A LAMP IN THE WHALE poem by Michael Eliseuson


A small feast in the blood-red gills,
A small drop of blood in the ponds of the ocean,
A black whale swims deeper,
And then up again.

It is a well-brined sea,
and the whale reaches deeper,
Into greener waters,
Yellowing beneath the rays.

In these polar seas a dark ship comes,
To wed the hunted whale,
Whalers searching sky and sea,
For certain birds and spouts.

Ancient chanteys begin again,
To turn a whale into blubber, oil, and song.
A roped spear whining,
Whistling with death.

The Great Fish dives with a maddening lurch,
And there is a thrumming within the belly of the sea,
A song half-spent in blood,
And the pounding of sharks upon a sun-lit sea.

For this the whalers had come,
To pour its oil into the hissing lamps of the world,
For this the whale had died,
In a little red lake of death.

The whale is hauled and flensed,
Creeks of blood pouring out in tumults,
Around the black boulders of whale flesh.

Yet, the great whale-heart still pounds,
Hung up within a sack dripping on the deck,
The murdered whale gone from its home,
Its great bones heaped.

Let the vigil fires be lit all across the great prairies,
Light them along the banks of every river,
Throughout all the Temples of Time,
Let these lights be lit and made to burn forever.

For within that bloody ocean,
There are stairways carved from stone,
And leading us downwards,
They lead only to where all life is locked in vaults.

The life of a whale hangs in chains there,
Dead with all that is dead,
But the smell carries on the wind,
And a great storm erupts into the air.

The chambers in another heart opens,
A poet awakens from out of a dark slumber,
And leaning over in the night he lights a lamp,
And lays awake thinking.

Into the black room a tiny flame leaps,
Hissing on its bed of whale oil,
And by this light the poet writes:
“I am a whaling ship,
Searching through all the seas,
And the pen I hold is my harpoon,
And it is tied to me.”

There is a fire in the bowl of light,
It lights his page, his pipe, his dreams,
Dear Jehovah, let him put sunlight upon the bloodied oceans:
“The last whale died tonight,
My lamp is out,
And I am drenched, dark, and ugly.”
Darkness spilled like black water into his room.

The poet goes to sleep again,
Dreaming of whales,
Whales unhunted,
And alone.

“Watch the flame in the leaping lamp,
A very small feast indeed,
Where only whales and poets swim,
In a single drop of blood.”

***


Comments

Comments are closed.