By Royal W.F. Rhodes
The Montréal Review, February 2023
The old songs bind with words the wind
and waves the pale full moon will pull,
while all along the whale road wind
fragile vessels' paths when sails are full.
The water's footprints imprint the shore
as everything will try to leave a mark,
while tides erase, erase, erase and roar,
drowning out what's left, except the dark.
Immaculate waters, able to keep the shape
of every single angled place it finds to fill.
The wine-dark sea reshapes the bay and Cape
and lulls us to forget we lack a fin or gill.
But then, the magic waters birth a whale
that rises and completes a sudden belly-slide --
urgent, surging -- and with its flailing tail
breaks Nantucket boys on their sledding ride.
They left their island home and hoped to learn
the way to hunt, to bathe in sperm and blood,
but met a massive fate preventing their return.
I had waited for them, long before the Flood.
Royal W.F. Rhodes is the Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies Emeritus at Kenyon College.