White-sided Dolphins

When there was no doubt,
no mistaking for water-glint
their dorsal fins’
urgent cut and dive

we grabbed cameras, threw ourselves
flat on the fore-deck. Then,
just for a short time
we travelled as one

loose formation: the muscular
wingers, mothers-with-young,
old scarred outriders
all breached alongside,

took it in turn
to swoon up through our pressure-wave,
careen and appraise us
with a speculative eye

till they’d seen enough,
when true to their own
inner oceanic maps, the animals
veered off from us, north by northwest.

from The Tree House (Picador, 2004), Kathleen Jamie 2004, used by permission of the author and Macmillan Publishers.

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