it beating
inside you? Maybe you find it one quiet morning,
your son asleep, his cheeks flaring the colour of summer plums.