In Praise of Spoken Differences

by Ralph Monday

Books always do this to her
unfathomable books on bottomless
themes that she sits reading in a red
dress in the fall leaves, mind clothed
in scarlet thoughts.

Have you ever thought of this,
she asks me

to pull Moby Dick from the waters
a great white light swallowing transgressions,
crucified upon the sea, upon frothing waves—
crests tipped pink by his sacrificed blood?

How different it would have been
if her faith had survived.

How different would it have been on
the island if Ralph and Piggy had
never found the conch shell?

Almost a thing of abstract art
her father died when she was seven,
splattering his brains all over the garage

walls in wet grays and reds with a 12
gauge while she and her brother slept

How different it would have been if he
hadn’t lost his job, wasn’t depressed,
if his girlfriend had stayed.

How different would it have been if
Hamlet never toyed with Ophelia, if
Gertrude spurned Claudius?

At forty her husband left her for a younger
woman, without remorse, without explanation,
gone like a shadow that ceased following its matter.

How different would it have been if
Abelard kept his balls, Heloise never
donned the habit?

How different would it have been if
Iseult had not told Tristan the sails
were black?

How different would it have been if
Romeo and Juliet changed the ending
of west side story?

Not such a small thing these
pantomimed silhouettes dancing like
Macbeth’s witches

Not such a small thing.

Transgressions follow like
mosquito’s multifaceted eyes,
locked in the vast deep the way
that only a special human can
hear humpback whales compose great
cetacean epics in celebration.

There in the deep quiet black where
disintegrated fish bones fall, float eerily down
like artificial snow in a glass winter globe.
Ocean snow covering the mud like watery
hoarfrost—these are the Saharas of the

She swims
She swims

What would it be like if I had never been born?
What would it be?

How different would it have been to
never be?

How different would it have been?

Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego

Ralph Monday is Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN., and has published hundreds of poems in over 100 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book Empty Houses and American Renditions was published May 2015 by Aldrich Press. A Kindle chapbook Narcissus the Sorcerer was published June 2015 by Odin Hill Press.


This poem is absolutely amazing! The allusions, the rhythm, the crafting of language, and the presentation of a complex human condition weaved throughout. Incredible poem.
John, Feb 06, 2022
This poem goes very deep yet it manages to be playful. Love it.
Toti O'Brien, May 26, 2016
WOW! I found you randomly on another journal and fell into a rabbit hole reading your work,
You are both beautiful and accessible, Thanks for reminding me why I read!
megan, Sep 26, 2015