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Herman Melville / Martin Puryear


The plowed parking lot
has its massed harvest
by December's end—
a white hump, cornered

by commerce, grayed
by February. Its nine
feet seem
to last and last,

more sculptured stone than snow.
Finally, March rain
wears the pocked surface away.
No one sees it melt,

it only fades,
revealing in layers
the debris of December—
here a wet ribbon, there a sodden string

tangled in the effluence of a cold
sunken hump.
Our allowance of white whale
under the black wet pavement.

We stand in the parking lot's cold
and talk about the man who was found
frozen to death
curled on the stoop

of the realtor's office.
The bower of his own perfect
curving ribs (a kind of slow
drowning) a wrestling breath ...

but what do I know
of freezing to death? "In nature,"
Duncan wrote,
"the furies stir."

The coffin-canoe that Queequeg
rested in,
that was a carving by Martin Puryear;
and the lighted pole stuck in the spout hole

and the rope ladders in the rigging,
climbed to the point
where they are rungless spires—
these are his.

To seek to kill the furies
is to be a hooked
fury, a curved
inverted sharpness.

Better to carve waves in grieving space.
Carve them in granite on a red wood floor.
Carve them in soapstone on marble.
Make one of clunky crosshatch

and call it Thicket,
an out-of-business wave.
Weave one in wicker and call it Bower
a basket to make it.

Carve them in white pine on ebony. Carve prayers
—curved                    disclosures
from the hidden hub, heliotropic wheels,
rudders imagined

beneath the floor.
The mind is for the world,
poured out, broken,
like the king's spikenard at a christening.

I might ask Puryear
to carve for Pip a fragrant
cedar corpus on a white pine cross
to hold in his arms like Queequeg's Yojo,

                             to hold in my arms when I sleep.


David Mutschlecner

Enigma and Light
Ahsahta Press


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