The Quotable

Kitchen Flight

after Melville

Starbuck looked at Ahab.  Crenellated waves.
Black heart.  In shadows lurked the kitchen staff

of the Pequod, stripped to patched undergarments,
relieved of slicing, mashing, boiling the holographic

swordfish, the root-punctured potatoes, brick-slabs
of lard.  Fronts brewing on the horizon.  Wherever

they were.  Greenland.  Haiti.  But more likely: Nantucket.
The wind ripping the broad map tacked to cured pine.

Queequeg inhaling his pungent pipe, already returned to bed
beneath the ale-tinged paintings of motes, desperadoes,

slick beasts.  The sperm whales.  Source of light, heat,
even food—thousands of mouths to feed, and not just clams

and crabs.  The “prudent” avarice of Connecticut,
which coaxed the grizzled captain: ripples of smoke,

coiling upward.  Black moonlight on foaming crests.
Ahab’s uncharted positions beneath scorpion and cup.

Out of my way, he says: the man speaking more to the night
than others: Starbuck weighted down with twine and grime-

laden overcoat.  Ishmael surveying a phantasmagoric glow
in the distance.  A handful of stout, sleep-deprived sailors

setting a plank.  And nervous as ever, the lead cook,
still holding a worn silver ladle.  Because he would be first

overboard, he the commencement of the deranged plan,
the enactment of nightmare.  Dull murkiness of the sea.

Salt in the air and on the tongue.  Soles planted to timber
and soot.  Where Ahab looked.  What he thought he saw.

That was where they were all going.


Kevin J.B. O’Connor was born in Hornell, NY.  He studied Latin American Studies and Natural Science at Johns Hopkins University and is currently in the MFA Creative Writing program at Old Dominion University.  He has written a novel entitled Lucid Love and has previously published poetry in Wild Violet.

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Issue 4 - Beginnings and Endings