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Jacket 21 — February 2003   |   # 21  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |

Deborah Meadows

from ‘The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick

Chapter 50

Never kneel.

Safety of captain, a difficult goal.

Five extra men, so a discursus
on racial Asia.

Cutting the groove isn’t
the heart of the matter,
             isn’t the heart.

No one wants it published.
             Hints aren’t sure things, so
play to that doubt. Go fish.

phantoms sustain excitement?

Conditions aboard. Dab of cool.
         The piece to brace
         his knee against.


Chapter 51

Watery location, the racks, waves, scrolls
of silver, suffused seethings, glittering god.

Dense accentuation giving onto trochees:
You will harken sightings here.

Limb sound whenever, wherever
       the lifting tendency follows
       sailors’ falling:  one, two,
       die or do.

Howling around us.

Strange forms recede from all that space
         vacating itself,
         the perfidious nature
         of beckoning
as if Something is there

inscrutable as a conscience.

The anguish of fatalists loosened
some time before—glad humanity
in response or accustomed hole.


Chapter 52

                                   Nineteenth century matter:

This spectral rust wins time. A will
         made of air—wild men on mastheads
         worn by four years’ term.

Words go unspoken though we near;
         arrival passes into departure

what news we/they bring.

Will each of us pass into
         wild future seas,
trumpet to mouth
         (our wakes cross).

The mention of the Whale
had been a hole to crawl
         out from.

Our insane steersman
behind secure bonds.
Here, make pauses
                     :they either lead us
                     before all human torment
                     or chase.


Chapter 53

Men display balance
to other men
       in this trade.

Aldermen must leave effeminacy
by hitting a reciprocal wedge
                       (written here:  gamming)

Save their own little peculiar
           nuances, again
it would never do.

Villainous brother, slaver there,
              profession with no solid basis,
you might wear the columns
              of dictionaries down.

She has an aspect of honest elements.
       By what measure
turned to courtesy, that essential
language, gestures by a sort
       of sea-peasant or national.

He would have boarded her.


Chapter 54

The unquestionable source is the one
that will bring truth to bear,

and a companion canoe, yoked
under your sense of justice,

clicked in the lock.

Plot will move forward
seen through that veil:
         the eye of Moby-Dick
in the laborious Between,
vigilance over dangerous allies.

Out-fox an animal or ambition
         kept below.
The helm would come round,
         a fool saved
by tick, by pump, by hiss,
        and plan.

No sign of mutiny, breaking
miscreants, iterated hint that can
absorb lore, Great Lakes toughs
          told in such sentences
told to such interlocutors from Spain
          Isabella’s Inquisition


‘Once a laugh
is temperate ... ’

Both Erie canallers, broken
like breadth and heart
         much perceived
alluding to
familiar tropes

forbearance, other devices
         & virtues drive
         the line forward.

Not connected with his comrades,
         a cricket will meddle
washing lively men in bitterness
and dislike.

gamesome in your lasting record,
easy at intervals

speaking unknown as property
         that secret part


Hogarth engraving

Chapter 55

So round, art of our displayed diver. Though the fins
           have fingers
                     derived touching
                     has more curious
                     things, such as
this very idea going away
in a small risk
                     of being
                     of representation.


Defy artists and gentlemen naturalists
         who depict from shore.

What sort of Natural History informs us?
         Broken back pictures hang
over spare cups and queer humps.

I thought the coast veracious
according to published plates
and London editions: whales like
great rafts, white bears make blunders,
       elongated parts wrongly joined
       amuse cognoscenti
       of this noble profession.


He succeeds: rolling majestic flukes
           as the specimen-apart
           by lamplight.

Temples and coins prove
a helmeted faith in pictures;
privations and spent time,
the ‘eye of the whaleman.’


Aquatint by William John Huggins

Chapter 56

I thought with a study of representation
I could see myself there
or as maker of there.
   ‘I’ was wrong.


Permanent as that matter
in predecessors’ engravings, adult
thought derives anything
           from pictures of whales.
This living hunter might be found
virtually unbroken, that balancing
man half sheeted and supine,
leviathan standing still in a slash
of time, you beholding comical
starched sails of the conquered Form.
Indeed, anything. Within the idiom
         we have more idiom.

Finished sketches dash nights
his way where every successive
surge of crowned centrality is
a parable of power, the content
of vacancy, the voyage-effect.

Ninety-six factories dignified
those fine engravings worth a monster
from this scene of action:
            vying for external
reference, the duality is in the act,
a boat right alongside known.


Chapter 57

Justification of forms have a hold on you.
                       Mount or make elaborate whales
from whales’ rough material,
           high hall and low kitchen.

Savage museum: images packed
           on Achilles’ shield, not one single
           bit owing allegiance to intention.
Whales cannot examine them.
           In domestic houses by the road-side,
majestic porters quip, whale
           knockers alarm, and weather
is vain.

Lifted by your subject, catch
       passing glimpses of tent-profiles
       interpreting undulating ridges:
see these sights in pursuit of heavens’


Scrimshaw illustration

Chapter 58

Harvest or battle?
          Beaded creatures swallow
all manner of sea swallow.
Consider the horror of perpetual war:
           our gentle green earth,
           a soul engulfed by throbs,
ruin, shore evidence.

A strange insular crew answers
science with science, yet such
kind may neglect ‘awfulness
of the sea.’ We are neither landsmen
nor named by experimental methods.

A dog lives on the earth.
Swaths of golden wheat.
Unpounded by our element we depict
our outward fascinations.


Chapter 59

The sight captivates you, by eye or legend.

         Concerning its true nature and form

Alluring ject, almost preternatural.
           Any stagnant moss seemed
blank when the the
            from the high mast, doubled and sank
for a monster even more morose
            or carnal.

           ‘I’ rushed to the yard-arm with thoughts
wily and idle. Similar to what betrayed
           what I was now pursuing.

this was the first sight
           (whether this was, or whether not, no
           matter: see here)
Secret seas, furlongs in length,
           bring on my curling anthers.

Hill gazing, were it sundown, but disappearing
           all voices exclaim ‘Moby-Dick’
           turning his body
to silence, following vague ideas,
           sperm of selfhood.

Found the feeding belongs to legendary
       squid, alluded to among
       external tribes respected
       for cuttlefish, they believe
                          to nature
                          it belongs.


Illustrations: William Hogarth (1697–1764) Perseus Descending
Aquatint by William John Huggins (1781–1845) engraved by Edward Duncan (1803–1882)
Mid-nineteenth century scrimshaw carving by an anonymous whaleman known in the Kendall Whaling Museum as the ‘Banknote Artisan’.

From: Herman Melville’s Picture Gallery by Stuart M. Frank, Lefkowicz, Inc.: Fairhaven, Mass., 1986, ISBN 0961719451

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