Whaler

1Great-grandfather,
3the harder sort
4            who threw the harpoon,
5            drew warm blood,
6made huge death on the open sea.
7Came home one year
8            to find his land fenced
9for ecclesiastical uses,
10            tore it all down,
11told the priest to go to hell,
12            and would do his own praying
13                        after that.
14Sailed till his knees went stiff
16on a ship stuck
17    in Antarctic ice.
18My father worshipped him,
19            remembered his deft hands
21            with a hammer and a handsaw.
22            The old man signalled
23his affections:
24            crafty hard of hearing,
25heard the boy's words,
26            even took his daughter's orders
27                        when he called him ."Sir!."
28Grew old jigging cod
29            on the southern shore,
30then fell from a roof
31            and lingered days to tell
32                        his last stories,
33empty his mouth of good oaths.
34What I have of him
35            is my father's reverence for
36his silence,
37            a sense that pain will kill you
38if you speak of it

Notes

2] Nantucket: island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Back to Line
15] beri-beri: serious disease characterized by paralytic weakness and numbness of the legs. Back to Line
20] crackie: mutt, mixed-breed dog. Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Richard Greene, Crossing the Straits (Toronto: St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2004): 6-8.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Richard Greene and used by permission of the poet.
Authorization to republish this poem must be obtained from him in writing.