Photo of the Day Poems – #Faith

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.

Contemplating Jonah

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.

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