I ache to live as poets past could live,
to “live gladly” in the presence of
“the enormous invulnerable beauty of things.”
I long to celebrate this great whale skeleton,
this architecture of vertebrae
graduated like cathedral columns
or the thick-wound bass strings of a sunken harp,
receding with the measured rhythm of an unsung hymn,
sinking like a fallen tree into the earth, into the sea again,
still wearing textured ravelings of skin,
revealing kinship, in its mighty decomposition,
with our own furred bodies.
We late poets are so confused by all this misplaced splendor
–a spring-like February day, a lone monarch.
These whale bones on the beach stir fears
about warming seas, starving pods,
disorienting underwater explosions.
“We are fools,” Jeffers believed,
“If we refuse the inhuman beauty, to chase our own minds and make
Which are meaner and easier–”
A century later, we are called to perhaps an even harder
balancing act than his, the soul-lacerating pain
of owning the destruction we have wrought
while at the same time holding and loving
what is still so beautiful.
Deborah Bachels Schmidt
quotes are from Robinson Jeffers’ “Nova” and a draft of “The Ocean’s Tribute”
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