Day 204 1/15/14: Whales Weep Not!

whalesWhat writer could get away with using “whale phallus” in a poem and still make it beautiful?

That hot-blooded Brit D.H. Lawrence of course!

Whales Weep Not!

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains

the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge

on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.

The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers

there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of

the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages

on the depths of the seven seas,

and through the salt they reel with drunk delight

and in the tropics tremble they with love

and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.

Then the great bull lies up against his bride

in the blue deep bed of the sea,

as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:

and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood

the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and

comes to rest

in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale’s

fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale’s strong phallus, linking the

wonder of whales

the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and

forth,

keep passing, archangels of bliss

from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim

that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the

sea

great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-

tender young

and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of

the beginning and the end.

And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring

when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood

and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat

encircling their huddled monsters of love.

And all this happens in the sea, in the salt

where God is also love, but without words:

and Aphrodite is the wife of whales

most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin

she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea

she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males

and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.

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Day 203 1/14/14: Poetry & Impermanence: A Rant

Keats-Bright-StarPoetry is a brutal art. One (meaning me) slaves for hours and hours trying to finish a poem that is nearly there. What am I not doing? Am I thinking too much?  Pursuing instead of waiting? Filling up instead of emptying out?  Oh the pressure of the final stanza! Oh the need for transformation, the weighty promise of the unwritten. I wanted some sharp outline of the knowable unknowable. I wanted a final image that resonates in the body as much as the mind. I wanted a poem that shimmered with intellect like T. S. Eliot regurgitating The Upanishads, its edges limned with a the ghost of Robert Frost holding a delicate pane of ice over a swollen stream in March. That kind of poem. All that suffocating desire.

So I stopped writing poetry and wrote an e-mail to my school asking them not to offer employee discounts to SeaWorld. I wrote and rewrote the e-mail. I added things and took things away. I wondered what magical syntax or brutally economical description would be enough to make Recreation Connection re-think the idea of a killer whale living in a cracked aquarium. I started off cheerily! Happy New Year! Thanks for adding Whale Watching to the list of Employee Discounted Activities! Sure beats watching the aforementioned animals perform tricks in a chlorinated pool!  I didn’t use so many maniacal exclamations, but I did make an attempt at friendliness (HelloI am not insane and soon you will warm to my politics). 

I wonder about all the writing we do. All the many non-poems, non-public pieces that we nevertheless compose with compassion and conviction. I think of the journals occupying the shelf on my closet. I think of burning each one, records of my life made long before “journaling” became a verb.

Keats had the best epitaph: Here lies one whose name was writ in water. His epitaph is better than any line of poetry I will probably ever write. A name writ in water is then inscribed in stone. Moss fills the letters.  E-mails vanish into the ether. The blog posts accumulate behind burning links.

If I destroy those journals, will I  stop feeling the weight of accumulated unread years? I’ll wrench pages from spines and light them on fire with adolescent glee. Or maybe just toss them casually in the garbage or donate them to Goodwill and dream of some hipster finding them. But first I’ll transcribe a line or two. A few words from each entry. A record of each vanished day. Some sort of path from there to here.