Monday, February 7, 2022

In the Wake of the Whale

'    'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
 From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
 Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow
 I shot the Albatross.

                            from Rime of the Ancient Mariner
                        by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Surely the world has been knocked off its axis,

tilting towards menacing, demonic Betelgeuse

rather than faithful, beatific Polaris,

shattering the righteousness of compass points.

Nature withers at the root, and the time is out of joint.

The sun and rain can no longer sign treaties

or find a fair and just armistice.

Saharan heat boils the Gulf of Mexico

while madmen who cannot add or subtract

clamber up marble steps to proclaim that the sky is falling,

to chant “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

The Black Death breathes heavy on the fool,

the snow leopard curling in its den

outside the icy gates of Tucson

while the San Andreas grinds its stone teeth

in anticipation of human sacrifice.

As for me, I choose to swim in the wake of the whale—

the humpback, right, blue, and gray—

as it travels ancient routes in blue-green grace

and sings love songs now lost in translation.

Let others ply the wake of rush hour traffic.

I choose the mariner’s phosphorescent seas,

flukes carving cursive script, a scripture

rich in liquid vowels and sacred nouns

that speak of Omega’s distant rise

and a return to the bare breast of innocence,

to the spirit hovering over the deep

before it recreates paradise.

~William Hammett

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