Grey Beach Shores

POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

“But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest,
quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape …”

 

Chapter 1  Looming

 

Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul,

Whenever nothing pleases me, 

When what sufficed only yesterday

chafes today,
I am drawn – yea, seduced –
by the nearest body of water,

by my own ungraspable image 

that glimmers back at me

beyond which lie
worlds and adventures
I have only dreamed of
to sweep away the
daily drudgery of practicality.

Oh, to be a simple sailor,

afloat and adrift,
and get paid for it, too.

Chapter 2 – The Carpet Bag

Unencumbered,

I head for 

a fine, boisterous something

only found in Nantucket,

A room at the inn costs 

a pretty penny, but there are

no pennies to be had,

no refuge but one’s own self,

no windows but one’s own eyes.

So when the timing is off and

life makes us wait …

we scrap the ice

from our frosted feet

and we 

keep 

on 

going.

Chapter 3 – The Spouter Inn

Pitch-black and frigid,

the inhospitable night

pushes me toward

the only affordable light in sight -

an inn as cold as the curb.

Once inside, frozen hands 

clutch scalding tea

and then -

Good Heavens!

dumplings for supper!

A knobby bench in a

blowy corner leaves

no option but bedding down

with a complete stranger – a

clean, comely looking cannibal.

Not nearly so bad as

a drunken Christian.

Chapter 4 – The Counterpane

Colored glass

shimmers

and casts rainbows

on a form needing

no ornamentation:
Queequeg.

Wrap your lips around it 

and say it again:

Queequeg.

Not a bird call but a name:

Queequeg.

Dark, purplish face, 

a torrent of tattoos,

tomahawk at the ready -

I tremble! 

And yet, dare I say . . .

Queequeg.

Balm to my lonely soul.

 

Chapter 5 – Breakfast

Grub Ho!

Land Ho!

They’ve braved the seas

and faced leviathans

but have no need to

spin tales or brag

as they break their bread.

Silence suffices.

Chapter 6 – The Street

Dandies,

Cannibals,

Fresh-faced belles,

Fellows who have felled forests – 

All dazzle on the streets of Bedford.

Sights and sounds to pack away

and savor during

long days and nights

at sea.

Ch. 7 – The Chapel

I take refuge inside,

where moody fishermen

pay their respects 

before they sail,

and am protected

from the wind and sleet 

but not from thoughts 

of what lies ahead.

Words etched in marble 

line the walls

to pay homage 

to dear departed sailors:

John Talbot ~ Lost overboard 

near the Isle of Desolation

Eyes ahead, straight ahead 

at the preacher.

Captain Ezekial Hardy ~ Killed by

a Sperm Whale on

the coast of Japan

 Don’t look at the walls!

The Ship Eliza ~ 

Towed out of sight by a whale 

I will go to sea

I will go to sea.

 

Chapter 8 – The Pulpit

A man with a purpose

does not grow old,

only more robust, as

a light from within

shines through

shines out

ignites himself

and others.

Hand over hand,

he ascends the height

of the grand pulpit

and once there

Beams.

Let’s Connect
Let’s Connect

Chapter 9 – The Sermon
 
Certainty
is thy savior.
In a perilous 
and inconstant world,

with death to our left
and our right,
we look to Thee
who never wavers
whose word is law
and whose punishment
is swift.
I am adrift when
in doubt
but afloat in thy
Certainty.

Chapter 10 –A Bosom Friend

Love knows no rules,
follows no pre-prescribed path.
To look at a man and
see him – truly see him –
past skin and bone,
past culture’s artifice
you find that the soul
cannot be hidden
from one who sees
with the heart.

Chapter 11 – Nightgown

I nudge my nose above

my cozy cocoon into

the frigid air,

then smile and duck back

under the warm covers

I share with my friend.

Close comfort 

and camaraderie

seem ever more dear 

following

the utter lack of them.

Chapter 12 – Biographical

What tells 

the measure of a man?

His roots, 

dreams, 

disappointments,

his religion 

or lack of?

Queequeg,

not from Cape Cod

but the South Seas,

is pure of heart and

cannot be sullied.

And although surrounded

by greed and dishonesty

he floats above them,

remaining untouched

in his innocence.

Chapter 13 – Wheelbarrow

Hail Queequeg!

From

scoundrel to hero,

from outsider to

trusted comrade – 

all in fifteen minutes flat!

Hail the blasted weather,

come in the nick of time.

Chapter 14 – Nantucket

These naked Nantucketers,

these sea hermits,

view land as a

mere stopping point, only fit

to touch base with the missus

and breed more sailors.

The sea is his! He owns it.

Bed me down on the waves!

Chapter  15 – Chowder

Just landed and a nip’s in the air

Ye can keep yer gold and silver

give me chowder!

Comon’ lads, pull up a chair.

Ye can choose from clam or codfish

Give me chowder!

Hot steaming bowls

to chase the cold away,

Rubbing elbows with my mates

Bring it here now, don’t delay!

No, don’t mull it - 

Fill yer gullet

Give me chowder!

Give me chowder!!

Give me chowder!!!

(When’s breakfast?)

Chapter  16 – The Ship
 
A ship in the harbor
a ship not at sea
is no ship at all
strange and solitary.
A ship with no captain
though in sunlight it gleams,
is not yet alive
only mere joints and beams.
But when sails unfurl
and Ahab walks the deck
and the salt spray stings
the back of my neck
Then the Pequod will reign
and come into its own,
With the deep blue its kingdom
and the white waves its throne
 
Chapter  17 – The Ramadan

A difference in beliefs
need not undo a friendship.
Who am I to disparage
a congregation of ants
worshipping a toad-stool?
No, what lies between a man’s ears
and within his heart is his own business.
Still, house rules do state,
No suicides permitted here,’
so pardon my
breaking down the door.

Chapter  18 – His Mark

Queequeg is a member of
the great and everlasting
First Congregation of this
whole worshipping world,
Ishmael insists
to the doubtful Peleg.
And whether skylarking or not,
what does it matter?
Queequeg’s harpoon decimates 
its target and makes
the entire conversation moot.

Chapter  19 – The Prophet

What’s done is done.
Papers signed.
Promises made.
Doubts have no place here
and must be swept aside.
Look ahead not back
nor left nor right.
We’ve thrown in our lots
with a captain named Ahab
and there is no turning back.

Chapter  20 – All Astir


Napkins and nutcrackers.

Pickles and quills.

Masts and sails.

Long lists to be

checked off

with everything

in its place.

Everything

but the Captain -

who is

nowhere to be seen.


Chapter  21 – Going Abroad

We pass the pipe back and forth

over a supine stranger

and settle in,

and whenever this ship sails

we will be on it.

As long as I have

my friend at my side,

I am home.

Chapter 22 – Merry Christmas


The 

sea may 

be too rough

for Bilbad’s old

body to endure, but

tis where his heart and

his soul reside. How to let go,

relinquish control, and trust others to

do what must be done? All he can do is

nervously holler a fond farewell: "Don’t keep 

the cheese

too long 

down the 

hole."

Chapter  23 – The Lee Shore

A whaler has no home but the sea, 

for the land seemed scorching to his feet,

merely something to come back to

and then leave again.

’Tis one’s berth on board that 

beckons and feels familiar.

And if a man must die,

it best be done at

Home.

Chapter  24 – The Advocate

In praise of whaling!

Yo ho! Yo ho!

I, Ishmael,

who never has

teetered in a boat

lugged by a leviathan

nor hazarded a hand at a harpoon

nevertheless am 

whaling’s champion,

brimming over

with enthusiasm

for something

I have no idea

how to do.

Chapter  25 – Postscript

Do I protest and praise

too much?

What compels me to defend

my newfound career

so passionately?

To counteract

my own trepidation?

What lies ahead I do not know,

but let me claim

it the finest endeavor,

the greatest honor,

for any man.

Thus will I justify

my decision to do it

Chapter  26 – Knights and Squires

The wild, watery loneliness

of Starbuck

is not something to pity,

fear or condemn.

Tis a fact

Part of him

Unquestioned

With his matter-of-fact courage,

respect for his prey

and unswerving standards,

Starbuck is the barometer

by which all Pequod seaman

are measured

and to which all aspire.

Chapter 27 – Knights and Squires

The users and the used.

Will it ever be so?

White men at the helm,

dark men below.

Each side accepts,

never questions

and never wonders 

how might the world 

be altered if the 

best and the brightest

and the bravest

were allowed

to rise to the top?

Chapter  28 – Ahab


On deck.

At last.

Seen by all

but still a mystery.

Surrounded by the crew

yet still alone.

Captain of his ship

yet idle, 

for all tasks, all duties

have been assigned.

While Ahab 

Waits.

Chapter  29– Enter Ahab; To Him, Stubb

Perfumed, overflowing, 

redundant days

and twinkling stars 

‘gainst a black velvet sky.

Magical, mesmerizing . . .

and missed by our captain.

Too busy seething

to notice.


Chapter  30 – The Pipe


Even the simplest things

bring no pleasure 

when the mind is

poisoned 

and the heart 

distracted.

Chapter  31 – Queen Mab

Tainted by the day’s torments,

dreams continue the punishment.

Ahab haunts us all

and reaches out only in anger.

Best to avoid the man,

Avert one’s eyes,

Speak only when spoken to.

 ‘Twill be a long,

very long,

three years.


Chapter  32 – Cetology


Whales! Whales! Whales!

I chase ‘em

Dream of ‘em

Study ‘em, too

I am drowning in

Leviathans!

It is my world now

and I mean to be

an expert.

Chapter  33 – The Specksnyder


Credit where credit is due.

A master harpooner 

makes or breaks

a whaling voyage.

Still, 

he serves at the 

whim of the captain

and what this ship of ours requires

must needs be plucked at 

from the skies.


Chapter  34 – The Cabin Table


I’d trade my rank for 

a mutton chop,

thinks Flask, 

mouth watering

for even one bite.

Give me my work

and then my pay,

but first and foremost

let me eat my fill 

and let me do it

in the company of

my peers.

Chapter  35 – The Mast Head

I perch high upon the mast 

of the Pequod

with the problem of 

the universe revolving in me,

and ponder and wonder

and think great thoughts.

But I do not spot a whale.

Leave meditative sailors below

and send the dullards up high

to be your lookout.

Chapter  36 – The Quarter Deck


~ Past Hearing ~

‘To be enraged with a dumb thing,

Captain Ahab, 

seems blasphemous.’


~ Past Seeing ~

‘Naught beyond 

that white wall.’


~ Past Reason ~

‘I’d strike the sun

 if it insulted me.’


Chapter  37 – Sunset


By ever–brimming goblet’s rim,

the warm waves blush like wine.

Ahab, moved by such a scene,

suspects he has not yet

crossed the line completely,

for if he can mourn this lack of joy

and see that loneliness is anguish to him,

then surely there is hope

and God has not abandoned him.

Chapter  38 – Dusk

Backed against a wall.

I know my fate

Hate my fate

Yet feel powerless against it.

The Captain - reasonable or not -

reigns in this wild, 

distant world.

and I must obey.

I see a bad end

for us both.


Chapter  39 – First Night Watch

We know not

what lies in store, so

Why not laugh?

What’s worry for?

Why not laugh.

The bubbles that break

on your glass and mine,

the froth on our lips

from this ale divine,

We smile and we grin

guffaws to the brim,

cuz I’d rather not know

what’s coming, my friend.

Why not laugh?

Chapter  40 –Midnight, Forecastle

'Rig it, dig it, stig it, quig it,'

dance with me, sailor boy.

I’m far from home,

the seas I do roam

Let’s drink and dance 

while we can!

'Crack, crack old ship!'

mind ya don’t take a tip

and land in the deep blue sea

'A row a row,'

and away we go

May God be with you and me.

Chapter  41 – Moby–Dick

Gnawed within and scorched without,

will there be anything left when all is done?

Of what is a man made?

Blood and bones and brute force

masquerade as Ahab,

but one must dig deeper

to find the real man.

Many have lost a battle

or even a limb

without losing heart and soul.

Ahab has made his choice

and will not turn back.

Chapter 42 – The Whiteness of the Whale

White 

Vacuous

Vacant

Conjuring up Nothingness

A man can understand 

Passion

Anger

Evil

But if void of color means

Unfeeling

Cold

Merciless

then the White Whale

truly terrifies.

Chapter  43 – Hark


Hark!

This is not our ship,

tho ‘twill be our home

for three long years.

Tread softly!

Do not disturb the man

who rules this

Floating

Revenge

Seeker.


Chapter  44 – The Chart


Eyes on the prize

Nose to the stone

Ahab’s single-minded purpose

drives his days   

and ravages his dreams, 

like 

Escaping from a bed 

that was on fire

No rest

No peace

No distractions.

Chapter  45 – The Affidavit


We fear what we do not understand.

Ignorance is not bliss

but an instigator, with

stories, fables, even downright lies

filling in the blanks

and believed true.

Men are moved by such things.

From ear to ear,

from man to man,

from ship to ship . . .

Careers made

Lives changed

and many, many,

whales slaughtered.

Chapter  46 – Surmises

Play your part, Ahab.

While your right eye

looks for your precious prey,

your left eye tends to the Pequod.

Pay your crew, keep them occupied

and they will not complain –

or worse, mutiny.

You will need them

on your side

at the first sign

of the White Whale.

Chapter  47 – The Mat–Maker


Chance, Free Will and Necessity

~ Necessity ~

The tasks of the day must be done

~ Free Will ~

Choose to do them or not

~ Chance ~

Toss in undependable risk 

or opportunity.

Free Will lets me hope for Chance 

to rescue me from Necessity,

but how long must I wait?

And when all collide –

then what?

Chance by turn rules either,

and as Life endlessly

weaves and intertwines,

tis Chance that

wields the last featuring blow.

Chapter  48 – The First Lowering

Finally! 
After months of anticipation
tis time to lower the boats
and join the chase!
Focus – Pull – Row!!
If anyone be a fraud,
now’s the time to reveal it.
All eyes on the prize!
Sea legs ever steady ‘midst
the rolling of the waves!
Ah … 
‘twas a forlorn hope.
Back to the Pequod we row,
drenched to the skin and
no whale to show for it.

Chapter  49 – The Hyena

What else to do but laugh --
laugh like a wild Hyena!
Tis a vast, practical joke,
this riding the back 
of a whale
on a matchstick.
So sharpen the quill,
update the will, and
prepare to do it again
tomorrow.

Chapter  50 – Fedallah

Ahab’s unholy pursuit,
his single–minded revenge,
requires rare and
specialized assistance -
no run of the mill seamen
serve on this captain’s team,
and none are asked.
A hand-picked crew board secretly,
hide below,
and emerge only when needed.
Starbuck, Flask and Stubb
take it in stride.

Chapter 51 – The Spirit Spout

The waves rolled by like scrolls of silver.
til finally - ‘Thar she blows!’
Whether truth, imagining
or wishful thinking -
who could tell  . . .
for no whale could be found.
And day followed day
followed day,
with only birds to jar the
Silence.

Chapter  52 – The Albatross
 
Bearded, bedraggled kinsmen
sail silently past
in a rusted ship,
the wind carrying them
towards the end of their circle,
ending where they began. 
Schools of fish follow
as they leave the Pequod behind.
Is this our future?
Our own circuitous route
feels endless,
a barren maze,
with even Ahab subdued.
 
Chapter  53 – The Gam

A passing ship stops
and offers whaling
and weather reports

and the crew of the Pequod

rushes to greet it.
Ah, the relief of different faces!
Perhaps a chat with an old friend
of dear domestic things.
Maybe a letter
for the fortunate few
from a year ago or two,
offering precious news
of Home.

Chapter  54 – The Town–Ho’s Story

Take us away
from the deck or the hammock,
from monotony’s dulling glare.
Spin us a tale full of
grit, spit and spirit and
make us all wish we were there.
The stakes must be high
for those risking it all and
the hero, tall and well–featured.
And if you can,
let there be Moby-Dick,
that hideous, milky-white creature.
“The White Whale!
 The White Whale!”
A chorus of woe
rises up with
excitement and dread.
But despite all the
fury and flurry of men,
tis not Moby-Dick
who lies dead.

Chapter  55 – Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales

To do the whale justice with
pen, chalk or brush
ye must see him live,
in the flesh.
‘Tho ye run no small risk
out here at sea,
of bein’ undone
by yer curiosity.

Chapter 56 – Of the Less Erroneous Picture of Whales
 
This is personal.
As the self–appointed
Protector and Promotor
of all things Leviathan,
I take extreme umbrage at
sloppy, slipshod renderings
of the magnificent
Giant of the Sea.
Kudos to Garney and Durand
and honorable mention
to the French,
the lads for painting action.

Chapter  57 – Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron;
    in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars

Man hunts whale
whale does not hunt man. 
And yet could, for there are
many more whales than ships,
a whale outweighs man and is in
his element in the vast ocean, while
man needs to be propped up in
wooden buckets that crack and
break like teacups when the
mighty forces of weather and 
waves work against him.
And all the while, the
whale glides by or
slips below
to reemerge at his leisure
when the sea is smooth as glass.

Chapter  58 – Brit

We plow through
the yellow feeding fields
their home
their harvest
their sea
without an inkling
we've no right to do so.
“The cannibalism of the sea,”
says Man,
"Tis merely nature’s balance."
But Man is the intruder here,
an interloper from
the most docile earth,
who makes it
his life’s work
to Kill.

Chapter  59 – Squid

A profound hush surrounds the Pequod
as it drifts in the middle of nowhere,
with a stillness almost preternatural
spread over the sea.
At such a time,
what goes on inside
a sailor’s mind?
Thoughts of home?
Other ways to earn a living?
Ennui?
As a man looks out
over endless nothingness,
do thoughts churn busily
inside his skull . . .
or is Ismael an
Anomaly?

Chapter  60 – The Line

The magical, sometimes
horrible whale-line,
intricate and coiled in 
perilous contractions,
twists in and out
with man in between.
Hold on tight --
But not too tight --
lest ye get
dragged to the bottom.

Chapter  61 – Stubb Kills a Whale


~ From Where I Sit ~

The Whale is a living, breathing

force of life

with as much right

to roam the seas

as I have the earth.

Its blood flows, its pulse pounds,

its appetite drives it forward,

and its joy as it leaps up

through the waves

must surely satisfy.

~ From Where You Sit ~

The Whale is a creature

born merely to serve you

and makes not

the slightest difference

except as a day’s work.

Your blood flows, your pulse pounds

your appetite drives you forward,

and your joy as you stalk him

through the waves

does surely satisfy.

Chapter  62 – The Dart

Listen to the newcomer,

for he looks at long-worn habit

with a fresh eye, and

with little understanding is

therefore better equipped to

see things as they are,

ask why, perhaps

offer solutions.

Listen to Ishmael.

Chapter  63 – The Crotch

Pay close attention.

Stalk your prey,

aim your harpoon

and then

stay out of its way -

lest you, not the beast be impaled.

Pay close attention.

Your life

depends upon it.

Chapter  64 – Stubb’s Supper

Does a whale have a soul?

When his last breath

leaves his body,

what happens

to the urge

to swim

to dive

to rise high

eat his fill of krill and

later, come back for more?

Tethered alongside the Pequod,

‘tis only a lifeless carcass now,

its once vibrant life force

returned to Nature

and welcomed back

into the fold.

Chapter   65 – The Whale as a Dish

All living beings are related.

'Tis true.

We share the same

earth, breathe the same air, 

are warmed by the same sun.

Without ever doing harm to

our fellow creatures,

we could have plenty to eat,

yet

Some of Us

have gotten it into our heads

that 'these' are for petting,

and 'those' are for stalking

and killing

and eating.

Some of Us.

Chapter  66 – The Shark Massacre


Murder begets murder.

To protect the bounty

of a slain whale,

sailors attack and kill

sharks at their dinner.

And the sea runs

Red.


Chapter  67 – Cutting In (in lieu of)


Up and down

through the rows of our garden 

we stroll and select

tonight’s supper.

Dazzling greens

Weighty gourds

Succulent citrus.

And all the while,

fresh bread rises and bakes,

and its intoxicating aroma meanders

under window panes

in search of our nostrils.

A meal void of cruelty,

misery or killing

satisfies the stomach

and the

Soul.

Chapter  68 – The Blanket

In the midst of

cutting the carnage,

herein we see

the rare virtue

of a strong individual vitality.

Man conquers nature once again.

But it takes many men

to accomplish the deed

and only one to question it

and begin to think of

a better way.

Chapter  69 – The Funeral

Oh, Horrible vultureism of earth!

No one mourns this whale

Let me!

Remember a life

Once mighty and free

Let me!

Sing his praises now he’s dead

A melancholy song inside my head

Never forgetting 

He ruled the seas

Let me

Let me

Let me

Chapter  70 – The Sphinx


Shared atoms and linked analogies

Musings of a demented mind

occasionally ring true

and offer Ahab a moment’s

enlightenment.

A whale goes where no man goes

and sees what no man will ever see.

What could a whale tell a man

that man does not know?

Ahab plunges deep and explores

without ever moving

from the deck of his ship.


Chapter  71 – The Jerobaum’s Story


Look not for meaning

in coincidence and happenstance.

Look not for gods in mere men.

Watch reason and order

fly out the window if you do.

Watch chaos reign

and disaster loom

if you dare lose control of the wits

God gave you,

and that made you a

Reasonable Man.


Chapter  72 – The Monkey Rope

We are tied to Providence –

fate or luck or God –

and blindly follow age-old beliefs.

But when the even-handed equity

of Providence

lets us down once again -

for we have only the

management of one end of it -

what then?

We may as well lean back

into the waves

and let them

determine our direction.


Chapter 73 – Stubb and Flash Kill a Right Whale;

And Then Have a Talk Over Him


Superstition and ignorance

find danger in everything -

leviathans of every sort,

suspicious crew members,

perhaps even the Devil himself,

whom Stubb and Flash 

chat about disarming

while dissecting and disassembling

what threatens not at all

and indeed drifts away from them.

Meanwhile, the Captain’s shadow

ominously merges with said Devil,

blurring the line between 

danger that is real

and danger that is imagined.

Let’s Connect

Chapter  74   – The Sperm Whale’s Head –   Contrasted Views
 
The Whale
has two eyes with two views,
and simultaneously sees two sides
to every situation.
Man
has two eyes with one view,
and only sees straight ahead.
Yet, Man claims,
the former is inferior - yea,
inconvenient, even dangerous!
Man forgets that
each can turn his head
to take in the whole picture
whenever he chooses.
Still 
Man’s way 
is deemed superior 
and all that makes sense,
for Man truly does see 
only one view.
His Own.

Chapter  75  – The Right Whale’s Head – Contrasted Views

1.
Break apart a whale’s fins 
- these hogs’ bristles -
and from them build the ladies
their busks and other contrivances
that lift and constrict every breath.
And to what end?
Vanity.
Man’s sport
becomes woman’s torture.
‘Ah, but what of the oil,’ 
you say,
‘The oil lights the world’
And I say the price paid –
the suffering, the slaughter –
is too steep.

The Right Whale’s Head – Contrasted Views
 
2.
Ancient dames moved about gaily
Above and beneath the sea
A playground, dining table, kingdom
For creatures ever joyful and free
 
Creatures ever joyful and free
Gracefully and powerfully ruled
Over miles and oceans and eons
And their offspring they carefully schooled
 
Their offspring they carefully schooled
From blowhole to brit to baleen
In charge of all that was ‘round them
And then came man in between
 
Then came man in between
Setting his sights far and wide
Craving what lay beyond him
He could never be satisfied
 
He could never be satisfied
On the oceans he would be king
More, ever more, not enough
Til he’d plundered everything.

Chapter 76 – The Battering Ram

Majestic green tower of the forest
reaches up 
to the vaulted skies.
Massive grey power of the seas
dives down 
to the deepest depths.
Each chopped up, 
lined up,
and turned into
mere commodities
with a price set
by indifferent man.
A mass of tremendous life …
estimated as piled wood is – by the cord.

Chapter 77   – The Great Heidleburgh Tun

Killing
is a fastidious occupation.
Step by step,
as in a long cherished recipe,
care is taken
to dismantle
this magnificent creature
who evolved through the ages,
and kills never for sport
or profit
but merely to
Survive.

Chapter 78 – Cistern and Buckets
 
MAN OVERBOARD!
Swallowed up,
if a beast with no head
can be said to swallow.
MAN OVERBOARD!
Tashtego falls in,
disappears,
Queequeg follows.
MEN OVERBOARD!
Submerged 
in the cavernous
Sweet-smelling hollow.
MEN OVERBOARD!
And up they both pop.
For ‘tis deadly to
Wallow.


Chapter 79 – The Prairie
 
Sum me up as you will.
I have no need to explain,
nothing to prove.
The ever invasive curiosity of man
must be satisfied, but
I need not justify
my existence
to those who seek
to destroy me.
 
Chapter  80 – The Nut
 
With a whale to behold
right up close,
and a combination of
observation and guesswork,
Ishmael analyzes
the inside and outside
of a creature 
who swam the seas 
millions of years
before man arrived
and draws his own
erroneous conclusions.
 

Chapter 81 – The Pequod Meets The Virgin


Ungrateful dogs,

down on yer knees,

ye’ve got no business here,

these are our seas!

Pathetic ye are,

with no oil of yer own.

Ye do not belong here,

so why not go home.

Will ya burst a blood vessel, lads?

Spit fire or not?

A humped back old whale

is better than naught.

So snag it and you’ll have

Hogshead in yer pot

Comon, snag it and you’ll have

Hogshead in yer pot.

Chapter 82 – The Honor and Glory of Whaling

Stars in his eyes,

neophyte Ishmael

scrolls through history

for heroes to emulate.

Surely men will write 

of him one day

as he learns from the best

and waits his turn

to make his mark.

Chapter 83 – Jonah Historically Regarded


With all the time in the world,

a man can gaze at the horizon,

past a flat sea,

and ponder Jonah’s story

from every angle,

forming his own

Opinion


Chapter 84 – Pitchpoling


Pitchpoling

Whale rolling

Stubbs does excel.

Handling

Dandling

The lance he propels.

Aiming to kill,

Blood he does spill,

Sure footing

Caputting

There’s no parallel.


Chapter 85 – The Fountain


The snowy sparkling mist,

effervescing above a whale

as he emerges from the deep in

a swirl of prodigious commotion,

mystifies the sailor on watch.

Astonished and delighted

but not content with spectacle,

said sailor strives to understand -

the human anatomy serving

as his only reference.

How to make sense of

this curious creature

with misplaced windpipe,

no nostrils, and

a gargantuan ability to

hold his breath?

And what of that mist

shooting towards the sky?

He dare not get close enough

to find out.

Chapter 86 – The Tail


Woe to that sailor, whiskers and all,

when the fluke of a whale upon him does fall

and the oars and the crew and the harpoons do fly

til he’s floatin’ on his back starin’ up at the sky.

And the planks of the boat around him they sprawl

very much as a juggler tosses his balls.

Yea, a grudging respect is all he can feel

for a wallop that lands with the weight of steel.

A mere man can offer little resistance.

Tis something to admire – 

but from a distance.


Chapter  87 – The Grand Armada

Amidst chaos,

tumult and brutality

lies an oasis of

tranquility,

an innermost fold of

warm, protected waters

where new mothers,

near enough for a

sailor’s gentle touch,

float below the

transparent surface

calmly nursing their

young, who gaze

dreamily into the

distance but do

not see their own

future fighting

futilely for its life.


Chapter  88 – Schools and Schoolmasters


The Lord whale is on patrol

Covering the flight of his ladies

Three times their size, he takes control

In their leisurely search of variety


Covering the flight of his ladies

He battles suitors who intrude.

In their leisurely search of variety

Tis he – only he – rules his brood


He battles suitors who intrude

Through this watery world as they wander

Tis he – only he – rules his brood

Swimming hither, thither and yonder

Through this watery world as they wander

The schoolmaster reigns – vital, strong

Swimming hither, thither and yonder

Until a younger Grand Turk comes along

The schoolmaster reigns – virile, strong

As he and his harem do roam

Until a younger Grand Turk comes along

Sending Lord whale off on his own

Chapter 89 – Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish

Man grabs

what he wants,

nailed down or not.

‘Twas ever so.

Like it?

Take it

Until there is

Nothing left.

Chapter  90 – Heads or Tails


Rare tea and good ale,

taken for granted by

the Privileged,

are a fantasy

to the Sailor,

who toils for months 

for just a taste,

only to give it up

by Law

Tis mine

Tis mine

Tis mine


Chapter  91 – The Pequod Meets the Rosebud


A ship's its own domain

Out here at sea

Every man for himself

No brothers are we

I owe you nothing

Don’t need your name

Instead I’ll deceive you

We’re not the same

Listen to my story

As faithless as can be

About the sorry danger

Of floating debris


The Pequod’s guile

The Rosebud’s shame

Par for the course

In the whaling game


Chapter 92 – Ambergris


Sown in dishonor

but raised in glory.

Out of suffering

comes riches.

If not for the whale himself,

then for the scavengers

who pursue him.

Either way,

a life lived

free and wild and pure,

once finished,

leaves behind

a rich and fragrant

remembrance.


Chapter 93 – The Castaway


A small boy lost at sea,

insignificant and isolated,

is in the hands of the Gods.

Fear gives way to panic,

 then panic to oblivion.

The thing is common

in that fishery.

  

Let’s Connect

Chapter 94 – A Squeeze of the Hand


The Pequod loses 

the salty stench 

of sailor sweat and ribaldry, 

overtaken by the scent 

of spring violets,

as up to our elbows in

oozy, convivial buckets,

we lose track of

our hands that

squeeze! squeeze! squeeze!

every last lump from 

the creature’s 

fragrant spermaceti.

Lulled by the spell 

of our sated senses, 

we lose,

but only temporarily,

what drives us.

Compete. 

Kill.

Conquer. 

Chapter 95 – The Cassock

Nothing is off–limits

in the decimation

of a species.

no part holy

or respected,

but instead

mere fodder for

abuse or entertainment.

R.I.P.

Chapter 96 – The Try–Works

Whether your hand be on the tiller

(Never dream with thy hand on the helm!)

or the bedpost,

nighttime has a crafty way

of turning dark things darker,

scarier, more threatening.

Especially at risk is that man

prone to contemplation,

for there are no limits to

such a mind when the sun sets

and the moon disappears.

All he can do is 

pray for morning,

when the light of day 

puts to rest

the torments

 of the night before.


Chapter 97 – The Lamp

Bearded and grimy

with faces lit like angels,

off–duty watch rock softly

in their oaken vaults,

soothed by the sea’s rhythm

and sleeping the sleep

of the

uncomplicated mind.

Chapter 98 – Stowing Down and Clearing Up

Tis in whaling as in Life,

there is no rest,

for one thing follows another.

No matter how arduous,

still harder tasks will come

and often a man

just catches his breath

when along comes another.

So what is the point, exactly?

Like Pythagoras –

and sometimes like Sisyphus -

we labor, we learn, we complain and we moan.

Over and over and over again.

Chapter 99 – Doubloon

A coin serves as a magician’s glass

as each man gazes into 

his own mysterious self

and sees what he wants to see.

What will said coin buy?

What does it stand for?

Read a man by

how he reads a coin.

Chapter 100 – Leg and Arm. The Pequod of  Nantucket Meets the Samuel Enderby of London
 
'Spin me the yarn,’
says Ahab, eyes sharp,
no time for small talk.
Stick to the point.
Tell me where the
white whale wanders
and I’ll be gone.
 
Chapter 101 – The Decanter
 
First things first
says one sailor to another
Forget the pay
what’s to drink, brother?
Before I set
one leg upon this ship,
Before ya say
where we’re off to on this trip,
I’ll make it plain
and tell ya face to face -
I ain’t going without gin,
I drink it by the case.
By the case
By the case
By the case, case, case
I can drink it night and day
while still whalin’ away
By the gill by the quart
By the barrel, any sort
Tell me do ye carry gin, man
by the case?
 
Chapter 102 – A Bower in the Arsacides

I Looked Down 
in the stillness.
Lush grass glistened
and shards of sunlight made
patterns on the leafy vines
that crawled around and through 
a white, worshipped skeleton.

I Looked Up. 
At this outline
of  a creature who'd
soared up through the waves,
down to the depths
and imagined it.
Boldly, thrillingly, alive.

Chapter 103 – Measurement of The Whale’s

Skeleton


Inches and yards do not mark

the true worth of any creature -

not whale nor man.

Ask the poet,

call in the philosopher

to mine the meaning

of such a creature

whose immensity, character,

and soaring energy

display none of 

the calculation 

or manipulation

of its captor. 

Chapter 104 -– The Fossil Whale​

Man stares out over the vast ocean,

at gray blue swells

as far as the eye can see,

and feels reduced to

the size of a thimble or 

a cork that bobs powerlessly on

on the endless surface, no more

substantial than a dot on a map

and as insignificant 

as the gargantuan leviathan

who, spotted miles away, 

seems but a dot himself  

on the boundless vista.

Man stares next into earth’s vast history,

at eons of time and space 

and experience without his presence,

and feels dwarfed once again,

an infinitesimal speck,

but this time not joined

by the Ancient Whale,

who populated the planet

and explored the seas

some 40 million years ago,

when man ‘twas not 

even a dream.

  

Chapter 105 – Does the Whale's Magnitude
Diminish?—Will He Perish?
 
'He swam the seas
before the continents 
broke water,'
Ishmael muses,
as he eyes the slaughter.
Are they declining, asks
the man with a conscience?
Will they be diminished
says the man, with prescience.
Next he turns to
other beasts hunted,
and finds them all
equally confronted.
The buffalo. The elephant.

Brothers to the whale,
Living creatures turned into
products for sale.

Chapter 106 – Ahab’s Leg


Even a ship’s carpenter

cannot mend a dead bone.

He must start from scratch,

enlisting leftover ivory

from recent kills,

making them willing

accomplices in Ahab’s

deadly business.


Chapter 107 – The Carpenter


Were it not for a

certain grizzled wittiness,

this fixture of The Pequod

might be mistaken for a

permanent part of the futtock,

so seamlessly does the

weathered and sea-worthy carpenter,

ensconced at his bench,

blend into the deck.

Be it rusty capstan,

aching tooth or

cracked appendage,

he offers both an opinion

and a solution.


Chapter 108 – Ahab and The Carpenter


A man on a voyage of evenge

loathes being slowed down

by phantom nerves that,

like haunted memories,

tingle, stab and chafe

a leg no longer there.

Grim reminders

that stop Ahab 

not at all.

Chapter 109 – Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin


'Beware of thyself, old man,'

warns Starbuck,

long years with Ahab

shoring up his resolve

to speak candidly -

hang the consequences.

A shred of prudence,

perhaps remorse,

even decency,

calms the furrows

in Ahab’s brow,

reminding him for

one brief moment

that lunacy

is a choice.

Chapter 110 – Queequeg in His Coffin

Queequeg’s had a change ’o heart.

Why die when you’ve more to do?

And so, like Lazarus, he rises

and postpones his adieu.

His custom coffin will suffice

for sailor’s gear and such

And Queequeg’s daring carvings

nicely decorate his hutch.

O devilish tantalization,

What a riddle to unfold,

When a man

makes up his mind

to live,

Tis a miracle to behold.

Chapter 111 – The Pacific

'Tis not the whale

who fouls the waters,

filled with rage

and past forgetting.

Tis not the whale

who hunts the man

and curses a day he

keeps regretting.

'Tis man alone who

plots and schemes

and lies awake

and cannot dream.

Tis man alone

who seals his fate

by losing his soul

to so much hate.

Chapter 112 – The Blacksmith

The curse of the fatal cork is patient

with a man felled by the drink.

He who caused

destruction  and heartbreak 

and lost all.

So, too, must the man be patient,

with no other choice

but to live out his sentence

and endlessly circle the globe

as his hammer marks

another day,

another year,

of regret.

Chapter 113 – The Forge


For Ahab’s long-anticipated kill

only the finest weapons will do,

imagined through comfortless nights

as he tosses and turns

in sweat and sheet 

Aand endured through

bleak days as he endlessly

paces the deck,

the thonk of his alabaster leg

an unrelenting reminder that

fuels obsessive revenge.

Chapter 114 – The Gilder

Soothing waters

Warm sunshine

Utter quiet, save the lap

of gentle waves.

No time,

only this moment,

to hear oneself think

and even thoughts are calm.

Man is not always greedy,

blood-thirsty and

hungry to conquer.

On such a day,

a man meets his other self,

his better self.

Would it would last

forever.


Chapter 115 – The Pequod Meets The Bachelor


Success breeds success,

likewise grim resolve.

Might such a morbid  

mission end well?

Restore a leg?

Revive a heart?

Renew the reason

a man goes to sea

in the first place?

Is rebirth possible?

Yes.

Not by the Creator,

but by the man himself.

Chapter 116 – The Dying Whale


I am buoyed by breaths

of once living things.

We are all connected,

all yearn towards

the same fiery sun that

gives us life, yet burns

undisturbed and unmoved

when we perish.

We can butturn away and sigh,

leaving life to those

who come after.


Chapter 117 – The Whale Watch


Floating in and out of sleep

beside his kill

in the empty, bleak night,

Ahab dreams of death, with

visions of hearses and gallows

startling him awake.

‘Immortal on land and on sea,’

he insists, with a hollow laugh,

fooling no one.

Least of all himself.


Chapter 118 – The Quadrant


Ask the impossible from a mere tool

and prepare to toss it aside in disgust.

Far better to seek a

psychic, a fortune teller

or even a shooting star

to guide you to that one spot

among all others

where Moby-Dick

lies in wait.


Chapter 119 – The Candles


The flame that can’t be snuffed

not by breath nor breeze nor wave,

burns a hole deep inside Ahab

and keeps the old man enslaved.

‘The sea will have its way,’ says Stubb,

and so a sailor believes.

But the sea is no match for the fire

by which Ahab is deceived.

It seers his eyes as he stands before

lightning, torch and typhoon.

Yet all he sees is Moby–Dick

‘Soon,’ he promises, ‘Soon.’

Chapter 120 – The Deck Towards the End of the First Night Watch

And so

the decline begins.

Claws of mania

encircle

clutch

choke all reason.

Sinking into the depths,

Ahab shouts and threatens,

patience long discarded and

tunnel vision turning him

not only blind but deaf.

.Save your breath,

my Captain,

Moby-Dick cannot hear you.

Chapter 121 – Midnight.—The Forecastle Bulwarks
 
A
Sailor
is anchored
to his ship
His ship
to the ocean
The ocean
to the planet
The planet
which feels steady and
solid as granite
floats and spins
held down
by He
who planned it
and the whims
of those who stand on’t.

Chapter 122 – Midnight Aloft.—Thunder and Lightning

Boom! 
My heart thumps.
Bang!
My brain throbs.
Crack! 
The mainsail splits.
Save the ship
Save myself
Save some RUM

Chapter 123 – The Musket
 
Ahab wrestles with the Devil in his sleep
as Starbuck hovers at the door,
knowing his captain’s awakening
will unleash even more madness.

Save Thyself, Starbuck!
This musket you cradle,
once aimed at you,
could now end the delirium
and turn the Pequod home –

Save Thyself, Starbuck! 
Think of your wife!
Your boy!
Your crew!
The Devil awakens soon …
Do it now, do it now, do it now -

Save Thyself, Starbuck!

Chapter 124 – The Needle

After raging weather,
glorious, soothing sunlight
warms sea and ship and,
like giants' palms outspread,
enormous swells lazily
nudge the ship along.

But wait – in which direction?
With a dose of reality
and geography,
our Captain breaks the sun’s spell
and sets the Pequod
back on course.

Chapter 125 – The Log and Line


In the midst of obsession

and delusion

beats a heart.

“Thou touchest my

inmost centre, boy,”

says Ahab, taking little Pip

by the hand.

So lies a sliver of hope,

a faint recognition of

what a man once was

before madness took hold.

But life holds thee; not thou it,

and Ahab’s destiny awaits him.

Chapter 126 – The Life–Buoy

Not even one sailor 

can be saved

by a ship 

ill-equipped for rescue

and hell-bent 

on a devil’s errand.

Do what you’re told.

Turn a corpse’s bed

into a life buoy

and be quick about it.

Chapter 127 – The Deck

May the song that ye sing

light yer way

ease yer load

Hey, hey

May the ring of yer mallet

be the tune

of yer ode

Hey

Not a thought in yer head

to intrude on the task

But a little conversation

makes the job go fast

Sing a song if ye like

to the beat of this spike

Nail it in

Hey, hey

Nail it in.


Chapter 128 – The Pequod Meets The Rachel

Camaraderie and Kinship

Fatherhood and Mercy,

All wiped out

in one incomprehensible

moment of callous disregard.

“Captain Gardiner, I will not do it.”

A revengeful heart is

full to the brim

with room for naught else.


Chapter 129 – The Cabin


I hear ivory above me

it comes and it goes

My captain please let me

lighten your load.

Wherever the need is

Pip will be

I will spot the white whale

leave it all to me.

I am spinning in your chair

bring me up, sir, to your side

On the deck of the Pequod

you and I will take a ride!


Chapter 130 – The Hat


Ahab’s iron soul

shuns all

but his intended prey.

Like the workhorse,

Hate wears blinders

and sees not left nor right,

but only straight ahead to

its narrow destination.

Let’s Connect

Chapter 131 – The Pequod Meets the Delight
 
So close, so close, so close
Only a day away
See there, that tattered whaleboat …
Over yonder, a foolish victim sliding
into his watery grave …
Only yesterday men faced
the White Whale
but were no match for him – 
Ha!
He is mine, all mine
and I am closing in.

Chapter 132 – The Symphony
 

Is it I, God, or who,

that lifts this arm

 to such a sky

up where melodies lie

and breezes sing

and soothe and conjure up

home and wife and boy

and a pillow left behind

that quietly beckon.

 

And if the great sun itself,

that doth shine down on us all,

be but an errand-boy in heaven

what of me?

 

What power hath I

when this tune turns to

ravings and dark thoughts

to nail me to a vendetta

as surely as a butterfly

pinned to a page,

with no escape.

Can I lift this arm,

cast out this craving,

and

find another song?


Chapter 133 – The Chase – First Day

In a culmination of
frenzied anticipation,
the ultimate prize presents itself.
Rising from the waves with
a hump like a snow-hill . . .
MOBY-DICK AT LAST!
Ahab is ready.
Fearless!
And tossed
overboard.

Chapter 134 – The Chase – Second Day


"Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant,"

Ahab confides to Starbuck,

"I act under orders."

Unlike God, Fate has no mercy,

its urgency a

driving force that ignores

all good angels 

mobbing thee with warnings.

Reason and caution

play no part

in a feverish mind.

Chapter 135 – The Chase – The Third Day

The sea is calm,

gentle waves lapping

and sunlight shining through

their transparent folds

in shades of gold

and green and blue.

No trace remains of

what transpired here …

The chase

The chaos

The splattered bodies

and scattered

planks of wood that

were once a ship …

Does any of it matter?

Tis the same sea Noah knew

lo, these five thousand years.

Nothing’s changed.

Man’s hubris continues

unabated,

but makes no difference

at all.

Grey Beach Shores




Epilogue


The story must be told

and so a life is spared.

Lessons must be learned

but each man 

is his own teacher,

and each will take 

what he will

and leave the rest,

which scatters like

discarded driftwood

and floats away 

to wash up

on distant shores.

Of use to no one.


The white whale 

and his brethren,

uninterested in man,

go their own way,

until the next ship

and the next crew

try to leave 

their mark

on this vast, 

unknowable

and indifferent sea

where, ultimately,

all evidence 

will be washed away.