And now there is a poem. It's for the mother orca whale who, for over a week, has been pushing the corpse of a baby she hardly even knew (it only lived for 30 minutes). Two days, I understand. Four days is the borderline. Eight days is just plain nuts, even for a whale. (I once read about a mother chimpanzee in Zambia doing this sort of melancholy thing for a day or two.) Yes, the whale is a very intelligent animal, but still, there comes a time when even this big-brained mammal must moan and go on. And now among the language land mammals are some who can't help but read a message in the whale's melancholy madness. She is saying to them, the third chimpanzee, that this is how bad things are in the sea for us. You are ruining things in sky, the land, the deep. You are killing us. Look at this corpse, humans. Look at my dead child. This is your doing. Some humans are really feeling this message.
And with good reason. Orca whales are heading the way of dinosaurs, and not because of an asteroid slamming into the earth and detonating monster dust plumes, mind-breaking volcanic explosions, and hellish seismic eruptions. No, humans, as the prime mover of the profit motive (which has the infinity of money as its dark energy) are simply transforming the whole surface of the planet into another world that will not end life but will open a new path for it. Mammals were small when the rule of the dinosaurs came to a sudden end. And that unimaginable catastrophe completely redirected the course of life. A different world became possible. And a series of accidents eventually favored a bipedal ape on the African continent. Maybe the next world opened by anthropogenic climate change will favor rats or raccoons. Maybe we should not laugh so much at Rocket Raccoon. But that poem.
The poem is by Paul E. Nelson. It's not bad at all (though I'm no expert in such matters). It contains one or two respectable lines. It has some restraint, though the bit about the princess whale is almost a bit much. It does its best not to speak for the grieving sea mother, whose name is Tahlequah (or J35). Nevertheless the poem itself is a sure sign that things have really gone too far. The whales' over-grieving has become over-reading and over-writing for the language ape. Even Lynda V. Mapes's posts in the Seattle Times have felt the dangerous pull of poetry.
"What could be seen in the setting sun," she writes in a post about whale's eighth day of mourning, "was just a tiny corner of the calf’s pectoral fin and an orange glow close to her body, the natural color in every newborn calf." That sunset. It's more than just about the end of the day, about the moment when that giant nuclear reactor leaves the sky because of the earth's rotation. No. It is instead capturing the current structure of a kind of Northwest feeling. Something in me suspects that a number of Seattle's old school cats are connecting the whale's over-suffering (this bizarre business of pushing a corpse around for hundreds of miles) with, say, the loss of the Showbox, something I have no feelings about (music venues do come and go all of the time). The inevitable death of the Showbox, the news that "Seattle’s iconic Byrnie Utz hangs up its hats," and other such devastations must say to some that the soul of the Pacific Northwest is setting like that sun set on Tahlequah, the super-sad whale transporting her "still-born calf around the Salish Sea."