Kaikoura, 1844


She plants daisies in a corner plotted out with bones 
pulled from the ribcage of a sperm whale. 

Her favourite thing hangs by the front door, 
a string of whale’s teeth polished wonderfully bright. 
Her father brought them home for her eighth birthday 

which was a particularly good day 
for whaling. A pod of dolphin-eaters chased 
a humpback calf, breaking its jaw quite rapidly. 
They are baby’s teeth, he said, that’s why they are so 
white, just like yours. 

When whales forget their maps, they strand. The first time 
she thought they were rocks but the funny shapes spat air, 
little cloud prints floating just above. By tea-time they had died. 
The whole place smelled like sea-monster, said her mother. 
Their black skin had white patches where big eyes ought to be. 

Her father always says a whale’s tail can knock you 
right out of your boat. The most dangerous part is just as 
the harpoon goes in — you can see the white of the eye, 
then blood, whale-groans, big waves. So it’s very 
important, he says, not to scare the whale suddenly. 
She wonders how you kill a whale without 
scaring it suddenly, and if down there 
on the beach 
is the least sudden place to die. 



Nina Powles is a student from Wellington. Her poems have appeared in Salient and Sweet Mammalian. Her first poetry chapbook, Girls of the Drift, is about real and fictional women of New Zealand history and will be published by Seraph Press in December 2014.