Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale by Dan Albergotti

When in the dark I used to bring things with me. A blanket, mostly. Socks to keep my feet warm. Poetry books, for prayer. Then there are days when I crawl to the corner and turn my back to everything and close my eyes, as if seeking a darker place, still. Now I just lie like this—weightless and yet weighed down. I can scarcely force myself to breathe, my lungs telling me, what is the point. My heart telling me, what is the point. Everything inside my body telling me, what is the point.

Have I always been here? Have I never escaped it? How did I get almost a year of reprieve, only to wake up one day in the dark again?

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
Dan Albergotti

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

(from The Writer’s Almanac)

3 Comments

  1. Thank you for these new bits of “stardust and cricket song” this week. I visit you in the dark of night when my arms get tired of treading, and I have felt welcomed. May you let your lungs breathe, it’s what they do and do with love: it’s their poetry. May reprieve revisit you.

  2. You are not alone. Waves come. Intolerable feelings come. They have dissolved before. They will dissolve again. Hold on. And if you can’t hold, I will hold for you. I will hold fast to hope, to the knowledge that this wave will recede.

    There is a point. In spite of my disbelief, I believe there is a point. You are a curator and cultivator of priceless words woven into time and space, winding their way into the places where my bleeding heart needs to hear them.

    You are made of stardust and cricket song and all the elements that exploded this wondrous, terrible earth into being. That light, the spark that created the universe, is inside you, waiting with you in the darkest hours.

    You are a writer. A truth-teller. Pouring light into cups for parched mouths, as Hafiz would have said.

    Even in the darkness, hold fast to blanket and warm socks. Hold fast to words like lifelines. Hold fast to the silence in which you are being held by the web of love your life and your writing have created.

    One hand on abdomen, the other on heart.
    Feel the rise and fall. Breathe.

    We are here. We are waiting. We love you.

    You are not alone.

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