Red Sea Whale

Nadia Arioli

My son has a mouth
like the Red Sea, parting

in two perfect halves, the gums
sprays of spit over them.

Oooh ooh ooh, he cries,
teething. A small nub on

the lower left, white, arching,
a whale. I had wondered

as a child about the marine
life when God commanded Moses

to part the sea. Small of the shallows,
big of the deeps, all made vertical,

a parfait of salt and wild. I thought
this the better sort of love

than what God showed Moses.
And why shouldn’t God have a special fondness

for whales? Both ponderous and just
under the surface of things? The

weightlessness of not being given
a choice, no burning bush, no being

left outside the promised land.
Only up, up, up, towards the divine,

holy tooth, bursting through skin.
My son is growing out not up, and

his Red Sea has wails of a different
sort. I hold him until he sleeps.

There is no way to explain God to him,
why his bones must break through his own body.

And would I, if I could? I’ve spent too
much time in the deep. I had forgotten

until now what happens
when God says Up, up, up.

Nadia Arioli is the co-founder and editor in chief of Thimble Literary Magazine. A four-time nominee for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee, their recent publications include Penn Review, Hunger Mountain, Cider Press Review, Permafrost, Kissing Dynamite, Heavy Feather Review, and San Pedro River Review. They have chapbooks from Cringe-Worthy Poetry Collective, Dancing Girl Press, and Spartan, and a full-length from Luchador.