Originally posted on Life on the Outside, 14 June 2007.
The poem below is about the whale that was caught recently in Alaska. When the whalers cut it open, using chainsaws, they found an explosive lance over 120 years old.
18th century engraving showing Dutch whalers off Jan Mayen Land
The second time you felt nothing, or just
A deaf heartbeat of fear and inrushed sea.
Though you had noticed the not-swimming thrum
Behind you in the dying northerly.
You shuddered up through moaning slabs of ice,
Horizonless with undeep fires and steel.
Was there a something time-not-now in mind?
A stabbing water night, a biting feel?
The other time was lightless and less swift,
A shearing of the wave and seeking teeth.
You fathomed then your huntedness and knew
The slowly clutching swallow to beneath.
You left them to the squall and sucking air,
Their sudden many songs were slowed to sleep.
You left to bide the setting of their stars,
To sing, to sing, a dozen decades deep.