Today's poem is by James Davis May

"A Culture"

That's what the voiceover calls the family of orcas,
  because over generations, through language and imitation,
    they have preserved their methods for hunting stingrays.

Approaching its prey, the orca will turn upside down,
  clasp the ray in its teeth and then right itself so the
    ray is upside down, which triggers some evolutionary typo

that floods the ray's brain with serotonin, rendering it
  completely calm before the orca leisurely halves the body.
    It was the sort of image any book would lose to,

no less the sentence I was reading that declaimed art
  must be useful
. After commercials, another clip, this one
    of a mother protecting her pup by using the same technique

on a great white. Murky shadows in frothing water,
  noises from circling birds and bewildered tourists on boats.
    For fifteen minutes she held the shark belly-up

to the surface so water no longer rushed across the gills.
  A slow suffocation, then flakes of masticated tissue,
    the nutrient-rich liver consumed, and the body left for the gulls.

The book on the table for the night, Chelsea and I
  went to dinner where I failed to make interesting or plausible
    my idea about the orcas—how their language works

like those ancient and useful mnemonic poems about farming
  and laws. The end of writing, Johnson said, is to instruct;
    the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing

We had no idea what to order. Then our French waiter
  repeated Chelsea's question: "What is the duck stuffed with?
    Madame, the duck is stuffed with more duck."

Copyright © 2016 James Davis May All rights reserved
from Unquiet Things
Louisiana State University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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