The Carpenter Fish - Poem by Diane Hine
The Sperm Whale's sucker-scarred head was fixed on slaughter
of dark-inked squid, twice hid in depths below.
Her blow hole flooded with draught of icy water
and froze the oil which kept her bulk afloat.
She sank, skin wrinkled, crushed in vice tight clenches,
her flexing ribs collapsed without a creak.
Her sonar click explored the abyssal trenches
and honed in on her prey with rising ‘creeeeek'.
Three quarter hour, she plundered the cold black larder,
to rise she flushed waxed oil with blood warm heat.
Her steady clicks discovered a creature harder
and massive, riding the surging ocean's sheet.
The stressed joints loudly creaked in the wood hulled whaler,
all night the rolling ocean gave no sleep.
The sore joints silent creaked in the seasoned sailor,
all night his hammock swung at angles steep.
Below wind's mournful song and the rigging's clamour
the sailor heard a knocking from the deep.
'Ah Carpenter Fish, d'you wield your strange wrought hammer,
to shape this ship my coffin or my keep'?
Two centuries gone, when whaling men stood prouder,
they heard the strikes, yet wondered at their source.
No other beast of air, land or sea calls louder,
a back pulsed, skull reflected, clanging force.
So the sailor listened, awed and far from scoffing,
for unknown sounds at night can make men quail.
The Carpenter Fish surveyed her own wood coffin
and unaware, drove home another nail.
Poet's Notes about The Poem
Air travels along the Sperm Whale's right nasal passage to the ‘monkey lips' organ which clap shut and produce a click.
This travels back through the spermaceti organ and is reflected from an air filled sac on the radar-dish shaped skull.
Lastly, it travels back through the amplifying ‘junk' organ to the front of the head and out into the water.
It may be over 200 decibels and heard up to 40 miles away.
Comments about The Carpenter Fish by Diane Hine
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