a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
ON READING MOBY DICK IN LINDSBORG, KANSAS
For My Students
The white foam, smell of salt air, waves licking the boat—
we know them only from tattoos on a page,
a skrimshander’s hieroglyphic scratches.
In our windowless room under nine florescent lights,
words are a monkey rope between author and reader.
Melville inserts the hook, slides across surfaces of reality, genre, story, truth.
All we can do is stand on deck, hold tight,
trusting these paper scraps.
Words made flesh, bone, water.
Outside the classroom, beyond our small campus, earth-locked plains roll
and tumble into a horizon more than a thousand miles from any sea.
But like Melville’s dying whales, or his doomed captain,
we know the magnetic pull of the setting sun.
Here, the western sky spills its pink, orange, plum on solid ground.
Fire-worshippers, too, we have seen its miracle.
We see it again, in a windowless room.
Kristin Van Tassel, Ph.D. teaches writing and American literature at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Her poetry has appeared in Mamazine and Relief, and her essays have appeared in Alternet, Counterpunch, Transitions Abroad, and World Hum.