GD and the narwhal

This piece was written during Rachael Hale’s writing workshop at the Rochester literature festival. We were asked to select one of the museums artifacts and write a response to it. I chose a 19th century marine ivory walking stick, carved from narwhal tusk, one carved with the initials G.D.

Who were you GD?

Your name spirals from the

top of the Turks’ head, twined

sensuously into the narwhal’s tooth

with such regular precision;

each knot tightly wound before

the finish, 3 inches from the ground.

She’s aged well, for all her travels,

how far did she take you? Once she’d

swum between the icy depths

between arctic coastal waters, did the

dark swills clogging the Medway

confuse her?


Were you sure of who you were, GD?

The man about town, hand

in hand with the narwhal, chasing that

unicorn dream of respectability.

In the wild, male bulls bellow and

charge. Blood flows, the damage done;


The smarter animal

displays his teeth; a

good show nudges confrontation

to a dance.

Signposted, every one can

find their place. Oil

floats above water, if

the water stays very still.