Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Richard Powers tribute to Melville

"This whale is pain, and searing cold. Bursts of fact his skin tells him. Planted in this flat prairie, dumped by a wave that went out too fast. Great jaws bigger than a garage flap on the ground, sounding. Every cry from the cavern throat shakes walls and breaks windows. Far away, blocks down – the stranded beast’s tail flaps. Hemmed in by houses, pinned by this instant low tide.
Miles of air above press down so hard the whale can’t breathe. Can’t lift his own lungs. Dying in dried ocean, smothered underneath the thing it now must inhale. Largest living thing, almost God, stretched out flat, muscles beaten. Only his heart, as big as the courthouse, keeps pounding.
He wants death, if he wants anything. But death rolls away with the retreating water. His breathing is an earthquake. The whale gasps and rolls, crushing lives underneath it, as it is crushed by air. Storms rage in its head. Spears and cables drape down his sides. His skin peels off in sheets of blubber."

~ from The Echo Maker