shot glass
"... brevity is the soul of wit ..."
- William Shakespeare


Holly Painter is an MFA graduate of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has two forthcoming books of poetry: Excerpts From a Natural History (Night Bomb Press) and Wanderlust (Kekeno Independent Press). Spermaceti, Seepage, and Slacks come from her project Awkwords, a collection of sonnets about awkward words. Holly lives in Singapore with her partner and writes poetry for hire at

Holly Painter

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In Moby Dick, the Pequod was after
spermaceti, a precious whale product,
and I can remember the riotous laughter
when we read that passage in class. Our instructor

called on one of the boys, who clearly
hadn't done the reading, or he would've
refused to read it out loud. He nearly
choked when he reached that paragraph of

Chapter 94 in which the sperm-squeezers
spend the day up to their elbows in barrels
of sperm. Ishmael develops such an ease
with the process that, soon, he is all smiles,

full of love for sperm and his fellows, often
grabbing, in the sperm, the hand of another man.