Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, January 03, 2005

Cetology (Jan. 3, 2005)

According to magnitude I divide
the whales into three primary BOOKS
(subdivisible into CHAPTERS) and these
shall comprehend the whale, both
small and large.

... Small erections may be furnished
by their first architects; grand ones,
true ones, ever leave the copestone to
posterity. God keep me from ever
completing anything! This whole book
is but a draught -- nay but the draught
of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength,
Cash, and Patience!

-- Melville, Moby Dick

Who’s to complain? Our work is
the whale’s, his to ordain and
mordent and spume and sire.
This book is inked in his
cathedral depths, its covers
set with pearls the size of
snowballs, harpoon barbs
and two dozen spilt doubloons.
Each page is another fin
from the catalogue which
pilots every sea and depth
God poured in me a thousand
lives ago. So what’s a poem
to Leviathan, whose groaning
organum binds surface and keep
to distant shores? Certainly
not Mon Petit Ephiphanies,
those shiny black buttons
on Ahab’s coat that tumbled
to abyss when you jawed
the captain’s ribs. Not even
the ship survives to ferry
the tale you bid me write:
It’s just me on this savage
leaky casket & a sea
sufficient for God’s heart
and the silence that you
leave behind having
thrashed and battered
and hauled ass on down
to doom. “You must have
plenty of sea-room to tell
the truth in,” your prior
scholar once wrote:
a big fish to write it, too,
between the covers of
all shores. The work goes
on in your salt scriptorium,
my song today the next
bit of scrimshaw to survive.
That’s cetology: blue study
where the texts are all
shelved on the mandible
of a diving town,
where poetry leaks from
the wounds and
fire rages where we drown.


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