The New Poetry Project: "The Voyage In"
– January 20, 2006
A whale has lost its way on the Thames.
It swam up into the city, threatens to beach,
brings crowds to every bank and bridge.
Delight turns to dismay as it bumps along,
bleeds out, disoriented in shallow water.
It chose a path out of cold salt sea
into a curving river re-carved by humans.
Seven tonnes of leviathan exposed
to elements beyond its control.
Helicopters fly, the news gives it a nickname,
and on a pontoon boat – a mercy mission –
it spasms and spouts once, a last salute.
Maybe this whale was here before, in 1913,
the year Virginia Woolf overdosed on Veronal,
long before she found rocks to line her pockets.
Did she read about it in the papers, find herself
humming in sympathy to its plight, envision
for the first time how current could be deliverance?
If she were a whale, they could not stop her,
and maybe in those last breaths the secret
of why a previous life is never truly erased,
with its unexplained longings and déjà vu,
would at last come into sharp focus.
That night, I dream I am churning upriver,
out of the estuary and past the barrier.
The lights of the city in out of focus
as I head to my beaching, my resting place.
Underneath the arches, the last words
I’ll ever need etched above the waterline,
a marker to homeground: London Bridge.
This poem is the seventh of eight new works that will appear at Modern Confessional and across social media until the end of the year. Read the other poems: The Masquerade, Acid Flashback #2, Things to do in Denver when you'd rather be dead, 1989, Longlines and After the Poison. Find out more about the New Poetry Project at this link. ©Collin Kelley, 2016