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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 7

March 9, 2017

Poem of the Week 3/7/2017

John Barrale

The Hadal Zone

I can’t let go of the waters behind the stars.

The idea of oceans, unseen,
and there above,
and to the left
or right
of the Milky Way
amazes me.

I’ve even gone so far as to invent scientists
who can calculate the distance to there,

and who write papers about how awful
the pressure would be
in the dark depths under the sea
behind the stars.

So heavy an atmosphere, the scientists agree,
the fish swimming there
would have no skeletons,
and just be transparent,
floating ghosts.

Oh no, says the Sufi mystic,
Not ghosts. Angels.

* * *

In the desert, I search for fossils,
especially those
of whales.

At night I stop to pray looking up
at the ten million stars visible
in the twenty-five miles
of unbroken sky.

My Sufi friend whispers:
Can’t you feel the ocean breeze
coming down from above?

* * *

Given chemosynthetic life, we swam up
looking for the sun.

And still we would journey out
to the waiting arms
of our mother stars.

We travel across, but not under, the sea.

My Sufi friend says we are afraid of the leviathan
because it is our soul, ravenous, and at home
in our father’s cold, unwelcoming world.

* * *

Kismayo is a port in the southern Lower Juba province of Somalia. Kismayo
is famous for its magicians, and the refreshing breeze blowing off the Indian Ocean.
In the Middle Ages, Muslim travelers, many who were nobles and Kings, went there.
In 1414 AD, Zeng He and the Great Chinese Fleet stopped at Kismayo.
Portuguese traders built a fort and established a colony in Kismayo during the 1700’s.
The Omanis drove them out. From 1836 until 1861, Kismayo was ruled by the Sultanate of Muscat, and later became part of British East Africa.
In 1925, Jubaland was ceded to Italy as a part of Italian Somaliland. On July 1st 1960,
the region, including British Somaliland, became the republic of Somalia.
Since 1991, Kismayo has been a battleground. Al-Shabaab, Kenyan militia,
and Ethiopian, United nations, and American forces have all fought there.
There are no shortcuts to God in Kismayo, only the road up from the beach
that winds past the minarets of still standing. A handful of burnt out churches
and synagogues also litter the way. They are the husks of alternate plantings
that thrived when Kismayo was a garden.
I have heard of, and read about, Kismayo, but not seen it. It is no more or less real,
much in the same way as one knows of distant cousins he has never met.
Microbial life at the bottom of the Hadal Zone are the distant cousins of the life
that rose from the depths to become us.
This life waits, as we did, to become abundant. A million years or more to wait,
under countless unseen sunrises and sunsets in the sky miles above them.
Such is the rhythm of life. Such is God’s will, my Sufi friend whispers.
There are tears in his eyes.
My imaginary Sufi’s friend’s name is Abdul Muta’Ali which means servant
of the Exalted. He was born in Kismayo in 1949, the same year I was born.
He is one of my secret alter-egos. He says you can set sail for the waters beyond
the stars from Kismayo’s port.
I sponsored Abdul Muta’Ali’s immigration to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons.
I heard of the waters beyond the stars in the canticle “Benedicte Omnia Opera” (A Song of Creation): O ye Waters that be above the Firmament, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him forever.
Abdul Muta’Ali and I often chant the canticle.

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