This is a poem about scale, about the awesome power of the Creator, who in turn gave humanity the power to create. And it’s about the power of a created being, and its potential to do good or evil. Here we have a whale sighting, her powerful fluke useable for constructive or destructive acts—“so many gestures// a fluke or fin can make with or/ without ruin.” Over time, the Leviathan has stood for evil of various kinds. Yet the bulk of the poem celebrates the whale’s beauty without romanticizing or anthropomorphizing. Indeed, it makes deliberate strides against that temptation, admonishing: “her eye deeply/winking at my eye, no more/ human for that.” The poem affirms, if for no one else than for the speaker, that the whale was made for her own good purpose, for God’s own good purpose, “to sing… for enchantment and for love.” The mystery of creation rises into view, immense, blinking its wild eye, and then disappears again, leaving our hearts pounding. Leaving us feeling more alive, as any good poem— creation—ought to.
—Melissa Reeser Poulin
He made the Leviathan for the sport of it,
The Lord of my childhood. Her fluke
For lifting and drawing down
Knifelike into the water
Or for slapping—so many gestures
A fluke or fin can make with or
Without ruin. I remember
A whale rolling sideways
Just—it appeared—so I could see her
Waving or flirting, her eye deeply
Winking at my eye, no more
Human for that. Can’t
Even say she was real beyond
The tide of my imagining or I
Beyond hers, so completely out
Of scale were we, so soundly
Did she sink and finally not
Come up. The Lord of my childhood
Made her to flirt and nurse, to sing
But not to me, for
Enchantment and for love. Believing
I am not superstitious, I make
Her like any muse
To bewilder me, to say
As the wave curls overhead cast
Loose, be charmed, be lost, for
God’s sake remember, be wild.
Psalm 104, for Lincoln Ure
Katharine Coles’s sixth poetry collection, Flight, will be out from Red Hen Press in 2016. Recent poems and essays have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry, andCrazyhorse. A 2012–13 Guggenheim Fellow, she teaches at the University of Utah.
Above image by tigrecanela, used with Permission under a Creative Commons license.