Whale Mourning at Wilson’s Prom

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

Then turn

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 turn!

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.