So I wrote this one awhile back… A variation on the Apocalypse I wrote for an unreleased chapbook I had planned back in 2012 called The 14th Bak’tun, when the height of paranoia surrounding the end of the 13th Bak’tun of the Mayan solar calendar supposedly foretold the world’s end. Here, whales are the cause of humanity’s downfall.
One of the things for being the preeminent (because I think I’m the only) shark conservationist on poetry slam’s national stage, are lots of wall posts from my friends about shark stuff. And don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of them. Silly shark memes? Love it. Videos of sharks doing awesome stuff? Love it. News stories about sharks? Love it… but…
Love it. Maybe more than I like any other food. Grilled shrimp skewers, coconut shrimp, tempura rolls, you name it, I love the taste, I love the texture, shrimp delivers on every level. Popcorn shrimp? Fuck yes. As a wee Klute, Red Lobster’s was my jam, and my father, frustrated that I never ordered anything else, tried to talk me into crab, fish, etc.
Nope. He didn’t understand that part of the appeal of popcorn shrimp was that I could pretend I was a giant baleen whale and I was swallowing a whole school of delicious, golden brown, tiny crustaceans. I just assumed they ate it like I did. I didn’t know where they got the cocktail sauce, but whales were smart.
When I walked into the venue, I was introduced as “Phoenix’s leading shark expert” – which, flattering, but probably not true! Ernesto, when inviting me, asked me to consider writing a shark erotica piece. I was up to the challenge!
Last night I attended Mahiki Invasion at UnderTow, Phoenix’s new tiki bar that is attempting to resurrect classic tiki bar culture. It was pretty damn great. And not just because they started plying us with rum as soon as we entered the door (the three drinks were the Mahiki Bar London’s take on the classic Don the Beachcomber cocktails “Missionary’s Downfall”, “Navy Grog”, and something served in a coconut). There are a lot worse ways to spend a Thursday night.
One of the things I’m attempting to do with the Chumming the Waters/Words for the Men in Grey Suits project is do change the perspective of sharks from their place in our culture as monsters to beasts worthy of celebration and song (or poetry, as is my medium).
Some cultures, however, need no perspective shift. For those who practice native Hawai’ian beliefs, sharks, very often tiger sharks, are already seen as not just worthy of protection, but as part of the family. In this poem, I am writing not from the perspective of the practitioner of those beliefs, but from the tiger sharks who learns of his place in this belief.
Thank you to Jack Stone, Hawaiian Cultural Advisor, whose advice was invaluable in clearing up some choices in this poem that may not have been respectful of those beliefs (any errors/appropriations that may still exist in this poem remain mine – and as always, I welcome feedback!). Continue reading “Poem – The Sound of Their Drums”