Constructive Rest + Annie Finch

Awareness of your  breath is one way to learn about your body and nourish it through gentle attention. Watching animals is another way. A house cat or dog moves in rhythm with its own breath and  slows its breath into deep relaxation. You can sense how a songbird pauses its music to listen, and pauses again before lifting off in flight. In constructive rest, notice your breath…then let breathing happen. This poem offers a model of compassionate witness as the speaker follows a whale with  eyes and imagination. (A delightful book about human-whale interactions  is Grayson by the swimmer Lynne Cox.)

Watching the Whale


A hard gray wave, her fin, walks out on the water

that thickens to open and then parts open, around her.


Measured by her delved water, I follow her fill

into and out of green light in the depth she has spun


through the twenty-six fathoms of her silent orison,

then sink with her till she rises, lulled with the krill.


Beads of salt spray stop me, like metal crying.

Her cupped face breathes its sprouts, like a jewel-wet prong.


In a cormorant’s barnacle path, I trail her, spun

down through my life in the making of her difference,


fixing my mouth, with the offerings of silence,

on her dark whale-road where all green partings run,


where ocean’s hidden bodies twist fathoms around her,

making her green-fed hunger grow fertile as water.


Annie Finch

Note: Poem previously published in Spells: New and Selected Poems, by Annie Finch (Wesleyan University Press, 2013); used by permission of the poet

Pair with: constructive rest

Speak: Allow the poem’s rhymes to create rhythm in your voice.

Consider: Resting and breathing can conjure a feeling of being along the ocean’s shore.

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