A Poem by Frank Freeman

Belly of the Whale

So here I am again,
in the belly of the whale.
Another book, another

failure. Inside the belly,
like Jonah, I smell and taste
acid, bile, bitterness.

Jonah prayed to the Lord,
promised to go to Nineveh,
and the whale spewed him out.

Jonah went. I don’t know
what it is when you quit a book,
I guess the whale spews you

out because you make it sick,
but instead of Nineveh, you
end up back on the ship

in the middle of a raging storm
and everybody yelling at you
after they cast the lots.

Courage, coward. Just keep praying
(writing) and the whale will spew
you out at Nineveh and you too

can trudge through the city
proclaiming repent, the end
is nigh. Then, finally,

you can collapse under the fig tree
for shade and have God kill it
to teach you a lesson.

That he can show mercy to whom
he will, even you.

Frank Freeman’s work has been published in America, Commonweal, Dublin Review of Books, and the Weekly Standard, among others. He lives in Maine with his wife and four children, dog, cat, and four chickens. He hopes to have his books published some fine day. 

Image: Detail from a 17th-century Armenian hymnal depicting Jonah cast into the sea. Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts / Public Domain
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