I have a cold, so between guzzling ginger ale, filling out a volunteer form for Sea Shepherd and feeling mildly sorry for myself, I’ve been contemplating Mary Oliver’s vision of God in her mysterious and powerful poem “The Shark” (see whole poem below this entry).
A lot of literature that explores animal consciousness reckons with the basic and inevitable idea of speech/speechlessness and power/powerlessness. But Oliver does something really interesting with this idea:
“speech, that makes all the difference, we like to say.
And I say: in the wilderness of our wit
we will all cry out last words—heave and spit them
into the shattering universe someday, to someone.
Whoever He is, count on it: He won’t answer.”
God, like the shark hunter is lost in his work. But this total absorption isn’t transcendent oneness, but abandonment, loss:
“The inventor is like the hunter—each
in the crease and spasm of the thing about to be done
is lost in his work. All else is peripheral,
remote, unfelt. The connections have broken.”
There is so much more to say about this poem than my feeble stuffed up consciousness can muster at the moment. Oliver’s makes such a bold and striking connection far more unsettling than her work normally is. I don’t mean to suggest she’s usually a light, happy-nature-lady poet at all, but this one leaves me in a place without the comfort of easy answers or associations. That’s good. I keep seeing an “old man in the sky” style God leaving his creation spinning like a globe, how great whites always felt like ancient displaced Gods to me, and the “God” that the hunter becomes for that brief triumphant moment when he removes the fish from its world of water, drowns him in the air.