Whales and Protocols

“What is that?”
a boy, two seats over
echoes my thoughts
“I’ve been wondering that too!”
I blurt, disregarding social protocols.

What are the protocols for people
herded onto a ferry, headed across
open water, seated in close proximity
to neighbours?

“A whale?”
his mother asks, obviously as eager
as I to catch sight of one.

“Not whale behaviour, really –
it hasn’t submerged.”

“Sometimes they roll on the surface.”

I’m not an expert on whales, but doubt it.

“It’s a boat,” the father declares
bursting our bubbles.

A curtain draws between us –
they return to their lunch
and talk of things unrelated to whales.


(Today’s challenge is to incorporate dialogue into our poetry.)

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

8 thoughts on “Whales and Protocols”

  1. my son once said to another little boy on a ferry: do you like nature? – in a rather plummy posh voice that made us burst out laughing. He had a pack of nature-themed Top Trump cards and was wondering if the other boy wanted to play. We still tease him about it 🙂

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  2. “It’s a boat.” THIS is how our childlike sense of curiosity and wonder gets squashed. Good for you for encouraging the child to imagine other possibilities, no matter how unlikely or remote.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like this poem very much. I , too, have wondered about the strange social protocols that keep us from conversing with strangers. Seems the world might be so much better if we disregarded them more often.

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