Liber Jonae CAPUT NINE Page CAPH


And the Captain said with authority, No!
It's not a squid and not jellyfish,
Not a lobster and not a sea serpent.
I recognize well enough that bulk,
And that size and that side silhouette.
Oh what I wouldn't give for a harpoon,
A harpoon and a pulpit to perch on!
It's a sperm whale, wickedest and meanest
Of all marine life convulsing the depths,
But I'd pin it through its big squinting eye
If it came anywhere within my reach.

But the Mate exclaimed, That's no sperm whale.
You'd be a fool to harpoon that baby
And put yourself at loggerheads with God.
That's the great fish known as Leviathan,
The Godhead's own agent of nemesis.

Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Pale, wet and glistening in the sunlight
With what I'd guess to be Norwegian foam,
That stuff they put in fire extinguishers,
It did indeed resemble the sea beast
Leviathan, which Godhead of his works
Was most sensitive as to relative size,
And therefore created in sheer bulk as huge
As several score brainless brontosaurs
Or twelve hundred standard grey elephants.
Even so, the Lord was never convinced
That the blasted thing would be monstrous enough
To be believed by men truly amazing
Yet not a paradigm of bad taste.
Consequently, in constantly comparing
Proportions of this and other works,
With insults and boasts he revealed himself
A highly jealous, highly nervous God.
And to see my organ as large or larger
Than Leviathan, I feared the great wrath
And penis envy first shown in Babel
With his demolition of its proud tower.
There, overwrought, perplexed in the extreme
With the green vanity of his own image,
Unjustly suspecting siege and defiance,
He had debased the language of paradise,
High Dutch, as we are reliably informed,
Until the words quitting time, lunch time,
And coffee break were unintelligible
To all but the unfortunate Nimrod,
Confused the poor Babelonian brains
With severe oxygen deprivation
Until all productivity declined.
He agitated strikes, revoked permits,
Caused cost overruns and shoddy work,
Blew welders off girders with wind gusts
And put elevators out of order
And behaved very poorly in general
Until the whole project was abandoned
And the work crews dispersed to other jobs.
Then with his deep, mocking laugh he said,
As the heavens remain higher than the earth,
Divine ways remain more high-handed
Than any mankind has imagined yet.
The lesson was clear but a bit too late.
I was doomed to repeat ancient history.
Yet in exactly what mysterious way,
I asked myself, would the good Lord move?
Hormone imbalance? A mutant virus?
An electromagnetic pulse, perhaps,
To scramble up integrated circuits,
Still embryonic though they then were?
I tried to read the signs, concentrated,
Brought to bear all the data I possessed:
Sunspot cycles and soybean futures,
Ring widths of fallen giant sequoias,
Mayan man-hours lost to maize malaise,
Even the three-year moving average
Derived from lemming migration numbers
Correlated with days of grapevine growth
On long-lost Mount Krakatoa's slope.
You name it, I knew it, and I threw it in,
And hoped its flavour would help crack the code.
Yet my future and fate remained opaque
Until I heard the ship's first mate speak
And knew I was paddleless up shit creek.

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