It sounds like a comic book title: Sergeant Preston
of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police,
Tarzan of the Jungle, George of the Jungle,
Tip of the Iceberg,
and it’s not too difficult to picture Tip
in a leopard-skin patterned loincloth
stomping around his iceberg as he beats on his hairy chest,
artic winds howling. Tip may also
refer to tilt, the tilt of the iceberg as it makes its way
down to the civilized world, towards our Pizza Huts,
Ruby Tuesdays and Long John Silvers,
carrying its massive weight beneath it,
tipping and tilting, depending on the currents;
or Tip could also be the clichéish observations and advice
icebergs might give: Still waters run deep,
Don’t be fooled by appearances.
There’s more to this than meets the eye.
You can’t tell a book by its cover.
Beware wolves in sheep’s clothing. A tip
added to the check or left under the plate,
could be a reprimand or a reward,
too much or too little,
too blatant or too subtle. . . . “Tippy”
was the name of one of my dogs,
named so because when he first started to walk
he kept tipping over,
later killed by a car on New York State’s Route 9,
one of the last three-lane highways in America,
its center lane reserved for passing
and heaven help you if you swerved out
left from the north-bound lane when another car
swerved out left from the south-bound lane,
for two lefts do not make a right.
Tip. Tiptop. Tiptoe through the tulips.
Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too. Tip O’Neil.
Tip of the Day. Tip of the Week. Tip-in, tip off.
My favorite joke, when I was a teenager
had to do with that Australian creature, the Rary,
a sort of kangaroo on stilts.
Purchased when he was miniscular, he outgrew the household,
so had to be disposed of by being dumped
off a steep mountain cliff. As the Rary went over the edge,
someone sighed and said, “It’s a long way to Tipparary /
It’s a long way to go.” Knowing that World War I song,
I thought the joke hilarious. Tipster. Tipsy.
And since we’re heading in that direction
we might as well pick up some iceberg lettuce
in the vegetable aisle—not as good as Romaine,
or spinach leaves, but it will do
as long as there’s blue cheese dressing or Thousand Island
and a few sliced tomatoes. . . . The iceberg
that sank the Titanic seems to have been a Pinnacle iceberg,
possessing several spires and looking on the surface
like a death-bloated shark. But it could also have been
a Dome, a Wedge, a Dry-Dock, or a Blocky,
no one quite knows. An iceberg calves off its shelf
before it floats free. Above the sea level,
icebergs might reach as high as a 55-story building
or be just Groaners or a Bergy Bits
emitting the melting, fizzy sound called “Bergie Seltzer”
as their compressed air bubbles pop. . . . Those who camp
on top of flat or hollowed icebergs are known, no kidding,
as icebergers. Perhaps the comic book hero Tip
of the Iceberg is one of them, his parka discarded,
the thought of King Kong clinging to the Empire State Building
obsessing his nearly frozen mind. Yet for certain, I know
that the tip of the iceberg approaching us now
as the 21st Century heads into its own predictions,
seems a face in a dream, an inversion
of an oil rig over an oil well,
surface numbers overlying all they float above
as an elegant Einstein equation
masks the many years that shaped it. And I know
all that floats so stolidly beneath the visible
is up to us to surmise,
respect or avoid. This is the human task,
ask any mystic. Things aren’t what they seem.
Hilarity masks sorrow. A happy face
is put upon many woes.
Your life depends upon your knowing the hidden,
always expecting something else;
it depends on your ability with telescopes, binoculars, sonar,
word games, puns, scratch-off tickets—your ability to manipulate
layers, to read signals and signs
even if Tip of the Iceberg
is making faces at you, brandishing his ice pick,
yelling that he has it all under control
as the iceberg bears down—so much of it
too late now to get out of its passing lane.
© Dick Allen