Moving to a New Classroom

Orca diving out of the water

That slick envelope 
of developed film 
is tumbled in a storage closet 
next to old seating charts 
and a stale granola bar in foil.

In one of the frames, 
faces are locked 
in astonishment. 
Having sighted a Killer Whale, 
Neah Bay June 2004 

is written on the back of the photograph
in the tender filigree of eighth-grade cursive.

My first year teaching,
on a field-trip nature hike,
I pointed down
between two cedar-spiked sea stacks.
An orca’s black-and-white silhouette 
sashayed across the waves, 
looking buoyant and playful
as a toddler in bathwater.

Whale-skin erudition;
mathematical wonder 
of the united gaze.
Juvenile orca 
floating under Cape Flattery.

Laura Da’ is a poet and public schoolteacher. A lifetime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Da’ studied creative writing at the University of Washington and the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her first book, Tributaries, won the American Book Award.