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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:


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

  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
     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
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.


                 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
              Imposing shapes.
                 Black silhouettes . . .
  Whale, sleek Killer Whale,
bulbous Sperm Whale puffing its bubbly
  spout (eternally etched in that facsimile
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 holding pattern
          and carriage. But whale-riding’s unique,
        Humpback Whale giving the squatter
     an extra challenge. He acts...

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