Aught, no. 13 (2004)

Dan Beachy-Quick

Meditation on a Broken Leg; or, Mediation Between a Bone
and a Missing Bone
(Ahab, after the Carpenter carves him
a new leg)

               Cancel me

               My debt in the turning lathe’s ledger—
               I’ve a hewn leg more narrow (a
                                                         marrow-profit) in mind

               To stand on the jawbone of the jaw
               That bit me from my own.

               I signed me off on my severed nerve
               ‘s electric command: turn-to, strike top-sail, strike—.

               The pain-whetted mind (strike—to the Season-on-the-Line),
               The pain-whetted, pulse-forged, blood-bladed mind—
                                                                                       to you Due
                                                                                       I am, I owe, I feel
               An air-flesh grown unseen
               On this too-much-seen bone
                                                                 as if I were
                                                                 not a
                                                                 vessel half-sparred
               I wear a bruised heel on a foot
               That has no heel to bruise.

               Madness aches me
               A step
                          further on: cursed . . . mortal
               Which will not do away with ledgers

               I know who I owe and who
               Owe me: You:

                         Whale: a Sum Unknown.

               Another me

               Exists the sun

               Cannot know: belly-deep:

               I tendon my thought to the Shoreless—
               Wave-ridden: at depths, I am

               Not-known. To myself

               I whisper the white whale’s name.
               I square my jib into the gale, sail
               Where the wind unleashed would not allow me.
               When lightning struck the mast
                                        the mast was fire-blessed to me—

               When a storm-lit, magnet-flame, lit on the blood-forged lance
               I took the lance to lip
                                          and breathed
               The God-flame out. God-like. God-like—

                     I know the angle of flame
                     At breath’s bidding. I know the angle
                     Of the sail in wind.

                     O, bide on me source is source
                     Of breath inspire and no other
                     No other lifts this hand my hand
                     Into the wind I palm my sail
                     Myself and strike the God who strikes

               Ask me

                     What is a Captain?
                                                               “What is a Captain, Captain?”

                     He who fills the White
                     Ledger with Red Ink.

                     Ask me how much costs
                     A Whaling Profit? Ask me—

“Faith, sir, I’ve———.”

“Faith? What’s that?”

“Why, faith, sir, it’s only a sort of exclamation-like—.”

                                                    Ask me to compare:
       Within the sun upon the sea
       I see
               a darkling self
       Who is more me than me.

I feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there . . . do I.

      A tingling life
      In the ghost-limb, jawbone, a
      Tingling life
                     in the jawbone, unutterable—

Is’t a riddle? the sun?

            Unknown sum? Light begins in
            A single point, a star.
            And then a star expands into
            A planet, my hand gestures an orbit
            Of light.

            Let it dwindle—if it drowns
            Let it drown
            In the ocean a lamp the sun.

Strike the sun. It insults me.



The Head of the Whale (an epistemology, a psychology, an economy,
a flame, tooth, bone, a theology of the blind, a murder, a deaf ear )

               No thought in the brain-cask
               But flame’s account: 500 gallons

               Save those sparks that in the ocean spilled
               Off the lance-lip and drowned.

               A profit cut from out the head
               Of the whale—beneath the bone-mass

               A liquid thought that is not flame
               But flame-promised: light, a medicinal

               Light to coax ink to be darkness
               Leaping (nightly leaping) from pages bright.

               Profit-of: Profit
                                      of: the unthought
               Thought. Spermacetti: perfectly . . .

. . . honeycomb of oil, formed by the crossing and re-crossing, into ten thousand infiltrated cells, of tough elastic white fibres throughout its whole extent

                                                            . . . fluid,
               Spermacetti: a

               Fluid-thought locked within the

. . . plaited forehead . . .

                      thought locked within the

. . . innumerable strange devices for the emblematic . . .


. . . adornment of his wondrous tun.



               None but a prophet can speak
               Behind the hieroglyph
                                               -ic skull
               Of the whale’s electric mind

               That flaming leaps
               From all into all, or—
               Unsparked, calms. A

               God’s multi-sparked thought—
               A brain waiting to light the match by thinking
               The match lit.

                                     God-spark, anger—
               No profit spoke from the mouth

               Of the whale. Lower-jaw with lance-head
               Cut-off. No profit

               In white-membraned whale-mouth, no
               Profit in that papered-mouth

               But the tooth pulled. Ivory.
               Sailor’s etch their dark stories

               On whale-tooth. Skrimshander. Dark
               Story with their eyes they lived.

               They can make a toothpick of a tooth.


               Whale’s head, unfolded. Uses thereof.
               1. Brain-cask, to-be-flame. (A profit)
               2. Papered-mouth, tooth-to-be-carved.
               3. Eyes, ears (A physiology). Note

               Two eyes small as foal’s
               Eyes on opposite sides of the head.

               A forward vision is lacking.
               When the God-spark strikes

               The white whale knows to swim furious
               Nightwards, starless, blind. Stave boat.

               Break lance, bite. Murder the unseen
               Man. Between eyes a flaming

               Globe waits a match
               That could not light the eyes if lit. Mustn’t

               A blind-thought remain blind? ink
               Unspoiled by the page? keep the book

               Closed. The ears of the whale are (Dumb
) small enough to plug with a quill-pen.


Skin of the Whale; or, An Epidermal Inquiry (an analytic glance, moving from
the deepest depth of skin to the shallowest)

               Skin spoken
               By knife’s honed tongue—
               By fluent edge is:
                                         dumb-speech is: a
               Tongue licking the page to read
               The page is:

               No speech at all. Unsilence
               Silence. Wind

               Back the blubber-profit on the whale again,
               unboil that 100-barrelled profit,
               unspark that flame
               Back to light not yet cast out. We’ve a page

               To read: dark-voice,


The question is, what and where is the skin of the whale?


               1) An innermost layer (of skin) cannot be
                              until blade strikes
               Solid as bone. Subject: skin, a depth unknown:
               A substance oil-filled but not oil
               Until touched         flame cannot be flame.
               2) A surface

               Etched with innumerable crosses
               And recrosses
of straight lines—
               A surface engraved, mystic-marked skin—a
               First page to read
                                          on a volume
               Opened, but of

                                       contents unknown, a
                                       frontispiece, an
                                       Author’s page

               Signed in language that is
                                                  no language we know. 3) Surface-of-

               The-Surface: a transparent Skin-of-Skin: a
               Microscopic layer
               A finger’s strength removes, that
                                                                dried, that
               On the leaf of a book I use as bookmark
               Transparent: I
                                                    put you on a word
                                                    and the word darkens-out

               Through thinnest skin
                   the ink (I’m thinking) grows. A word grows

               Larger a word—through whale-skin—more seen.


Copyright 2004, by the author. All rights reserved.
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