Jan/Feb 2015 Poetry Special Feature

Round Perdition's Flames

by Jennifer Finstrom

Image courtesty of the British Library's Photostream

Round Perdition's Flames

To the last I grapple with thee. —Herman Melville, Moby Dick; or, The Whale

One of the things I like best about my ex-husband
is that he read Moby-Dick after seeing
The Wrath of Khan in 1982, before he was even
in high school. In the movie, Khan pursues
James Kirk just as Ahab pursued the whale,
losing his life and his ship. And my ex-husband
read the whole novel, not even skipping
the possibly tedious bits about whaling so that
he could come across those few passages
that are quoted, harpoon-sharp, in the movie.
I tried to read Moby-Dick a few years ago, and
I'm certain I'll try again. Right now, I'm lost
in War and Peace, its muffled drapes, the formal
garden that it makes of names and genealogies.
I don't think my ex-husband reads as much
these days, and that troubles me. I'm not sure
if he identified with Kirk or Khan, but I'm
willing to bet that Khan reading Melville
during his exile on Ceti Alpha V meant
something more. Vengeance is a kind of lullaby,
words repeated night after night, intended
to keep us awake rather than put us to sleep.


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