Not long ago a friend sent me a copy of a poem that pleased me from the first moment I laid eyes on it. The title? "Earl" Well, how could I possibly not love it no matter what came after the title!
I was even more moved when I read the body of the poem. Many of us have seen the National Geographic documentary in which killer whales prowl the northern ocean shores hunting for seals. It a chilling thing to witness, even on film, especially if the seal is a baby and is often endlessly tossed into the air, flipped over and over as if for sport before it is consumed.
In accepting the Nobel Prize in Stockholm in 1950 William Faulkner said, in part, "I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure; that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock overhanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will be one more sound’ that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail.
The poet Louis Jenkins has articulated this same concept, in even fewer words, and what delights this old geezer especially is that his poem is called "Earl."
A poem by Louis Jenkins
From His Book
"North of the Cities"
In Sitka, because they are fond of them,
People have named the seals. Every seal
is named Earl because they are killed one
after another by the Orcas, the killer
whale; seal bodies are tossed left and right
into the air. "At least he didn’t get
Earl," someone says. And sure enough
after a time, that same friendly
bewhiskered face bobs to the surface.
It’s Earl again. Well, how else are you
to live except by denial, by some
palatable fiction, some little song to
sing while the inevitable, the black and
white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling
toward you out of the deep?
Mr. Jenkins graciously gave me permission to reprint the poem here. I hope it will encourage you to read more of his work for he is an exceptional man. He is a prose poet from Enid, Oklahoma and has lived in Deluth, Minnesota for over thirty years with his wife, Ann. His work has been published in many literary magazines and anthologies. If you were lucky you might have even heard him reading one of his poems on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. The poem "Earl" is from his book "North of the Cities" and is available from Amazon.com.
Until next time when this bewhiskered face bobs to the surface It’s Old Earl!