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Walrus at the bar by Merie Kirby

He hooks a flipper around the bottle of Harp and pulls it in closer to his wrinkled chest. He leans up against the bar, slumps, really, shoulders hunched and rounded. It’s dark in the bar, clouded by smoke and the faint trace of motor oil and diesel fumes. I don’t know, he says, speech slurred by beer and tusks, eyes nearly lost in wrinkles. If the sea ice goes there’s nothing left for me in this town. My family’s been hauling out on that sea ice as far back as anyone knows. I’ve passed up other opportunities, I’ve held out against buy outs and promises. I’ve got nowhere else to turn now. All of us. Bridges burned, man. You know how it is here - too many in one spot, overcrowded. I worry about the kids, about tramplings and shortages. He blows out air beneath his whiskers. Look here, he says, turns slightly, showing me his back, the rakings of scars. I’ve fought some battles, he says, I’ve paid my dues. He slaps his sides. I’m not done yet. I’ve still got years and years in me. They say there’s a super moon out tonight, but it’s doing me no good. 35,000 of us all in the same place. He takes a long drink, shoves the empty bottle back. I’m going out to have a look at that damn moon. Take a leak, stretch the old flippers, breathe the fresh air while I can.


Merie Kirby grew up in California and now lives in North Dakota. She teaches at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of two chapbooks, The Dog Runs On and The Thumbelina Poems. You can find her online at


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