This morning, after a blue moon dream,
still floating in sleepy South Pacific waves
that cradled me to sleep and then
left me adrift and fearing the deep –
a white whale that ends your world.
Today is the birthday of the novelist and poet Herman Melville, born in New York City in 1819.
When he died of a heart attack at the age of 72, his obituary in the local New York Times was just four lines.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville
This young lady in elegant blue sits
before me, wings demurely together.
Smaller than a flying dragon, but no
demoiselle en détresse, some Medieval chivalric code
dubs me this day her wandering knight-errant.
It is a trick of the filmmaker.
Underexposed in-camera or darkened during post-production.
Daylight masquerading as night, with blue tint.
Friendship for love, or sex for passion.
I know both on this American night.
Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Léaud in La Nuit Américaine
“Day for night” is a set of cinematic techniques used to simulate a night scene while filming in daylight. I learned about this deception when I saw Francois Truffaut‘s 1973 film, Day for Night whose original title is La Nuit Américaine meaning “American night” which is the French term for day-for-night shooting.
Not autumn but days of falling off.
Dropping things that seem no longer needed.
The world still green but not evergreen.
Emanating from the soil and the sun,
endings, dry and hollow, dying and dead.
A Portuguese man o’ war that washed up at Island Beach State Park June 28, 2015. (Credit: Kevin Knutsen/New Jersey Jellyspotters/Facebook)
Portuguese man o’ war, floating terror, bluebottle,
with venomous tentacles delivering a painful sting.
Not common jellyfish, not single multicellular organism.
A colony of specialized minute individuals attached.
Well-armed surface sailor incapable of independent survival.
Here is a bit of background to accompany today’s little ronka poem. I was inspired by news reports of man o’ wars appearing in the ocean off New Jersey recently.
The name “man o’ war” comes from the man-of-war, an 18th-century armed sailing ship, which this creature resembles if you see a Portuguese version at full sail. Like a well-armed ship, they pack a punch with a sting that can last for about an hour after a human comes into contact with the marine cnidarian. People who are allergic to the species’ venom often need to be hospitalized.
Their appearance off NJ can be blamed on the Gulf Stream which took a sizable population of them that with a few days of strong northeasterly winds, pushed them on shore in New Jersey. A rare but not unheard of visitation.