What I am interested in are the strategies for maintaining the silence and the strategies for breaking it.
The picture was called The Southern Fishery,
in which a sperm whale levered out of the sea
at a shocking angle, its jaw agape,
and in the distance the white-bellied mother ship
standing off from the many-footed parasite
of men scudding and floundering in their peascod boat
toward the dark sublime and the ritual of
murder with the harpoon and flensing knife.
Day after day I passed the thrift store window:
ten dollars framed, that blunt head breaching the green billow
and no takers, the toppled rage and fear
collapsing in a welter, the thread of each oar
driving on through a low bush of spume
toward some roiling, exposed thing in me, some
disabled sense of self and intention.
And then one day I looked and it was gone,
with just a bent nail remaining in its place,
leaving me to imagine where it was.
Now I cross the street, but my eye resorts there still.
I should have bought it and turned it to the wall,
that flayed body hanging chained and slack,
the jaw that broke the sea and dared to speak.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 39 Number 7, on page 31
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