Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Gray Whale, After Wallace Stevens and ending with a line from Rilke
Written for the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City initiative to become the Greenest City in the World by 2020 and in recognition of the gray whale that swam into Downtown Vancouver on May 5th 2010
An armoured lung,
a living castle of barnacle
and bone; a peaceful
leviathan moving with
the ease of a dark cloud.
The child knows more
about the gray whale
than the adult.
When given crayons
the adult says he does
not know how to draw.
The child is already drawing
the gray whale
with blue and pink.
In the world of opposites
the gray whale is an ocean cave
populated by sea otters.
No I didn’t see the whale but
the man behind me at Starbucks did.
Everyone was talking about it
and someone said “did you
see the whale?” his eyes danced
and he shouted across the store
I did, he kept saying. I did.
I saw the whale.
And the Whale said
Behold the natural world.
The woman died and the man
grew frail and ashen.
His life slowed to the pace
of the gray whale.
Forget the secrets of Elephants
The gray whale thinks in music.
In the Oregon aquarium, the children sit
below the skeleton of the Gray Whale
The thing is, my dad doesn’t like people much.
We saw the whale on the pier outside the market.
Even after the whale had gone, my dad wanted to stay
and talk to everyone else who had seen it.
Do not live in habit. Do not take the most
basic assumptions for granted. Consider
the city of whales. If you seek it with your eyes
you will never find it. It lives only in the symphonics
of the ocean. It’s music is to the ear
as the pavement is to your foot.
Can you believe its August. Can you believe
there is a whale in English Bay. How lucky
we are to walk through Stanley Park. My heart
beats at the speed of birds. I’ve stopped believing
in loneliness. Here we are. It’s summer.
I want to be in love.
Some were trying to decipher what the whale
was telling us. Other already knew.
And there you were
below the mountains
in the heart of the city
gazing at the gray whale.
You must change your life.