Angela Alaimo O'Donnell teaches English at Fordham University in New York City where she also serves as Associate Director of Fordham's Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. Her publications include chapbooks, Mine and Waiting for Ecstasy, and two full-length collections of poems, Moving House and Saint Sinatra (Wordtech).


St. Melville

Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx 

"Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable;
deep memories yield no epitaphs"

Is this what you were called to, still pilgrim,
to sleep beneath six small feet of earth?

A scroll unrolled across your headstone
unengraved: the whiteness of the whale?

Is this the dumb blankness full of meaning
Ishmael fought and found at the end?

Or is it pure chance, Queequeg's oaken sword
struck blunt across the warped Loom of Time?

A paradox and pleasure to find you here,
grounded, for now, on the leeward shore,

your own bones unmarked by any writing,
not one hieroglyph of what you'd hoped to be,

no tattoo grafted from the savage thigh,
no etching from the dead leg of Ahab.

That you should leave us silent at the last
like the mad captain taken by the sea

echoes and keeps your bitter promise,
your life but a draught, unfinished and undone.

I place on your stone among the offerings—
rocks and blossoms, mute things of this earth—

a shell cleft clean by the constant tide,
the song without words she sings and sings.