Having just re-entered the usual rhythm of life after my children’s speech and debate tournament in Pittsburgh (and staring at the grim reality that grading five more thesis papers before tomorrow is looking less and less like a reality), I leave you with another selection from my series of photo poems inspired by The Guardian Photo of the Day posts of 2019. In this surprising image, we find a diver dangling from the baleen “toothed” jaw of a Bryde’s Whale. Instantly, this transported me back to my youth to when I first heard the story of Jonah and the Whale for the first time. All joking aside, this poem reminds me, once again, that there are just some things I have to take on faith.
by Vincent H. Anastasi 2019 I can’t remember what I thought when I first heard the story of Jonah and the big fish. (Was I in Sunday school more concerned about a snack than digesting theological morsels?) Translators have struggled to clearly define the aquatic savior that swallowed Jonah to safety, eventually spewing him on his way to Nineveh. But now in my forties I attempt to scientifically rationalize my faith. What monstrous fish could have swallowed a man whole? How could he breathe? How not dissolve in the churning gastric juices? Some believe in a miracle fish called into existence for such a time as this and then seen no more; perhaps the great Leviathan awoke from its antediluvian slumber, called in like a relief pitcher in the bottom of the ninth. Surely not some 800 pound grouper who accidentally swallowed the sinking man in an inconsequential yawn. The sperm whale, long before Melville’s mythology, seems attractive enough, the unfathomable wisdom in that largest of all brains, the underwater bus transporting the unfortunate passenger back to shore. But mammalian, its digestive acids and the suffocating heat of its stomach make a three day tour doubtful. And I cannot accept the Great White Shark, all those sharp teeth, those powerful jaws, the cold-blooded predator of the seas, although the mouth be big enough to fit a six-foot man, the stomach more atmospherically accommodating for preservation. But when I saw a dive tour operator dangling from a Bryde’s Whale’s mouth off Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I knew we’d gone too far. There are just some things I have to take on faith.