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House of Bone Chandeliers: (Bequia, The Grenadines)

From: Colorado Review
Volume 40, Number 1, Spring 2013
pp. 139-143 | 10.1353/col.2013.0032

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

House of Bone Chandeliers
(Bequia, The Grenadines)

I

A number of cottages, spaced out along the roadway                   approach to Olliviere’s      ranch house, sport nondescript long bone artifacts: one tied to a doorside lamppost, others               strapped in tree forks         or loosely dangled by chains         from window sill, roof eaves, door lintel . . .   They have a slapdash       temporary look—ornaments         of a holiday or brief season.         They adorn neighbor   abodes, whose owners or landlords—wishing   to partake of the star harpoonists’s fame—have gathered         prize castaway         fragments of whale skeleton. Cracked      or mildew-stained bone parts, imperfect or missing a telltale joint end,               but imposing for shape      and size: they resemble long javelins, broad shields perhaps, yet most summon whale presence.            Whale afterlife aura . . .            Patience, counsels winsome Scott,            my driver. Don’t be fooled by false fronts,   mere decorations     like X-mas tree tinsels.        Wait for the full-fledged Palace of        Honor . . . I’d mildly   gasped at a couple of bone-crisscrossed [End Page 139]

  upper entryways, as we neared that one authentic home         site. At last         our tall lean stoic man himself,      his eyes aglow, greets us at his gateway—main fence posts elegant, if                unflorid. He stands below      a highly polished arch, curved jawbone of fifty-foot-long Angel, the only mature humpback ever            to have been killed      instantly with a single flung      harpoon. His hands wrapped around Angel’s   outer margins, he      caresses the prize relic         and invites my touch to the oddly         prolonged icicle   shape at the center, which towers   over the widespread parabola base . . . Still amazingly      unblemished      and intact, like a tall white   shaft of ivory sculpture! It’s her nostril bone, he says. So lovely               and crystalline, semi-transparent, but it feels firm as iron to my finger’s gentle taps. Fear not, it’s sturdy. Tough           as an elephant’s long     tusk. Built to last . . . He trills      the last word’s T. Indeed, for a warrior   in his eighth decade,      Athneil’s a tusky robust         specimen, taut and limber. Whatever         his off-season   workouts, he stays in prime fettle   all year round. His own bone case, from anvil-shaped chest      to oaken-brawny      thighs, seems ageless. He balances   on bare footsoles [End Page 140] as if always at the ready to spring into lance-hurl            mode . . . House tour starts      with a litany of wall-hung and wiresuspended bulk skeletons parts. Athneil’s Whale Ivories.

II

                 A few rib bones               are laid out, randomly,            on his patio deck. A broad skull bone         dangled over the living room      entrance; displayed above, an embossed portrait   of his chief whaling vessel: why ask? A curved trapezoidal backbone   spread across that high wall over the mantel      piece. Five knobby thick segments         of neck vertebrae—            in graduated sizes—are stacked in formation               like a row of flower pots            along the wide mantel. A local sculptor,         perhaps, has burnished all edges      and slicked the hollows into neat grooves—giving   each a singular gleamy finish. But the carefully linked row   suggests a great whale head charging forward      as we stroll across the frontroom . . .         We exit through alcove            into a rear parlor and I duck—pure instinct—               to avoid being clouted            by the succession of whale models hung         from the ceiling like Calder   mobiles.               Imposing shapes.                  Black silhouettes . . .                     Right   Whale, sleek Killer Whale, bulbous Sperm Whale puffing its bubbly   spout (eternally etched in that facsimile [End Page 141] of high fountaining spray), while   local Humpback Whale      completes the floating roster.

           The last, if less

              monumental, is clearly            more precisely detailed. The model,         homegrown, springs to life      with closely observed traits. The reek and aroma   of huntsman Athneil swirls around the doll-like bust. It’s the one   three-dimensional replica, the others all      poster art flatboard hangings.         Our host holds forth            upon the niceties of this species, no living               soul more intimate            with the Humpback than himself, so         often a sea jockey riding      on its back, primed for the kill. He takes the shape   of his whale-humping crouch, enticing us into onsite peak moments:   arms spread akimbo, knees widely outstretched,      legs in a crab-arched splits . . .         Man riding a camel,            an elephant, a stallion—each pose carries its               distinct...