Melville’s Grave

By Rebecca Cheong

You may have heard of him;
At Woodlawn, he now sleeps.
He who lived among cannibals,
And only got a peep.

Nor up the lawn, nor at the woods
From no marble vault a sound.
But as he sleeps, perchance he dreams
Of water all around.

Get on the 4 before it’s four,
Woodlawn will be your stop.
Get off and find gates open wide —
Head to Catalpa Plot.

Standing before a sculpted scroll,
A headstone that’s just blank —
Unconquerable is this soul
And mind, which none could rank.

Rudyard Kipling said as follows:

“Take up the white man’s burden,
Send forth the best ye men!”

Melville said much earlier, still:


These words he wrote some years ahead,

“Whaling voyage by one Ishmael,”

Who with Queequeg shared a bed, then
Boarding the Pequod, they set sail.

Now, if you say — before you’ve read
Anything he’s written — ,
“Oh, Melville, how he makes me sick!”
I’d tell you then: Go eat a Moby Dick.

Originally presented at KGB Bar and Literary Magazine, New York, November 25, 2014.

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