Very like a whale


I seem to wake
and sleep ambiguously,
to see and misconceive,
to feel on the brink of something
that doesn’t end, beauty
that is more than beautiful,
meaning that is more.

The present is all around me, dreams,
a panoply of crimes, smudges of erasure,
memory made of clouds, camels,
weasels and the unlikelihood
of somewhere within and beyond this world.

Here’s light,
angular, ubiquituous
with the milky pigments of belief.
Here’s plodding time, breathing hard.
Birds fly up, perch on branches,
peck seed from the grass, (tug worms from the soil).
I am not what I imagined,
here I am the illusionist
and dupe of my illusions,
making the angels disappear, wishing them back again.

Stories that shifted in the telling
once were true:
a virgin birth, a resurrection,
a tiger who regained his human form, a crocodile
who didn’t. I’m pitching words against the sea,
it drags them out,
flings them back again
still freighted with my weight. The waves are red with blood,

brown with shit, yellow with the sickly light, anything
but blue and green.
I am an insistent fizz and drone,
deft, adroit, as elastic
as necessity and chance,

one more clay figurine with beseeching hollows
where the eyes should be,
as different from the others
as I am the same, no more evolved
than a roach,
no better than a rat,
happy as a labrador in the sun.
This is grace, the rest is commentary
and I would let it go: in millennia

I’ll chatter metaphysics with a chimpanzee, now
my thoughts are the antlers of the Irish elk,
the wings of flightless birds, peptides
spelling out the phrase
very like a whale. Most organisms

produce more offspring than can possibly survive.
Nothing can follow that.
Something will. Blunt heads of rain,
faithless wind,
the stricken sun at dusk,

knock-kneed girls somersaulting on the beach,
the commonplace surprise
of making love face to face,
the heart breaking apart, an instrumental eye
and instrumental mind rejoicing,
a last cacophony of birds.

from Uncommon Light (River Road Press, 2007), Brook Emery 2007, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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