Grey Beach Shores

ISHMAEL AND HIS FRIEND QUEEQUEG

" ... the soul cannot be hidden from he who sees with the heart."

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 to, yea, seduced by,

the nearest body of water,

by my own ungraspable image

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.

One 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 further 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 a lonely soul.

Ch. 7 – The Chapel

I duck inside 

to take refuge. 

Here, where moody fishermen

pay their respects 

before they sail,

I 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

(Keep your eyes on 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 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 culture’s artifice,

past skin and bone,

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,

and remains 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  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.

But whether skylarking or not,

what does it matter?

Queequeg’s harpoon decimates 

its target and makes

the entire conversation moot.

Let’s Connect

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
or those who bow down before the torso
of a deceased landed proprietor?
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
for a sincere but misguided rescue.

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  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  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  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  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 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  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?
Ennui?
Thoughts of home?
Other ways to earn a living?
As a man looks out
over endless nothingness,
do thoughts churn busily
inside his skull . . .
or is Ismael an
Anomaly?

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, or
even offer a solution.
Listen to Ishmael.

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 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.

Chapter105 – 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.
Buffalos. Elephants
Brothers to the whale.
Living creatures turned into
products for sale.

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.

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,
floating away and washing 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 and leave their mark
on this vast, unknowable
and treacherous sea,
finding, ultimately,
that all evidence will be
washed away.