V. A. BETTENCOURT
★ ★ ★ ★
Image by Gabriel Dizzi
Waltz With a Whale Shark
I once waltzed with a whale shark who
jolted me awake as she rose from the deep.
She wasn’t trying to mesmerize me.
She had ample acolytes: schools of
smaller fish hung around her, some
hitched a ride on her back, others
coasted under her gargantuan white belly
while she sailed majestically, gliding through
ocean currents as an expert cellist coaxes
harmony from strings. Her opal gray skin was
bespeckled with countless lucent dots, as
stellar nebulae adorn deep space. Her gentle offset eyes,
tiny against her vastness, spiraled inward. I was
entranced as she curled her enormous flat mouth
into an oval petal to filter plankton. I swam
against the current with all my might, tracked
her splendor with teeny thrashing legs,
basked in the sheer wonder of
a fleeting moment
in her wake, as
I’ve watched you for many moons.
The way you track others,
sink your teeth in and shake.
They risk their lives on high wires to dodge you.
Squirrels, possums, even crows scurry
as you leap up fences like a fiendish frog.
You snatched me three winters ago.
Canine marks scar my rump.
I startle at the sound of claws
You patrol the plot of garden it encloses
as if it should be roamed by you alone.
Now I’m prepared. I spot you
one thousand heartbeats
before you pass the grassy patch.
Narrow my eyes into slits, lock you in.
Lift onto my tiptoes, arch my back
until my belly floats above my head.
My fur stands on ends,
spikes primed for fight.
I pounce. Your flesh clears my claws
by the width of a spider’s silk.
Your towering primate protects you
and you escape. This time.
I will lunge like lightning
mangle your muzzle
until you submit
to my feline ferocity.
Just you wait.
V. A. Bettencourt is a Brazilian-American poet and fiction writer whose work, which is inspired by our wondrous natural world and variegated human emotions, has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry and Amethyst Review.