The Fourth River

Tributaries: “We are the Ocean”

By on September 20, 2017

By Urvashi Bahuguna


A whale fall is the carcass of a whale that has fallen to the ocean floor,
& that sometimes creates complex, localized ecosystems supporting deep sea life.​


We have learned to hold the drift ​
in our jaws, seaweed ​breathing

from a blowhole. We are the ocean
trying one​ hand at perpetuity.

Though we feel them reaching for
the place, ​flashlights rarely locate us,

a slight warmness percolating after
the fact. We have made a shelter

out of a shape. The men low
on oxygen swim down and marvel

at a sleeper shark exiting
a chest. We are reminded of a story:

a ship after a pod of minke whales,
driving them close, too close to

​shore. The men don’t resist running hands
along tails that have lost a sharpness.

​A​ squat lobster just startled them. We worry
they will not stay afraid very long.



Urvashi Bahuguna is a poet from India whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Nervous Breakdown, Barely South Review, Kitaab, Jaggery, The Four Quarters Magazine and elsewhere. She was recently shortlisted for the Beverly Prize and the Windword Poetry Prize. She has a poetry pamphlet forthcoming from Eyewear Books (UK). She is currently a Writer-in-Residence at PartlyPurple, Bangalore (India).