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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Billboard/Poster/Sign (any or all) (12/02/10)

TITLE: Where Sharks and Whales Only Swim in Books
By Henry Clemmons


A morn will break in life when you sense safety,
And they’ll be no safety,
Because there is no safety on a sea hiding monsters.

An altered, borrowed thought from Melville’s whale,
I took as prophesy,
Slightly changed because I will not live by the sea.

I sense land and know its land,
I live on land,
Way inland, where sharks and whales only swim in books.

It’s been that way ever since that poster sucked us in
To the darkened sea of theatre’s trap,
Haunted by the simple pattern of alternating notes E and F.

Jaws of fear forever chased me to the plains.
Quint’s scream echoed Ahab’s plea,
As they both drown in swirls of unknown depths in grasps of monsters.

I still see it hanging, taunting from theatre’s red brick wall,
The great white killer of innocent swimmers;
Straight up, mouth open, death stalking, a frantic thrashing,
Gurgled screaming, an eerie silence, a bloodied ocean, once still, once serene,
Once Safe.

There are no creatures of the deep in Kansas,
No Brady’s, Hooper’s, or Quint’s drunken songs of false courage,
No great white killer of innocent swimmers stalking my life from

The poster changed my life.
I live on the Rock, firmly on the Rock, far from a shore hiding monsters.
I believe in Amity, but not as an island, it can’t be an island; never an island.

I saw that film with my father; I was young.
It was the only time he ever took me to the picture show.
He was so strong, he would have survived like Brady, if not for the monster,
Not Spielberg’s creature, but a swift silent killer of cells from beneath the

It was 1975,
Two alternating notes blown from a tuba,
And a large placard of a great white shark Mr. Benchley named, Jaws.

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This article has been read 655 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Caitlyn Meissner12/10/10
I enjoyed reading this. Good job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 12/10/10
I really enjoyed this. There were a few references I only picked up from visiting Universal Studios. I do remember how desperately I wanted to see that film but my wise mother knew I was subject to horrible noght terrors and she wisely forbade it. I asked how old I had to be to see it and she told me when I was an adult. Yet after all these years I don't want to see it because my mom was right. Thank you for pulling me into this verse. It was a nice jaunt down memory lane. I really enjoyed it.
Beth LaBuff 12/11/10
As your usual, this is amazingly poetic and poignant. Your words paint images! You also implanted that 1/2 step from E to F into my brain. :) [We, too, work on the piano to figure out those famous musical hooks. (By the way, I love that detail in your poem.)
Verna Cole Mitchell 12/12/10
Does your poetry flow as naturally and beautifully as the finished product seems? With just a hint, you tell a lot of story. Masterful poem!
Anita van der Elst12/12/10
This is pretty amazing. Your poem took me places I could see and feel and that made it worth reading for me.
Amanda Brogan12/13/10
I like the part about living on the Rock -- that the fears of this life, whether from childhood or otherwise, are no match for the power of Jesus' protection of His children.

I'm sure glad I've never seen Jaws! But I enjoyed your poetry as usual. It is as deep and refreshing as the sea itself.
Connie Dixon12/14/10
You make my case for not swimming in the ocean. Extremely 'deep' writing this week. Great job.
Melanie Kerr 12/14/10
Excellent poem. Very vivid images and the careful choice of words. I didn't get some of the references, but I knew what you were writing about.
Gregory Kane12/14/10
I completely missed the plot on my first read through. Now I can see why so many people are raving about this entry.
Peter Benchley wrote a number of other novels that are easily as good as Jaws but sadly not as well known. For those of you who enjoy a good scare by the shore, check out your local library!
Lollie Hofer12/14/10
I found myself chuckling several times. Good poem with a quick flow to it...I liked the reference to the Rock. I also find it amazing how you turned it around at the end and used it as a metaphor for your father. Quite interesting approach.
Catrina Bradley 12/14/10
One of the 3 movies my own father took me to. I loved the images your poem creates, and the memories and hope you describe so lyrically.