Friday, December 17, 2010

One Hundred White-sided Dolphins on a Summer Day

black, slick, 
galloping in the pitch 
of the waves, in the pearly 
fields of the sea, 
they leap toward us, 
they rise, sparkling, and vanish, and rise sparkling, 
they breathe little clouds of mist, they lift perpetual smile, 
they slap their tails on the waves, grandmothers and grandfathers 
enjoying the old jokes, 
they circle around us, 
they swim with us - 
a hundred white-sided dolphins 
on a summer day, 
each one, as God himself 
could not appear more acceptable 
a hundred times, 
in a body blue and black threading through 
the sea foam, 
and lifting himself up from the opened 
tents of the waves on his fishtail, 
to look 
with the moon of his eye 
into my heart, 
and find there 
pure, sudden, steep, sharp, painful 
that falls - 
I don't know - either 
unbearable tons 
or the pale, bearable hand 
of salvation 
on my neck, 
lifting me 
from the boat's plain plank seat 
into the world's 
unspeakable kindness. 
It is my sixty-third summer on earth 
and, for a moment, I have almost vanished 
into the body of the dolphin, 
into the moon-eye of God, 
into the white fan that lies at the bottom of the sea 
with everything 
that ever was, or ever will be, 
supple, wild, rising on flank or fishtail - 
singing or whistling or breathing damply through blowhole 
at top of head.  Then, in our little boat, the dolphins suddenly gone, 
we sailed on through the brisk, cheerful day. 

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How do your joy poems grow?
With dolphin swims and human whims
And so my own heart grows.

I once swam with dolphins. They were captives in a tourist park near Cancun Mexico.  I kept telling myself that I wasn't part of the oppressive system that ruled these wild ones for the whims of tourists. I was there as a veterinarian consultant and was offered a chance to be with these sea-going mammals as a gift.  Into the pool I went and the dolphins barely acknowledged me as each put a nose to my foot, and then propelled me through the water. It was a photogenic moment, a picture taken that I've not seen in years.

I wonder what happed to those dolphins?  Are they still pushing round tourists through their water pens?  Shame arises with me over my past participation in such a scheme when I see dolphins playing around the coasts of Florida now. They seem so free, so wild, so themselves, and hence so much of God before me. 

I wonder where else I have captured joy, and therefore turned from God before me, in me, all around me.

They who bind to themselves a joy
Do the winged life destroy
But they who kiss the joy as it flies
Live in eternity's sunrise (adapted from William Blake)


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