April, 4/7

The literary magazine has returned from the printer!


I had a poem published ––

–– a slightly revised version of the poem about the whale that I wrote the first week of Kathy‘s class this semester.

For those not in the South Jersey area/without access to Rewrites, here it is in all its “enormirety.”

But As Pasteboard Masks

A fifty-ton metaphor has washed up on 7th Street beach.
The news streams over social networking; we

step out into the mottled day to bear witness to this beast,
lemmings to the feast
. The beast,

thrown on to the deck of man as if by God,
decomposes in the sand as, obediently,

we arrive. There is a clattering of car doors.
An old woman emerges from a taxi, bundled in fur,

tosses the driver crumpled bills from her handbag
and heads up to join the Methodists massing. We

swarm the sand, pulling on monastic hoodies in our haste.
“I brought my children to see,” a man says.

“Who would’ve thought to see this,” another woman
exclaims. “Shame though it’s dead, though.

The metaphor delivered to us was dead, she means––

wind undulating its shivery, silvery blubber,
mask of movement in the surf, coaxing and coaxing.

Even so, the mass seems to metasticize in front of us,
gaining momentum. When the tide nudges it next,

a lame fin presses up and appears to be waving at us.
The satellite vans––the proliferation of camera phones––

people texting loved ones to come and see, come and see.
Seized by it, creature of the sea, and sure that we see

almost mythical testaments in its being sent to us:
Almost Biblical, a relic; remnant of past plague.

One feels sick, as if it were something vomited up,
not by the sea, but by us ourselves,

made manifest on land as if to confront us––
willed by a collective force but not to give no comfort to us.

The primordial metaphor has no eyes, but
if one stares for too long one forgets

whether it is being compared to us
or whether we are being compared to it.

When I was a child, I had a book on metaphors,
on the golden age of metaphoring, when men

would take to masted ships in search of them,
filled with lust for hunting and for the unknown.

Pictures of men setting to wine-red sea with harpoons,
clinging to the mooring as the metaphors

crushed their ships to tremendous splinters.
When many died from such sport,

many more wished to die but wouldn’t.
One child begins to cry

and is taken away. The rest of us, preoccupied with work,
turn from the beast back to the island town

as the men from Public Works arrive
to hatchet it up,

and to bury it deep;
and to bury it good.

Mom: Here's a picture of the whale.
Rachel: Mom knows how to take a picture with her phone?!!

This entry was posted in Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to April, 4/7

  1. Will Roby says:

    Really really enjoyed the poem, Rich. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Excerpts from a Friday Night Conversation on Miss Williams’ Porch. | rarlington

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