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, ubiquitous
                                                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.

Brook Emery, "Very like a Whale" text from Uncommon Light, Five Islands Press, 2007; audio from Uncommon Light, Audio CD, 2007, River Road Press: by permission of River Road Press and the poet. Copyright © 2007 by Brook Emery.
Source: Uncommon Light (River Road Press, 2007)