The world below the brine;
Forests at the bottom of the sea the branches and leaves,
Sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds the thick tangle, the openings, and the pink turf,
Different colors, pale gray and green, purple, white, and gold the play of light through the water,
Dumb swimmers there among the rocks coral, gluten, grass, rushes and the aliment of the swimmers,
Sluggish existences grazing there, suspended, or slowly crawling close to the bottom,
The sperm-whale at the surface, blowing air and spray, or disporting with his flukes,
The leaden-eyed shark, the walrus, the turtle, the hairy sea-leopard, and the sting-ray;
Passions there wars, pursuits, tribes sight in those ocean-depths breathing that thick-breathing air, as so many do;
The change thence to the sight here, and to the subtle air breathed by beings like us, who walk this sphere;
The change onward from ours, to that of beings who walk other spheres.
You and I on the boat notice
the print the whales leave,
the huge ring their diving draws
for a time on the surface.
Is it like that when we
lose one another? Don't
know, can't. But
I want to believe
when we can no longer
walk across a room
for a hug, can no longer
step into the arms of the other,
there will be this:
some trace that stays
while the great body
remains below out of sight,
dark mammoth shadow
flick of flipper
body of delight
diving deep.
They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.

All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of the sea!

And they rock, and they rock, through the sensual ageless ages
on the depths of the seven seas,
and through the salt they reel with drunk delight
and in the tropics tremble they with love
and roll with massive, strong desire, like gods.
Then the great bull lies up against his bride
in the blue deep bed of the sea,
as mountain pressing on mountain, in the zest of life:
and out of the inward roaring of the inner red ocean of whale-blood
the long tip reaches strong, intense, like the maelstrom-tip, and comes to rest
in the clasp and the soft, wild clutch of a she-whale's fathomless body.

And over the bridge of the whale's strong phallus, linking the wonder of whales
the burning archangels under the sea keep passing, back and forth,
keep passing, archangels of bliss
from him to her, from her to him, great Cherubim
that wait on whales in mid-ocean, suspended in the waves of the sea
great heaven of whales in the waters, old hierarchies.

And enormous mother whales lie dreaming suckling their whale-tender young
and dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of the beginning and the end.
And bull-whales gather their women and whale-calves in a ring
when danger threatens, on the surface of the ceaseless flood
and range themselves like great fierce Seraphim facing the threat
encircling their huddled monsters of love.
And all this happens in the sea, in the salt
where God is also love, but without words:
and Aphrodite is the wife of whales
most happy, happy she!

and Venus among the fishes skips and is a she-dolphin
she is the gay, delighted porpoise sporting with love and the sea
she is the female tunny-fish, round and happy among the males
and dense with happy blood, dark rainbow bliss in the sea.
O herring-fed redheads crouched at your peatfires:
Ancestors of this English I think in, my measure.
Christianized man-killers, makers of poems—

Now, they say, words for a strange kin of fish:
Finned but no fish, and well worth attention,
The mighty Whale, called Phasti-Tokalon.

As he floats at his ease in ocean, seafarers
Mistake him for an island with dark beaches
Where they anchor their boats and climb ashore.

They encamp on the island, they light their fires,
Glad to be back on solid land, weary—then
Whale dives to the bottom, and all the men drown.

He pulls down the ships by their ropes to the bottom.
The Devil himself doles exactly like that,
Tricking those who think he has given them haven.

He murders them all, yes he pulls them all down
With his helm of deception and his grappling ropes.
When they think they are safe he hauls them to Hell.

There’s another trick the great Whale plays:
When he’s hungry he gapes the cave of his mouth,
And from it he issues a luscious perfume

That fools the poor fish that rush in to be eaten.
Like the wave-making Whale the Devil entices
Complicit souls with ambergris and comfort,

Then in his salt mouth spirits them away
From pleasant sunlight down to the dark, where
Hell’s gates close like the jaws of the Whale.

—O onetime children of Eastre or of Odin,
Priest-ridden ravagers, courageous fashioners
Of sewn pelts and syllables. Fearful the makers!
The ribs and terrors in the whale,
Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
And left me deepening down to doom.

I saw the opening maw of hell,
With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell—
Oh, I was plunging to despair.

In black distress, I called my God,
When I could scarce believe him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
No more the whale did me confine.

With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightening shone
The face of my Deliverer God.

My song for ever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
His all the mercy and the power.
Blueberries slow sun burnishes glint out from mist.

Silence foghorns stubbornly evoke by breaking.

Word of the bulk by the North Beach spreads all day.

None of the stream of pilgrims can quite make out the

mammoth sofa? deliquescent ship

half-submerged? But everyone can sense

anchored mobility, the vast and ghostly

dapple of fat shadows swaying in the tide,

lament of the impossible adrift.