Here’s a poem for a special friend. Napier Marten is the founder of Mirthquake, a frontline site for the pooling of knowledge about cetaceans. Napier has long-standing links with the Mirning, a dispossessed group of ‘whale dreaming’ First Nation Australians; and also with Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, a Zulu sangoma (traditional healer). Recently Napier showed a group of us a moving and beautiful documentary he shot in Viet Nam where fishermen have built coastal temples to whales for many centuries. Often containing entire cetacean skeletons these buildings are aesthetic and spiritual wonders bearing witness to a profound and suprarational kinship with whales based on reverence and trust. Shortly after watching this soon-to-be released film I wrote the following sonnet.
for N. M.
Gliding in density, weightless
flying just above the ocean floor
through a shoreless world, stateless
I’m the dominant whale of folklore.
I’ve pushed your ships free of the storm
made drowning sailormen transform
to unconsious dancers on my back.
I’m like that one in the zodiac
you call the Waterbearer
planing into a black abyss
hiding from human malice:
the altruistic standard-bearer.
My song three times circles the earth
with the sun’s Aquarian rebirth.