Silence shrouds the cathedral, last echoes
of Latin chorus absorbed by buttressed walls.
Priest, poised before congregation, scowls
as a pulpit candle drips oil onto the open Bible
it timidly illumines, smudging Jonah’s name.
The priest pushes his book back and begins to read.
Some while before, a crewman bellowed
his elation as a harpoon hooked its target,
crimson saturating the surrounding seas.
A gray tail thrashed, and the men, drunk
with delight and terror, whooped and laughed
and braced against the rowboat’s sides
as it surged forward. Briny, bloodied water
misted their tanned faces, useless oars clutched
in their numb hands as the harpoon’s taut rope
yanked them frantically through the fog
that swallowed their ship behind them.
Finally the rope began to slacken, boat
slowing to a weary bob on ebbing waves,
and they tugged, muscles heavy with fatigue,
until they were close enough to see the flesh
quiver, belly heave, mouth groggily gape.
A London lad slunk to the stern. His lance
pierced Leviathan, exposing globules of fat,
that precious wax of cathedral candles.
The whale must have felt blessed to know
it would soon help deliver the good news.