The book ends with a joyous, fully embodied Whitmanesque crow.

Whale Fall & Black Sage: Poems of the Journey

When a whale dies, it becomes whale fall. Its body, an immense ecosystem, sinks slowly to the ocean floor. For years, sometimes, the vast world sinks. The ecosystem changes. Visitors come and go.

First come the ratfish, hagfish and sharks who smell flesh and swim in to feed. When it reaches bottom, worms, crustaceans and mollusks move in to consume what is left, until in the end there are only bones.

Bacteria begin breaking down lipids inside the bones, generating sulfur. New bacteria move in. The whale has left our upper world of light-sourced life and has become a sulfur-based world like that of deep water lava flows.

Whale Fall is also an imaginary universe, an inner world of transformation. Its infinite layers of meaning, its real and imaginary visitors, its darkness and its light, make up the universe of these poems.

In Whale Fall & Black Sage, the natural world of Here Along Cazenovia Creek has deepened and become transformative. The book ends with a joyous, fully embodied Whitmanesque crow.

Two poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize, “Unleaving” and “Lightness, High Desert”! See Press Release.

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Whale Fall & Black Sage traces the path into our deepest territory, that realm in which there is no separation between darkness and light, between utter undoing and coming into being. These poems are “full of all the voices she can carry” and they hold together both the stern lesson of whale fall, “Go down. / Now you must love that too,” and the crow-companion’s glinting “song of being alive and fine to see.” Their journey is the heroine’s journey, sacred, dark and shining.
Diane Gilliam
Author, Kettle Bottom, Dreadful Wind & Rain
Storyteller, mythmaker and muse, Ruth Thompson uses daring diction and uninhibited voice to create this seamlessly blended two-part world of death, danger, magic and jubilation. What a rich and original metaphor is the re-purposed whale body. What an exuberant song is the woman rising from the imperfect body of self and world. In this bright, witty, and fierce collection, we join the poet as she discovers and celebrates what it means to be alive.
Barbara Rockman
Author, Sting and Nest, winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award
Wise poems that thread and weave through a mythic mapping of the self. The poems shape a body that travels through light and dark, hunger and nourishment, in order to save the self against isolation and desolation. These poems are, ultimately, about renewal, about following a songline “of being alive and fine to see” in order to find our way home.
Maura MacNeil
Author, Lost Houses, A History of Water
Ruth Thompson’s very beautiful poems about Ruths and Whales and Bears and even Minotaurs are prayers we all need, prayers she gives us here in all she sees. And we thank her.
Esther Cohen
Author, Breakfast With Allen Ginsberg