In the Belly of the Whale

As the poet slips
on the pathway of life,
she falls into the dark depths
of her unconscious.
Pulled down below
by the god Poseidon,
she is swallowed
into the belly of the whale.

A world-wide-womb,
where tides swell,
rush forward and crash
each time the hara empties.
Drowning in despair,
she is washed of words
and hung from a rib
during her night sea journey.

Strung up in the unknown,
the trapped poet catches
the eye of death,
whilst decaying in darkness.
Yet, as she puts her ear
to the whale’s heart,
she hears the deepest beat
of all time.

Inside this rose-red chamber
of rubies and pearls,
where the old gods speak,
her salted body dissolves.
Born into a water sign,
she knows it is time
to enter her watery nature,
spill into the sea below.

In a releasing moment
the poet enters the mystery,
hoping to find a way
to achieve the impossible.
To return to life
from this baptismal font,
where she connects
with tomb and womb.

There is no way out now,
she cannot escape,
only swell the sea within
until her quarantine is over.
Salty tears fall and fall
as she weeps and prays
into the darkness,
into a womb filled with song.

Pregnant with death,
her ego has all but died,
last seen floating
in the conscious world above.
There is no audience here
for her persona either,
no side-line cheer-leading
or dancing in the stands.

Where is brave Odysseus,
her heroic animus?
He who would free her
from the weight of shadow.
At sea without a compass
she calls out his name,
while fading into oblivion,
sinking below the waves.

His voice rises from the sea.
A sacrifice must be made
for the poet to continue,
she must submit to the gods!
Her timeworn beliefs
and naivety must be left
inside the chamber,
before a new life is granted.

Dying to be born again,
the broken poet surrenders
to Odysseus’s will,
and rises up from the belly.
Taking in her first breath,
she notices she is breathing
through her heart
as if it were a pair of lungs.

Realising she is rising,
returning to consciousness,
she turns back to the depths
where the wild things are.
Embracing the pause,
she catches sight of her soul,
a bright, luminous pearl,
eternal beacon of light.

With one hand on her hara
the poet is reborn,
what was rejected long ago
illuminates her shadow.
A new persona moves in,
more in keeping with her soul
and the light she found
in the belly of the whale.

 

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2020
Image Credit: Google Images

32 thoughts on “In the Belly of the Whale

  1. Dear Poets and Dreamers,

    I want to share some exciting and rather unexpected news!

    Yesterday, after waking from a numinous dream which guided me to create and self-publish my second volume of poems, I’ve decided to take a much needed leave of absence from my poetry and Jungian thought website for the next month or two. I shall miss you all and miss writing poems but feel compelled to follow this affirming dream and share a new book, after emerging from my belly of the whale encounter.

    My second collection will include both my Poetry of the Tarot and Poetry of the Year series, alongside all the major poems I’ve written in the past five years since my first collection, “A Liberated Sheep in a Post Shepherd World” was originally self-published in September 2015.

    Just a house-keeping note to say that readers will find that most of my poems are no longer visible (although my Jungian work is) as they will be undergoing an editing process which includes tweaking and polishing each one, before hopefully in the not too distant future, my second collection, working title, “The Shepherd’s Daughter” becomes available.

    I hope you all have a happy and safe summer, thank you so much for being such wonderful companions on this blessed journey we call life!

    Love and blessings to all,

    Deborah

    1. Enjoy your well earned break Deborah – looking forward to seeing the new book and wishing you well in it’s completion.

  2. Is fecundity the correct word for how this poem feels, and makes me feel? It’s the best one I can find. So much is going on: so many ideas generated.
    I love this dive into the depths, and the consequent journey to find the soul. Beautifully explored, Deborah. How precious such moments are.

    1. Wow! What a lush, rich reply, thank you so much Cath! In stark contrast to this morning’s bright, sunny realm, those dark depths are submerged in darkness indeed … a pregnant darkness I hasten to add.

      Joyfully, last weekend, after many weeks of just staring at the front cover of “Underland” by Robert Macfarlane, I’ve opened up his magical book and have dived in. Bright Solstice Blessings, love Deborah.

    1. Thank you so much Jason for your kind-hearted reply! I realise that delaying publication of my 2nd book, to include what’s happening in the world this year, was a wise decision. Summer Solstice Blessings, Deborah.

  3. Thank you, dear Deborah. Such a powerful mythological/symbolic poem of our times and your journey through it. I’m breathless as I search for air and kindness in the wild underworld that surfaced in my country. I’m swallowed in the grief of aloneness–and yet there is hope. Small glimmers of hope as we hang like Inanna on the hook of the whale rib. I’m too small to surface by myself, but the whale is big and if it can go up for air, maybe it will take me, too.

    We’re experiencing death and I believe there will be more darkness if we’re to survive. The underbelly of racism and illness are revealing themselves and we can’t hide. Yet there is that giant beating heart. Thump. Thump. Thump. “There is no way out now.” I feel we/I must go through and pray for transformation. The astrological/ political/ social events of this time are clear. None of us can escape. I’m calling Odysseus, too, but don’t understand the sacrifice I need to make or what might emerge. I try to quietly submit to the unknowing and hopelessness of these times, since I can’t find a map or a pattern and don’t know my role. I have ideas about creating this or writing that, but the inner spark is too far away to light the soul fire. All I can do is search for small signs of hope in each morning and ask for guidance from below or above.

    I’m so grateful for flowers and butterflies and birds–and even they have their cycles of birthing and dying. It’s inescapable. I’m hanging on. It helps to know you are, too. Sending you safety, love, and glimpses of joy.

    1. Dearest Elaine,

      Thank you so much my dear friend for the poetical depth and breadth of your reply! I’m simply in awe of your understanding regarding our current world-wide situation and the deep, mythological, psychological, astrological connections you’ve made. I truly hope you will write more about them soon!

      The catalyst for writing this poem was George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe” yet I couldn’t bring myself to include them in my poem … so I’m pleased (not the right word?) that you’ve picked up on not only your own grief, but on the collective grief of our times … for writing this has been an agony I haven’t felt in writing for a while. The void has mitigated the surface and perhaps even Persephone, this spring, chose to stay below.

      Yes, yes, yes! We’re all “in the belly of the whale” now, on Inanna’s hook, waiting to drop! And drop we must, and crumble we must! I love your thinking … if the whale can go up for air, perhaps it will take me too! And like Jonah, “cough” us up onto a new shore where we have to learn to a new language, far from our native tongue!

      But first our dark entombment! Our dark baptism! Oh, how the old gods speak!

      To stage my own breakout, I feel that I need to sacrifice my “childishness, naivety and old beliefs!” And if I refuse … basically I’m fucked, to put it bluntly! For the ego or persona(lity) cannot help us when we are on our knees. For it is only here, when dying, that the heart starts to speak, first in whispers, then booming as it becomes the only voice in the world.

      Oh, I’ve felt like a volcano that could’ve erupted in words at the very same time when I was desperately trying to spark two stones together … just to find one sentence to write this poem. There it’s done, I can breathe and I’m heartbroken yet find myself, hopeful too.

      Summer Solstice Blessings to you, Willow and dancing Disco, love Deborah.

  4. Brilliant! Many poets grow up inside the belly of the whale.
    Although scary, it can be a quiet place where you get lots of time to think, write and pray.
    I came across this short poem by Dan Albergotti which you may enjoy and encapsulates my experience of being in lockdown.

    Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

    Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
    Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
    with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
    Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
    Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
    for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
    each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
    of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
    Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
    of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
    Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
    where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
    the things you did and could have done. Remember
    treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
    pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

    1. Wow! Yes, this poem resonates deeply with lockdown doesn’t it! And what you’ve written regarding poets and writers being born “in the belly of the whale” is so true. Thank you so much Bookworm for sharing such apt verse (deserves many rereads!) and your own rich, generous reply! Summer Solstice Blessings to you, love Deborah.

  5. Deborah, you always go deep in your poetry; this has to be the deepest yet metaphorically and literally. I really love this, it hit me in my belly. As did your lines’… breathing through her heart as if it were a pair of lungs …’ All of your lines were powerful.

    We’re surely in a world of transformation now as never before. I thought of Innana as you were in the belly of the whale, those leviathans of the deep. I was glad to read Hungry Fox’s link which I’ve bookmarked.

    Thank you so much dear Poet. Solstice love to you, Susan

    1. Thank you so much Susan for your truly wonderful response to my latest poem! Trust me when I say this one nearly got away … for at times I felt like I was wrestling with the god Poseidon himself! Caught in the shining jaws of a monster, I plunged (slipped I hasten to add!) all the way down to those depths … and yet the pregnant darkness, as we both know, offers all new perceptions.

      Learning to breathe in a new way, perhaps the oldest way, perhaps our first way, through the heart chakra, is one of the murmuring mantras I surfaced with. And now I’m weeping because I’m reminded of George Floyd’s dying words, “I can’t breathe” and how the virus is attacking the lungs. I’m hopeful others will make the connection and find a way to transform not only themselves but the world we live in too. Summer Solstice love and blessings to you too, Deborah.

  6. Goodness Deborah – this is such a powerful recounting of a journey from darkness to the light. I know that I, and I’m sure that many more people, have been pushed to the limit in recent months, and have been almost forced to undergo this transformation from a life lived under a false persona, being taken down to the lowest depths until, under these challenges we see our true path, the one where we are being true to our heart and soul.

    You have told the story so beautifully – your final verse one of hope for a positive new future, this is such a hopeful poem for these times.

    Wishing you many Solstice blessings for Saturday x

    1. Oh, thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful words and for journeying “in the belly of the whale” with me! Writing this particular poem was like trying to catch the slipperiest fish ever … it’s been such a struggle! One moment I thought I’d caught it, only for it to slip away in the next!

      Pushed to the limit indeed, I came very close to giving up last week. I just couldn’t write this poem until three nights later when a tiny dream gave me a huge image to work with, just one image, that of a shell opening and there being a pearl inside … on waking I knew I had seen the Soul. I cannot describe it any other way!

      Until the ego and the persona(s) are stripped back, I don’t think we really know who we are at all! So many of us are re-evaluating our lives, work and relationships. Yes, I believe that collective and individual changes / transformations are definitely in the air, thank goodness!

      As you wrote of finding our true path I couldn’t help but think of the book “The Face Before I Was Born: A Spiritual Autobiography” by the author and Sufi, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, perhaps this is a gentle nudge for me to find it on the book shelves. Summer Solstice Blessings to you, love Deborah.

  7. Wowee!! Very powerful, and oh so relevant. Quarantine, indeed. You, with your mythic mastery of words, have truly captured the transforming Dark Night of the Soul experience. And I love the closing lines A new persona moves in/more in keeping with her soul/and the light she found/in the belly of the whale. That’s just beautiful.

    Thank you!

    What is a hara? 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Jeanie for your rich, insightful reply! Indeed, the Dark Night of the Soul is upon us, collectively and individually. My own lockdown and quarantine has felt, metaphorically, like I’ve been in the belly of the whale for months now … an experience previously unknown in my life … and to be in a similar situation with millions of others, has been almost unbelievable! At times I wake up and forget and then the reality hits me!

      Re “Hara” I’ve posted a link to an interesting article below in response to Henry posting a link to an article I’d previously read! In essence, hara means “one’s true nature” who one truly is as a human being (and through my Jungian lens the ego and persona is stripped away). Translated from Japanese, hara simply means the belly, and so much more, as it represents the second of our mystical chakras. It is known as our spiritual centre.

      You may be more familiar with the term “Harakiri” a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment, known as Seppuku. There’s a great page on Wikipedia all about it, if you’re interested in reading more. The belly, the womb, the tomb, the cave and the basket has long held my mythical interest, especially in terms with the Great Mother … so when Anna wrote in her reply that she felt held in the belly of the whale, I resonate deeply.

      For me, what happens “in the belly of the whale” is the real journey, not the ending. Much like what happened to Inanna in the underworld. The myths and biblical stories provide us with so much “food for thought” don’t they! Feeding the hara, our spiritual centers well! Summer Solstice blessings to you and yours, love Deborah.

  8. “The soul selects her own Society –
    Then – shuts the Door”

    Emily Dickinson

    Refusing to admit the Ego or the Persona.

    Stunning work Deborah, the depths are dazzling. I don’t know if it’s just me but I felt held in the Great Mother’s body while I was reading. All the best, Anna.

    1. Oh, I love those opening lines to 303! Thank you so much Anna for sharing them with us and for your generous reply. As I understand Emily’s poem is about the decision the Soul makes regarding what kind of society it wants to be a part of. I believe that millions of us are asking the same question as we ease ourselves out of lockdown and pray that world-wide racism ends, following the shocking murder of George Floyd.

      Feeling held in the Great Mother’s body is such a wonderful metaphor for the (metaphor!) of being inside the (womb and tomb) belly of the whale! There’s so much to say here and not enough time tonight … seed for a new poem perhaps?!

      In the darkest moments of my life, my ego and persona(lity) were of little if no use. That necessary stripping back to find one’s true nature is vital for rebirth. Time to face what haunts us.

      Summer Solstice Blessings to you, love Deborah.

  9. Deborah, I don’t know how you do it!! This is incredible, epic writing, for we’re all in the belly of the whale now. Far away from the reach of the sun.

    Dropped into your ‘world-wide-womb’ we enter a dark space that has opened for each of us. As a poet I know this place, the killing dark, well. Bravo dear poet!!! I doff my cap to thee in deep sincerity. HF

    1. Yes, yes far away from the summer sun! Thank you so much Henry for your wonderful gift of words today. I know you know this place well (the “killing dark” … love it!) and I’m hoping that I’m prompting you to pick up “Poetry’s Pen” yourself during this month! Oh, I can’t wait to read the results! Summer Solstice Blessings to you and yours! love Deborah.

  10. Diving inside the dark corners of own soul?! Wow, that is a poetry trip in the depth of our unknown. Brilliant dearest Deborah.
    Honestly, I thought at the beginning, of the story of Jonah but never the same; Jonah runs away from his own rescuer but here; poet makes a great discovery; her own unknown. A beautiful instructive poem.
    PS: now I know that you have changed your rhythm as I thought I have missed your monthly poem. have a leisure time dear friend.

    1. Thank you so much Aladdin for your wonderful comment! Recently, I’ve felt so trapped “in the belly of the whale” re lockdown and social distancing measures that I needed to explore what’s been going on “above and below”. Darkness takes over not only the mind and body but the heart too and the heartless murder of George Floyd has prompted me to pick up my pen in haste.

      Growing up I was fascinated by the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, and at mid-life I was ecstatic to learn of the myth of Inanna. I can’t recommend the book, “Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women” by the author Sylvia Brinton Perera, a Jungian Analyst, high enough! And what interests me more than the ending of each of these incredible stories is what mysterious transformations happened in the belly and the underworld.

      Oh, I never know when I’m going to pick up my pen but I do try and write at least once a month. Please know that your warm support and encouragement throughout these years has been such a gift to me! Summer Solstice Blessings to you my dear friend, love Deborah.

      1. Your words warm always my heart my dear friend, I am a little late to read your answer because I don’t get any notification about it though, I keep it always in my mind to have a look on your posts. Thank you for your kindness, thank you for being there with me. take care my dear lovely friend. sincerely yours, Aladin.

        1. What a lovely surprise to read your warm-hearted response today Aladin! Thank you. You’re welcome my dear friend! As mid-summer is now upon us I’m outside more often enjoying the season’s beauty and splendor so will not be posting for a few weeks or until the muses call. I hope the day finds you well! Love & blessings, Deborah.

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