Ishmael Writes to a Friend Back Home: a Golden Shovel Poem


Wilda Morris


“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”

~ Ishmael in Moby-Dick


Depressed with life on land, I thought it better

to head for Nantucket and set sail, to

find contentment on a whaling ship rather than sleep

walk through another winter. I left home alone with

meager possessions. In New Bedford, I met a

harpooner. An experienced whaler, sober

and strong, Queequeg was a cannibal,

but so congenial—more like a brother than

a friend. His mistake—trusting me to select a

ship. I picked the Piquod, whose captain was drunken

with vengeance, having few values I’d call Christian.