I admit that mountain, ocean, ship, and whale,
each spike a precipice in me, a vertical doubt of fear.
Something about their sizes: something troubling, in their scale.
I can hand-hold a mountain stone by slope by scramble,
I have ducked to palm Discovery’s dry-docked keel,
but it’s hard to grasp an abyss, rare to cradle a whale.
…………..Do you know what it is?
The curator intimates the treasure with wry eagerness to tell.
First glances say: shell-like, though less finely crafted,
as if afforded by usage or erosion, as much as grown.
Measuring a relic of time or tide or both, my hands
announce unexpected density, guid gear gangs in sma’ bulk,
this pale chew of twisted nugget is heavier than any stone.
…………..It’s an ossicle. He smiles,
…………..a secret passed in whispered pleasure:
…………..A bone, from the inner ear of a whale!
I struggle to understand his words
relayed to me by a miniature echo,
a match-head cousin of the marble boxing mitt.
A cathedral timpani of ice, the pinking shears of crabs,
mother’s scold to swim tight, the throb and detonations
that brought a fragment of you to heavyweight my hand.
In the dark of the sea, in the depths of the whale,
this bony clench of fist shook and trembled,
struck, and fired every note alight.
Memories of alien arias shiver at my fingertips,
a scalloped seed filtered the din of oceans,
to conduct a lover’s voice into your thoughts.
Whale-song blooms like lofting eiderdowns,
celestial plainchant spans vaulting to sound
those deep, dark, long, long sea miles.
Hydrophones can bootleg your performances.
Researchers shade spectrograms to score each part,
but cannot decode a mind’s set sung unspoken.
A ghosting giant’s dawn chorus of cryptic intimations,
securely obscure, but just thought-side of this bone
chords rang a cappella clear and bright as any bell.
Steve Smart is a poet and artist living in a small village in rural Angus, Scotland. His poems have been published in Firth, Atrium, Poet’s Corner, Fat Damsel, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Steve is a keen hillwalker, and landscape and the natural world feature strongly in much of his work.
Recently Steve has been directing collections of short films for an online poetry project called ‘Poems for Doctors’, a collaboration between the University of St Andrews and the Scottish Poetry Library.