Whale Poem

The deep to be hoary: In the 19th Century, most of the whaling industry was centered around Nantucket Island, whose population were pacifists. Men would leave home for whale hunts for a year or more while women would run the island in their egalitarian society. In the sperm whale populations they were hunting, male whales hunt several miles deep, while the female remain in large groups, and run their society.


The light is oceanic green, and makes hexagonic  
light on the platform, with claws and gewgaws of light.  

Each side of the monolith forms a point,  
and when the moon shines coldly  

from the cowl of space (a bell, liquid, as sound expands  
and gets thicker in the sea).

Now a sea song
[Amazing Grace, traditional]:

Descending like a cork on her waves
Floating on her water wall?

Although the darkness made us slaves
To the moon’s arresting call.

I could not break from its cold grasp
So bound our paths would be

Each drifting sound her liquid bell
Made us the whale-dense sea.

Each bottle fell to the sailors’ bones;
A house on the oceans’ floor

And inside her bricks which opened there
I saw a rising velvet door.

A grove of spikes: When the Quaker hunter  
espoused nonviolence, and stuffed his musket,

sharpened his hook, with its long sisal  
and hemp rope, into a puffing heart

bigger than an oat-fed baby, he turned  
in the dewlight like a battering ram.

True intoxication gurgled up in a thermos  
of adventure. They’d go out from Massachusetts for years.  

They were looking,  
but their prey were listening.

A sperm whale’s ear is bigger  
than a fist and it hears twofold noises:  

the telescopic part hears squawks.  
The enlarging cathedral part  

hears echolocation.
Squawk—related to the whortleberry.  

Correction...a hoarse squall, never from a horse.
Sometimes known as night heron, with a creak,  

a screech, a ghost eating caviar.
Utter like a public-address system,  

like a bimaculated duck, with windup gears.
Next to the inflatable balloons, there’s the echolocation.

(See under: bat versus manmade devices)  
Radio signals sent and reflected back,  

from the altimeter to the moth. (See under:  
torpedo guidance, silent films, Buster Keaton doing marimba)

Concealed in space: Spermaceti whale males  
dive 3,936 feet. Females dive to at least 3,280 feet.  

They dive for over an hour.  Squid beaks are inside
the stomachs. Picture a gray rose bigger  

than a transcendentalist’s room up in the eaves, like a matrix  
echoing its math-maze of osmotics.

Dr. Johnson, in the 1755 Dictionary:
A network is any thing reticulated or decussated,  

at equal distances, with interstices  
between the intersections.  

That’s why the image of wooden networks
banging a reggae less a private ventricle

than sound immemorial to the order of air,
is a membrane gliding like soapstone  

to bodies minced has sixty times’ air’s
intensity! And it’s all underwater: a blue ghost  

sucking the fieldfare of smoke: Blueaproned, bluetrampled, bluemantled,  
and blueglimmering home.

Jaw bones in an arch: When the whales eat,  
they eat in a herd’s harem, a solitary bull	

joins a school of 10-40 adult females  
plus their calves, the length of a breeding season.  

But the big squid are smoothed red  
lengthwise-jettisoned like a jet,  

which, wholly isolated in dark, has pink saucers  
and terraqueous chitin, but don’t bite  

the minute semitransparent threshing of flesh
mounting the portico of its mouth inside her mouth.  

Sperm whale uses his head’s oily buoyancy  
with his bloodflow, turning the oil to wax  

to a snowy chamber  
convulsing dried blurred ink, extracting air between globules.  

When I die I want to feel like jumping  
through the keyhole in your door—

nitrogen narcosis—and be sent in a single infatuation  
to the sea. Because I have my own “transidiomatic affinities.”

The female leads herself into dark  
realities of whale moments, intermitting between  

her occupation of calf-care, in the Sargasso’s alcove,  
fastening her hearing

to the echoes’ vault. The male hears it  
and resurfaces,  

saturated with squid-ink, refusing the evidence  
of tiny holy eyes,  

melting clerical burnished flames,  
at the rim of each echo.

Savage disorder when we enter nature:  
The gate creaks among the weeds,  

we forget why we’ve come to begin with  
and with a downward glance the muscles  

in our necks tighten as if a blood-red ribbon  
has been tied to the oaken door.

It is a door which restricts entry—
interior predetermination—and eyes

the mass of the next room,  
where the speechless, unspeakable

echoes rest, in the vast, interspaced code.
[Reprise. Amazing Grace coda]:

The sonic waves from a mother whale  
Travel through the oceans’ space

Each darkening sound of metallic hail
Receives amazing grace.

Light: skin’s desert fragment torn
like a dime, where there’s a fist

where skin is a whisper, whenever  
the moon makes its dim

sink in the lake’s basin: a train’s  
stiff haul in the night.

Light: lemon pinwheel, when the rind  
waxes a flittery forced timesheet

that’s torn then punched, making a cannon
filled with iron pill

when it’s swallowed they fly  
like a yellow eel and smoke rings it.

Soap: removing its surface from itself,  
with bubbles like a cauldron,

the air moves away from it
in spheres composed of a shine

driven in fabric swirling like a window  
approaches to a jump, and bursts.

Soap: not a filth magnet, to get through,  
like a cupboard’s color,

reversing its convulsive prefabricated texture,  
this brick closes around its pores  

with its wire stairs and brushes.
Perfume: even though we live in an amber-solid whorl,  

we breathe that floating mechanism  
by which amber unlocks its petals

and fauna, dancing as a tinge  
upon the resin in its document.

Perfume: a coloratura askew like a cascade
within a spotlight makes impending change when she is rubbed:  

notably electric, along the Baltic shores,  
entombed in aloe-wood.

All its life, a river mimics the sea,  
the one with the upturned moonrise,

and is an instrument calling washable smells,  
and light, and clean bricks pouring velvet  

incapable of trembling. 
Head: beyond the blanket scaffolding

is the massive pulpy anvil. Etched in barnacles  
is the steam engine script from an ancient language,  

Macrocephalus of the Long Words,
which is its name.  

Used for light, soap, and perfume,  
its oil moves like foam.

Head: a cathedral, I have said, and a pulpy ghost,  
white as a stiletto, and within its coils

are energies which harden, and glitter and palpitate.  
In lampshade lace and photographic liquid,  

its group song  
pleats tiger trim, swell satin, pink ash,  

feathery chenille surround, and felt velvet 
and it eases as the water table tilts, dimensional. Humped herds of buffalo by tens of thousands: Whales are superior to us. They emit their undersea and trans-watery signals with their thoughts larger than a bus, which is like communicating through telepathy. Evil walking at midnight: a low, harboring call meaning to get away from a ship. Bell shines like: a hull painted green...well, don’t hang around. Don’t want you hanging around. Ice sled sinking: I take the waves by the reins and am an accident waiting to happen, when my weight follows. Scooping the clam: our troubles are over when dry land tempts with its crow call. Introspective strum: Whales are superior to us. They move in darkness, and in its blanket of cold their head wax hardens and liquifies like the manufacture of pianos, with 18 rock-hard inner and outer maple rims pressed and wrestled with amplified soundboard into a shapely dome. In the open sea, there is sound. The complex motions of whale wax within the globules in the whale head transmit and surround the front and back as a soundboard in space, and move through water like a grave carved from the graphite drums registered within our ears, of pillbox size or smaller. But the superior whale ear, ensconced in bony auditory bulla and connected with tissue-drawn sound to the jawbone and its cavalcade to the brain larger than everyone we love. Its immense, curling organ is the drum itself? massive tympanic bone, cradling the instructive twofold inner ossicles called malleus and incus. Like the instrumentalist’s revolving vane their involucrum opens with satisfactory vibrato, with its spinning motor ascending from f like a yarn-wound yawn, it is sustained and heard. If a boat is in front of this sound it will crack, disperse, and become an only orphan in the dark. It is not well known how boat-barnacle-stripping chemicals cause deafness in our whales, when they do not receive echoes, as in the blue-black caverns of their planet, and beach themselves. When the fatty enormous structure washed onto Chilean sands, it was an unknown organ, though its skin no longer covered the great tympani and drumrolls of that oratorio many miles down. If something from our disregard for their planet disrupts their elastic ligament and synostosis, they are deaf hulls and the air-filled rotational axis is unplugged, the stage goes blank, the cellulose in the film bubbles and burns. Music encoded in perforations: In the lacquered, electroplated positives known as the “mother,” of early grooved masters, there are limited numbers of discs that can be made. The stamper wears out. The pressing breaks into a shard. What is more beautiful than mammals who remain at the origin of humanity, beneath the waves, beneath the normal levels which subside and surface over moving ridges and troughs, between one and the next as undulation, livelier than breath? Where should we go on the convex of land, between the hollows, where the rounded snow of water reduces itself from the wind’s action, and we’re alone beside the leviathan, as phenomenon? Under the cyma or ogee molding of the great arch, not of whalebone or cathedral carving, but the universal, zigzag ornament of waves? These are the rhythmic alternations of disturbance and recovery, like sound, like light, like perfume, with particles transmitted like messages in the air. Along the nerve we move restlessly.
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