Poems from "(Prologue)"
If a whale has a proper name
It is a Tuesday afternoon, late May, and a good year for whales.
A thousand crows patrol the salt marsh.
Whales are large animals. Whales are mammals. Whale is a noun.
This isn’t the problem. The problem is there are two nouns for almost everything in the world. Heart, for
example. Heart is a noun. But take it out of the chest and it beats like want in someone else’s hand. Or,
summer. Summer is a noun, but also an illusion. On any other day, you recall a particular one, and what
comes to you is a handful of blueberries. A walk in the woods is a noun. In the branches, the forest birds are
singing the songs you remember, but backwards. They sing to name the hungers of the world. Hunger is a
noun. The other word for hunger is heart. The heart is hungry for air. A lighthouse is air except for light and loneliness.
A noun is the name of a person, place or thing.
1. Lighthouse was always a name for summer.
2. Sometimes it was Tuesday afternoon.
3. Love was a noun and a thing.
4. Tide, lighthouse, afternoon, sorrow, whale…
5. The look in a whale’s eyes was a thing and there was a word for it.
6. A love story starts anywhere it wants to, even on a Tuesday in May. It’s only proper.
it is called a Proper Noun
It is not all important to find a beginning because
In one beginning there were three nouns: air, breast, arms. These are the first nouns that need no nouns, the first words that can’t be named. The first three wants. It’s like that in this sort of beginning. In another
beginning there was want and longing, but differently. In both beginnings there was a girl. She had an old
faded memory of something happy. There was a lighthouse in the third beginning, but it was occupied, so she started at the second beginning. The first beginning begins before birth, in darkness; a darkness that is warm and safe and never questioned. But then there is light, which forever is. The girl had been born in the
morning at low tide in the Summer of the Whale. She was made out of what came before and what came
before that. She returned to the sea, five Summers of the Whale later. You know the story. The other word
for story is sea.
so far there are four beginnings
Tell me how it starts then
We were what they call in Maine, summer people, or from away. From away is another word for Canada, or Nebraska. She was from Canada and we were both eleven. Her real name was Petra.1 A magnet has a north pole and a south. It knows the word, inseparable, without saying it. We were eleven and she was homesick. I gave her a shell and she put it up to her ear while our fathers picked out lobsters from the large saltwater tank behind the restaurant. We thought lobsters were inseparable from the sea but we were wrong. We were right that spiders defy gravity. They can stay in the same place on a ceiling for weeks. You think gravity would pull them down seeing how it is supposed to keep your feet on the ground. It was a Tuesday, and the only thing that stayed in place was the moon. I called her Pete and she called me Teej.