Tuesday poem: Whales at the coast

June 12, 2012

Whales at the coast

It’s not the acne of barnacles pock-marking flippers;
a bump-headed sculpture garden on triangular flesh,
that phrenology of brainless mounds, indecipherable,
alien’s braille, hinting at a saga of years and fathoms.
It’s not the blimp size, surfers becoming rubber em dashes
as the Miltonic whale justifies them down, wipes them out.
It was the blast that we heard on the shore, as she lay
on her back, performing a solitary circus for her calf,
each heavy grey sail brought down, as if a tent were falling.
The boom arrived two seconds later. I timed it, trying to bring
her epic capers within a scale I knew, of measured ticks
around my watch. She who has Australia’s rock-mouthed coast
as a west-turned comma, against which her life sometimes bobs,
and over which she sends deep explosive barbs of noise
to pierce our bracketed lives. From below, the bass rumble,
as the Right whale cavorts, ecstatic, off shore near Eden.

PS Cottier

Eden is an old whaling town on the far south coast of NSW. It has always struck me as amusing that such a horrible industry was carried out in a town with the name of Eden. I have never actually been there, but moved my whale sighting poem further south down the coast of NSW so as to capture the historical and biblical associations of the name.

At least whales can travel our coast now without being slaughtered. Head a little further south again though, and the troubles begin.

This poem appeared in my first poetry collection, The Glass Violin.

I am probably one of the last poets to post a Tuesday poem today. It’s the afternoon in New Zealand, by now. Yesterday was a public holiday for the Queen’s birthday in the ACT (how many does she have, I wonder) and I keep forgetting that it’s in fact Tuesday. Or that’s my excuse, anyway. Click this feather to see all the other Tuesday poems, including a memorable one from Keith Westwater about the details of crime. I’ve already commented on that one, which shows just how pathetic my excuse for being late actually is…Must learn how to lie. Or to relax.

Tuesday Poem

8 Responses to “Tuesday poem: Whales at the coast”

  1. A. J. said

    I love your whale frolicking in the sea. Near Eden. I’d pull out a quote but it’s a bit long – the first four lines are amazing.

    Cheers, Alicia.

  2. pscottier said

    Thank you Alicia. It’s a sign that in some things, at least, we have improved, that the whales can now frolic near our shores. The main danger to them now is boats getting too near, because of people wanting to look too closely.

    Of course, I’m not forgetting that their respite is only partial. It is inexcusable that Japan still kills them.

  3. I agree with Alicia – there are many wonderful lines in this poem. This was my favourite:

    She who has Australia’s rock-mouthed coast
    as a west-turned comma

    – geography and a sense of menace in a few words. Excellent!

  4. I don’t understand all the refernces here Penelope but I love the sense of whale power in this. I love the barnacle acne and the ‘explosive barbs of noise’ which ‘pierce our bracketed lives.’

    • pscottier said

      Thank you Helen. I often don’t understand all the references in some of the Tuesday poems, notably if details of New Zealand geography are included, but I like the sense of discovery. I’m glad the whale power shone through, and hope it wasn’t just the photo!

  5. Hi Penelope, I loved the photo. It was just in this section ‘Miltonic whale justifies them down, wipes them out.
    It was the blast that we heard on the shore, as she lay
    on her back, performing a solitary circus for her calf,
    each heavy grey sail brought down, as if a tent were falling.
    The boom arrived two seconds later.’ Not sure about the blast and boom and wanted to know more. I don’t think it matters if one doesn’t get the refs…but in this case it seemed important.

    • pscottier said

      I was thinking of the beginning of Paradise Lost, where Milton speaks of his intention of justifying the ways of God to men, which means making them a little more understandable on a human scale. And of course that brings in Eden on a subconscious level, before the word itself pops up. Cheers.

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