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On Expertise

Elizabeth Bradfield

Adding it up, it seems I've lectured to at least six
thousand people—day upon day upon day in season—
and still I know nothing about whales. How do they
come together and then part? What does the force
of water against their rorqual pleats feel like

when they lunge up through a ball of bait? Like running full out
to the end of a leash? Like a blast in mouth
from a service station air hose? I know
I would gladly stand again and repeat my facts
of length, weight, and anatomy. I'd pay again

the price of repetition, of showmaking
in order to find them each day, if we can,
in the bay      watch      listen      smell
shearwaters guttering in their froth.

I know nothing—but what could I ever know,
no matter the abstracts and whalers' logs.
What other than my own unscientific surge
at the latin in my mouth, the epic chronology,

the anecdotes, the recognized flukes, the flex
of pectorals as they fall to slap the water, megaptera
—if I tasted you, if I swam your migration,
if I tuned my ear to your song, even then.

Elizabeth Bradfield

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