Reading “Jonah” (Video)

I prepared my set for the Weird Words reading at the Beatrice Wood Center knowing two special friends would be in the audience. Although, as I say in the poem, I never knew their adult son, having lost my own son in his infancy, I feel a special connection with them.

One day, this poem came to me. I was nervous at first to share it with them. But they told me that they read it over and over in private. On that night, I read it to them in person for the first time. Needless to say it was difficult to keep reading through strong feelings. Kevin Wallace, director of the Center, videotaped the evening, and captured this moment.

<a href="">Click here to watch</a>

Here also is the text of the poem:

in memoriam J.B.

It is large, they say, this life,
and however could a dove alight
on the barnacle-armored hull of it
and not fear his own consumption?

You live on through the love
you left behind, in the eyes
of those who speak of you
at the distant whaling outposts.

Although we never met, your story
is all-too understandable,
since all of us are stowaways, deep
in the hold, tossed on a storm.

How could you not have wanted more?
The rafters creaking overhead,
only a swinging lamp to guide you.
You went out on deck alone.

And when the world found you,
and rammed against your hull,
they say you looked it in the eye
before it swallowed you whole.