The Harpoon
My name meant sickle, dog’s claw.
I tickled the fishies with my toggle paw. 
I was a stickling sticker with an iron jaw:
I wiggled under their blubber, their muscle,
and took the first bite; I gnawed as I nestled 
into their flesh; I didn’t spit out the gristle.
I was the tackle that needs no bait on me.
My mickle tooth sufficed. While the sea-
beasts reared and rolled, I rankled like a flea.
A whale’s no tricky catch, once moored. 
But without a quick arm, a strong cord, 
any spear is broken, sunk, or overboard. 

That’s when my adventure started, fast
in the fish: my last run, my last 
kill: then began the course of rust
that only fishhooks and ship wrack 
fathom, a life unrecked to me on deck,
a life of salt, wasting in the whale’s taut back.
But it is beautiful here, though I erode; 
I hear the chanteys of the whale-road; 
the whale suckles me with his blood.
I skim the waves like an extra fin.
I’m an iron fish, a serf of Triton,
a barbed harp learning a deeper tune:
that of slow dying. When we emerge for air,
I like to glimpse the gulls. But of that far
world I once knew—when I was a shiny spur, 
a wand with a star—I want no lubber’s tale.
They can keep the force of gunwales and the sail: 
true power lies in death, and in the whale.
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