…quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.
Terre des Hommes

Accommodation. Once we’d learned to spell it,
found a pleasant sphere for an extended stay,
for a while, it seemed to fit.

The cetaceans seemed to know, however,
I don’t know how, and say they tried to
warn us, oh, those others too, gave them signs,

much to the distress of anyone concerned,
shouldn’t have been a shock. Well, no matter,
no great loss. Seriously, no joke.

And if it’s true as some say that all creatures
always look to burn some excess luggage,
vascular dieback, then perhaps they

were intent on ridding themselves of earth,
and their lemming’s effort then flipped
back upon them, undertow of their flame,

fodder for the fire. Not a problem, no, seriously,
it worked. And you want to know where they went?
Not our question to answer, put the screws to the moon.

All right, now, that’s funny. Stop looking
so serious, we needed something
to break the ice. Oh, right.

Click here to read Bruce Robinson on the origin of the poem.




Image: “Whale, cetus (1596-1610)by Anselmus Boetius de Boodt from the Rijksmuseum.” Digitally enhanced by rawpixel, licensed under CC 2.0.

Bruce Robinson:
I don’t even know where or how this poem started. Probably amid the detritus of notes for some other poem, possibly “Comedy hour,” and then at times laboriously and at times casually rebuilt the way you might rearrange dominos or pieces of a jigsaw puzzle if it wasn’t at all imperative that the pieces fit just so at first. That’s how it happened in the room where it happened. I know that the first word only came in the door toward the end, and that, as Raymond Chandler admitted of one of his stories, that he wasn’t sure whodunnit, I had to go back and forth over and over simply to assure myself that some sentences would make logical sense to some people. Despite the tone of the language, I was motivated throughout by a constant sense of anger and despair, even while just walking to the library, at seeing our casual quotidian waste of natural resources; we all do it, yes, even you, dear reader, and if we’re making progress it’s all but imperceptible, drowned out by the peaceful hum of lawnmowers and idling engines.

Bruce Robinson
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