“At the Whaling Museum, Point Lobos” by Ruth Thompson
Let us begin here:
outside the one-room whaling museum at Point Lobos,
beneath the dark arms of cypresses.
White bones of whales lie stacked—
chained together so that no one can steal them.
No charnal ground, no messy metamorphoses,
no vultures. Only the antler shapes
of Cypress’s transcendence, and these white bones,
past changing. Drybones like stones.
Grieve, Cypress, for the unfallen.
Whale fall is out there –
somewhere beyond the harbor, in the abyss.
Cavern, vast nave, ruined abbey.
Slow downdrift of ancient sunlight.
Voices of liquid angels.
Once she too sang. Once she slapped water, slipped
under her own wake.
When she was sound, she sounded.
Now she is soundless as a worm-hole.
Nor can she be sounded, lying too deep for words.
For had she fallen more shallowly,
she would already be eaten.
When you are eaten, that is called a sea change.
All the sweet easy swallowed up.
The fat of the land of me.
Last bone standing
makes the church of whale fall.
To come home, you learn echolocation,
like a bat.
You call your ownself out into the dark.
In the whale graveyard, chained bones
are set about with try-pots.
A try-pot too contains a terrible sounding –
a sea change –
from whale to oil.
But the hagfish, the worms and sleeper sharks
Only a flash of blue from the bay
where an otter sleeps, wrapped in kelp.
Only a ruckus of seabirds, mist rising
from the cypresses.
If I dived down to whale fall,
a certain poetry would be possible.
That is an extremity
to which I have not gone.
I was taken. I was chained. I was eaten.
But I have not tried myself out.
All these years I have praised the good sun
and the noise of gulls.
I have wrapped myself in kelp
and slept in the current.
Now in the night
three strange angels kick open my door,
unchain my bones—
Go down, they say. Go down.
Now you must love that too.
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Ruth Thompson Artist Statement:
Ruth Thompson is a poet and conscious channel. She is the author of five award-winning books, most recently Whale Fall & Black Sage (poetry; 2019), and Quickwater Oracles (channeled meditations; 2021). Her new book, Journey Bread: New & Selected Poems, will be published by Broadstone Books in 2024. Ruth’s poetry has won many national awards and has been performed by Shizuno Nasu and other distinguished dancers and musicians. Ruth has a BA from Stanford and a PhD in English from Indiana. She now lives in Ithaca, NY, teaches poetry and meditation, and is the editor/publisher of Saddle Road Press. (ruththompson.net)