Poetry Friday: “Bewilder”

Poetry Friday: “Bewilder” February 3, 2017

Beluga whales swimming in a bluish cave with light illuminating them in the ocean.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


“Bewilder,” by Katharine Coles

He made the Leviathan for the sport of it,
The Lord of my childhood. Her fluke

The size of two sleek rowboats
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

GL banner

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.

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