I wrote about whales last week in “Ulterior Motives.” It’s odd then that this time last year I posted “In the ocean one night,” a poem about whales that I had transcribed directly from a dream. Yes, I kid you not. This was one of my genuine, vivid sleep-time dreams.
The poem inspired the title of my third book, which was published last year.
It was very suspicious
the way that whale
rolled over and opened
its mouth for tips,
then set fireworks
to the water gods
from its blowhole.
Whales have featured in my poetry before. Like sluice gates and bears, whales prefigure as a childhood fascination. In my first or second year of school, we learnt about blue whales. They were enormous yet ate such small food with little effort through their sieve-mouths. Either in conjunction with the curriculum topic or with my family I must have visited the South African Natural History Museum where there was (and still is) the large skeleton of a blue whale. Alongside was a booth in which recordings were played of whales in communication. These creatures had a language, which I could not penetrate. I was in awe.
Southern Right whales come into the sheltered bays around Cape Town to calf. Whale watching is a notable annual event. I still think about a particular train journey from Simon’s Town, past Glencairn, when I saw two majestic whales dancing in the ocean and spouting the fireworks from their blowholes.
The tides of
and the next tomorrow
sweep into crevices of shored shells.
The waves nudge these hollows of yesterday’s habitat
into the barrels of
and the next tomorrow.
There the shored shells
break with tomorrow,
and another tomorrow dashed
to granules that lip the tideline.
Salted foam seeps this watermark
and in the kelp-laurels sandhoppers dance.
While paging through the anthology of Chinese poems on my bookshelf, I came across a nostalgic poem in which the poet embarks on a journey in his imagination and progresses to reminisce about his favourite landscapes. (The poem was Su Tong-P’o’s Inscribed on a Painting in Wang Ting-Kuo’s Collection Entitled “Misty River and Crowded Peaks”)
He ends the poem,
Returning to your painting, I’m taken by sighs of sad wonder.
I have old friends in those mountains,
and their poems keep calling me home.(p. 381)
I loved this image of his friends’ poems calling the poet/speaker home. This was the starting point for my poem. Who would I call home with my poetry, if I could?
There is a crescent of beach to which my melancholy imagination often turns. This fragment of strand is in Betty’s Bay, one of my favourite spots in the world. It is in this place that my call home is set.
I try to revive a blue whale
with raw eggs from plastic bowls
in different colours
laid out in a wooden fishing boat.
To do this you must put two
or three eggs together in each bowl,
watch their yolks lilt to the tide, then
pour them through the whale’s sieve-like mouth.
This poem is a transcription of a dream I had. The notebook entry of 29/10/12 analyses the stress that probably elicited the scene, “Drowned out by my panic: income! job! career! Aaargh!” Such is the mundane reality that underpins some creative output. I am certain some English teacher in the future will invest the work with a more riveting subliminal meaning.
I have very vivid dreams. Since I was a child, I’ve had vivid dreams. “Afloat” is another poem based on a nocturnal vision remembered and jotted down. Often my dreams are strong on action, filled with tactility and punctuated with memorable details. Only once I remember hearing music in a dream. When I stayed in South America briefly, I eventually started dreaming in very basic Spanish.
With this poem I conclude my official a Poem a Day for a Month. This bumper month of posts is part of my larger 2×52 project, during which I aim to produce a 104 poems across a year (52 weeks). The idea was to keep writing and producing. Out of 104 poems, some might not be as engaging, some might be readable and a few should, by the law of statistics, must surely be reasonably good. I shall continue to post according to my routine of two poems a week. Sign up to BeadedQuill (see tab in bottom right-hand corner) for these future poems, updates on the aimed for (e)book of the 2×52 project and other news.
Onto my raft of plaits
I shall step,
with dreams of Alsation-men.
This short poem dates from the last quarter of 2013 when I did indeed have a dream about a raft of plaits and Alsation-men. Perhaps it was a subconscious mash-up of my plaited rag rug (A craft project that’s still incomplete!) and the beautiful dogs I see on my almost daily walks in a local wood.
The books: Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys and Shining in Brightness