The Mermaids Of Brobdingnag
Poem by Richard George
It was every zoologist's dream.
In this fjord-Iceland
the other side of the New World,
Sirenians, sea cows
but narwhal-dwarfing, mountainous -
and here he was, Georg Steller,
Through chilly April sunsets
where only the sky's yellow-ochre
spoke of Spring, he watched them mate,
feeling for the one hither-
thithered by his lover's
double-ballet, catch me, catch me not.
They even slept on their back. He thought:
'How little divides us'.
But what do you eat, in Kamchatka?
How do you keep warm?
He went with the hunters.
The details tore his heart out:
the massive hook, the ropes,
the beating, and the desperate
devotion of the male
'even when she was dead'
as he told the clean white page
(the fat burned without smoke) .
In Europe, he petitioned.
intervened. He fell
twenty years before his mermaid:
an Arctic mercy.
off Cape Navarin, far to the north,
a pod of black giants perplexed
a whaling ship. Science
helter-skeltered from Moscow.
You can't fast-net an echo.
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