Chapter 95: The Cassock

My mother, like her mother before her, has a mischievously vulgar sense of humor. My sister and I inherited a fair share of the family trait as well. Strange, then, that it took me several reads of “The Cassock” before I understood that the whole chapter is about a whale’s penis.

Whaling crews include a member (no pun intended) called a mincer, who slices large pieces of blubber into thin sheets called Bible leaves (i.e., the thinner the better) to render in the try-works. Apparently, the mincer peels the skin off of the whale’s penis, stretches it out, and wears the skin to “protect him, while employed in the peculiar functions of his office.”

The skin is black, which, along with the Bible leaves reference, allows Ishmael to compare the mincer to an archbishop, portioning spirituality in the pages of his oration. Ishmael notes that only the penis skin could protect the mincer, though he leaves the questions of “how?” and “from what?” unanswered. Left so incredibly vague, though closely tied to the archbishop comparison, I couldn’t help but think of church officials as agents, wrapped in patriarchy, carefully doling out guarded selections from the knowledge of ages, protected within the wide expanse of an archbishoprick, the bigger the better.

Chapter 95: The Cassock

Drag me up from the depths
Of your wandering soul.
Let me light your fire,
Baby, you know!

Chain me up to the side
Of a perishing race
Of resistance.
Baby, you know!

It’s a long time coming now!
It’s a long time coming now!

Take the blackest flesh
As a garment to wear
For the portioning
Of spiritual wealth.

Slice it thin, father,
Thin as a Bible leaf
‘Til it breaks you.
Baby, you know!

It’s a long time coming now!
It’s a long time coming now!

Isn’t God defined
As a total control,
So if you fought and won
His power for all

It would still be a choice
That your God had made
And you’d still be
A subject enslaved?

It’s a long time coming now!
It’s a long time coming now!

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 22, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea May 10, 2009

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Mischievous? Yes! Vulgar? Absolutely not!!!!! I demand a retraction!!!!!!!!

    By the way, I enjoyed your essay today–all but the eleventh word.

    Love, Ma

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