Adam’s Notebook
Published in

Adam’s Notebook

Poem: Ahab in Rehab

The meeting of Whalecolohics Anonymous
is underway. A semicircle of sea captains.

‘I sacrificed two marriages, all my wealth,’ says one
‘to the Whale. It rode me, ruined me. It has — ’

pride entering his voice — ‘been twelve years since
my last harpooning.’ Gruff hearhears. Well done Jack.

The Convenor’s courteous ‘thank you Jacob.’
Then: ‘Ahab? Anything you’d like to share?’

Ahab, arms tight across his hefty chest
glares at the floor, neggs them with his pegleg

scrapes it, squeeak-peg, on the lino, bangs it,
says: ‘do it matter? it do not. We’re dead.

Whale killed us, each and all. This endless meeting
that pitiless neon-light, these blind white walls

is hell, nor are we out of it. Drowned. Damned.
Condemned to conversation. The more of talk

the less we have to do with aught of life.
Anonymous because damnation’s faceless.

I do not hate the Whale, the salt that sunk me.
The Whale was when I was utmostest alive.

Keel-haul me, Ishmael, if ever I blaspheme
the awful mystery of cetacean sublime!’

The Convenor’s courteous, but his court’s infernal.
‘Come now, my friend: you’ll never win your chip

twelve aeons fishobriety like this.’
His voice hardens just a touch. ‘No one leaves

this room until old Ahab here repents.’
The others sigh, some groan, one swears at him:

‘don’t be such an a-hole, Ahab!’ Still: not
the smallest atom stirs or lives, even in Hell,

but has its cunning duplicate in mind.
Ahab’s stubborness is white as Arctic cliffs.

Convenor tuts. ‘Let’s go again,’ he says.
‘Captain Takei: perhaps you’d start us off?’

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Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts

Writer and academic. London-adjacent.