My father walked these hills and steeps:
Woke early ever, walked rugged rockstrewn track
To the lookout, and back. Now he sleeps
Forever; and I rise with the sun
On this second day of the last new moon,
Of the dying year;
And sound the shofar, the ram’s horn warning*,
Then go for a run on a crystal morning.
My Father walked till his dying year; I follow his track
Across the bridge,
Then up the hill and over a ridge –
Then back; pausing to view a sapphire sea.
High here, on air, at Wamoom**, this southern
End of a continent,
Comes remembrance, a fifth element:
Midst earth and water I stand, content,
Basking in the gentle fire of an early sun
To start the slog and gasp and sweat – up hills
And tracks on the ridge of the returning run.
Stop! – cries the voice of my companion
And look out to sea, and see – there’s a whale!
I stop and turn and look – and sight the sail-
Shaped fin, the hump of back, the mammalian
Brown-black, a bruise
On the blue face of the sea. Now it sinks again
And as I smile, give thanks, and muse
It surfaces and plays, and sprays its spume
At the end of the dying year.
Another whale was here, beached, dead; while with my father
A decade ago, I saw it. We paid homage at its sandy tomb.
* Through the month of Ellul, Jews sound the ram’s horn, as a call to repent before the solemn days of the High Holydays.
**”Wamoom” is the Aboriginal name of Wilson’s Promontory.
Excerpt from My Fathers Compass by Howard Goldenberg. Hybrid 2007, 2008.