Issue 116, Fall 1990
Before the dawn of history, when the earth was still flat and the oceans ran out to the edges and fell off into space, back so far in time the sun had not yet risen, the world was a very dark place, so dark that the sea and sky seemed all the same. In that olden era the whale roved the wind, spurning the sea, as he had no desire to be wet. He ranged through the unlit clouds with birds now long extinct, some of which looked like forks and spoons, some like staple guns. He basked in moon-glow which darkened his skin to a pale gray, and stargazed, and bothered no one else who made his home in the heavens. Only the mariners who set forth from the land to discover the ends of the earth found the whale to be a problem. What little light came from the moon and stars, light by which they tied their ancient knots and fixed their rigging, was obscured whenever the great, slow blimp of a whale passed over. Enough, said these sailors, and brought him down with nets, hoping to drown him in the ocean beneath their bow. What happened next we all know, as now of course the whale we think of as only in the sea. True, he didn’t notice the difference much. and came to love the feeling of water on his flesh. The splash he made when the mariners caught him caused the waterfall edges of the earth to crumble, and the ocean rolled in rivers, and the earth became round. In this way, without even meaning to, the whale behaved less like a blimp or bird or any other thing which roams the sky than a god, for he helped to fashion the world in his own image.
Here is the poor skunk. He is marked and marred. He is blacker than hindgut mud. He loves his blackness and he hates his stripes. He wishes the snow on his hot black back would melt. He wishes the comet in his iron-dark night would fly forever away. He would give his soul for an hour of berry blackness. In an hour of black he would be prized as mink. In an hour of black he’d be royal as raven, this witch-black, alley-black cat of a skunk. For an hour of black he’d make a pact. He would give up the thing besides black he loves best. The sweeter-than-lily scent that protects him. The scent he so trusts, he would trade it off. Is there no one who would give up her black, her shadow or shade for some virgin white? White and a drop of satanic perfume?