Eye Contact

Photo by Linda Tanner
Photo by Linda Tanner


Smile at him,
(he smiles back) curious youngster
sidling up to my boat, lean
closer to ocean,
too far to place
a hand on the slippery grey surface

but as we look right into the eye
of the other, and I consider, I am
making eye contact with a whale,
I know how that wet flank feels, know
what that grey whale thinks
of the air above.

Before, I knew so little, bobbing
in this boat, floundering on land,
of his salty green ballroom,
of his slippery dolphin sisters, of shimmying fish,
of his kelp-en calypso—

he transports me to new knowing,
through his eye, —a globe—a planet a-spin
in its wet atmosphere—, through looking. I see his brain.
We exchange life stories. He keeps
some secrets.

I love him: the young son, straying
not too far from mother—there she is,
smarter, larger, farther from bipeds.
We bob in black water. She allows
her son to study strangers, he slides
with us, his length almost matches our boat’s
—glides on his side, one wing up,
one, as keel; one eye fixed
on mysteries above.

In the stern, other folk laugh
at frolicking teenagers spy-hopping,
at grand fluke splashes.
If I summon them, he will leave—I
have my time to gaze
at the grey whale son,
he, into the eye of the silent woman
as he arcs slowly past,
his eye locked with mine,
from surfacing to sinking,
his round planet eye.
Does he sense my pleasure?
Feel his welcome? I am glad to know him.

Worlds unite, intersect—
he views the air world—I view water,
we meet
in the same way


Of the air above—I read
her brain. She tells me
her life stories. She keeps
some secrets.

Does she know how good
the ocean is? Does she wish
to come with me? My eye, size
of her brain, size of her thinking head,
knows high ripples, rings
of sky mixed with ochre alaria. I smile.
I think she smiles back.

When I am old, three hairs on my whale chin,
I will remember crossing above ripples
to stare at the mother without a fluke,
our looking from wet, from dry, meeting
on the gazeline.


he’s gone, returns
to massive mother, —
my baby, my little boy,
own infant, at home,

long for the contact


a new religion
about baby grey whales,
seeing the other through silent gazing,
until boats bob away

anew, religion brings quiet smiles, high humming
about loving the mother and her child,
meeting, worlds,
planets brimming

Also about a bird
recognizing shelter—allowing
person touch, of tiniest smooth feathers
on her skin,  the tiny heart
of a hummingbird—pounding
warm on her palm, eye contact
with the tiny shining bead—

Carry in a cupped hand, the hummingbird
around the sliding glass pane,
back to its outdoors—

Hold the new religion close to heart


She lies beached, abed,
her brain has lost track of clocks
and recent thoughts, names
of her children and grandchildren
blend as beloved young,
she practices her religion, bends knees
against sheets and blankets,
opens fingers, plunges oceanward

she knew the young whale was smiling,
knew the hummingbird trusted her

Categories Poetry

Pamela Hobart Carter loves Seattle as much for its water and mountains as for its bustle and creativity. She explores the Emerald City daily while walking her dog. Carter used to be a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches on the side.

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