An Experiment in Poetry (A Cut-up)

What can be made of a poem which solely uses the last lines of other poems? Today’s dVerse challenge prompts us to construct just such a poem (or hodge podge or call it what you will) and I was curious what would follow. So I used the last lines of the first twelve poems in Margaret Atwood’s latest book of poetry, Dearly, (without alteration, only enjambment and lower-case) and this is what I got. Make of it what you will, but it goes to show that there is a resonance in words that builds on the generosity of a poem’s ambiguity and particularly the reader’s generosity as well. And such a cut-up technique plays on that to more or less affect.

Dear Reader, you decide.


An Experiment in Poetry (with apologies to Margaret Atwood)

hearts
hurt

not quite
cursed if she smiles or cries

the candle guttering down
I’ll give dry light

turn the key. Bar the window
let there be plot

why can’t I let her go?
isn’t it pretty, back there?

as Heaven always is,
if you read the texts closely

remember me
sing: On

Last Testimony

Rainbow feather-bearers,
winged busy trilling wonders
rest on stout Sequoia shoulders

arcing out in providential shelter
with canopy of ancient splendor
slain when commerce cuts asunder

felled history’s immanence
felled unwritten covenants
felled ringed testaments

fell sight of heaven
fell curse east of Eden.

Fallen Giant Sequoia Redwood tree Loggers with felled Redwood circa 1905
A fallen giant Redwood tree with 14 loggers around a large Redwood tree
Humboldt County, Lumber industry, circa 1905
Photographer: Jesse A. Meiser (1870-1939) Monterey County Historical Society

For Sherry's "Tongues of Falling Trees" earthweal prompt
and De's dVerse Quadrille (44 words, "wing")

Come Hell or High Water (A Very Short Story)

Written for Sadje’s WDYS #157 photo prompt and Sammi’s Day 5 prompt of 13 Days of Samhain. Thanks to both for their inspiration to write this short story. Do check out Sammi Cox’s amusing serial mystery featuring Damon, the caretaker of a graveyard full of undead inhabitants. Click here for part 1. You won’t be disappointed.

She grew up looking at the world sideways, knowing if she saw it head-on she’d only see the mask, not the face outlined behind it. Better the warm, blemished skin than the plastic over it.

Never took anyone too seriously, neither. Not worth the trouble and trouble was all that ever brought. Better to know they’d break their word than be surprised when they did.

People wondered why she was always so placid. Why? Because she was never disappointed. And however bad folks were, they could be worse. However good they were today, it really didn’t pay to think they’d be the same tomorrow.

When the Imp came along, she adjusted. She was stuck with it. One day she opened her eyes and there it sat, twisting every nerve and joint in her body till it brought tears to her eyes.

She asked God about it. She said she felt like Job. And then she ended up covering her mouth like Job did when she realized there were things she didn’t need to know as long as God did.

The Imp turned the screws on her off and on. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” it would say, as her footsteps got slower and slower. Then she’d get better. Then she’d get worse.

But she stopped looking at people sideways. “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good,” they’d tease, and bring her a pumpkin-face latte when she couldn’t get up in the morning.

The Imp kept up its mischief. They kept up their love. She kept thanking God for setting her straight, come hell or high water.


1 Corinthians 13:3-7, 12-13 (NIV)
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. …
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Image credit: Valeriia @ Pexels

Haunted Love

Christina Rossetti, drawing by David Levine

I’ll meet you in the goblin grove
My love, if you should ask
As if to test me with a task
My love for you to prove.

My fears and frights I will forget
In truth, that you may not be grieved;
I’ll hold aloft no blame, nor false regret,
In truth my love you’ve ne’er believed.

Should I die to prove love true,
My spirit uncowed by ghosts that roost
O’er lazy bones in goblin’s brew,
My spirit on All Souls morn be loosed

To haunt you through and through!


Written in honor of Christina Rossetti, a Christian poet who is well known for her work as a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848. Every year when Halloween comes round her long poem, The Goblin Market, makes the rounds around the world to spook children and adults both! Shay’s Word Garden List engages us to pick three words or more from words she’s chosen from Rossetti’s poetry and Sammi’s 13 Days of Samhain for Day 2 prompts us to use the phrase “Lazy Bones.”

Dante’s “Roundabout” to Beatrice

Per dVerse’s MTB, The Roundabout:

  • Four quintains (five-line stanzas) for a total of twenty lines
  • Iambic meter throughout
  • Lines have 4;3;2;2;3 feet respectively
  • Line 5 repeats line 2
  • Rhyme scheme is aBccB bCddC cDaaD dAbbA

Naturally, given my current reading, my first thoughts flew to Dante’s unrequited love for Beatrice.

Dante and Beatrice, Henry Holiday (1883), oil on canvas

My mind rehearses all the lines
I’d say if you were mine;
Though you are not
My heart you’ve got
I’d say if you were mine.

Oh, how I long to have a sign
That you like me have fought
The love I yearn
For which I burn
That you like me have fought.

There is no wealth, no treasure sought
That would all reason spurn;
To cross the lines
And God’s designs
That would all reason spurn.

Farewell, my muse, to God I’ll turn
For Love like starlight shines;
My mind refine
My heart confine
For Love like starlight shines.

The Structure of Things

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Feeling a little ambitious today with three prompts for the price of one: Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneer’s photo prompt (100-word story), Sammi’s 13 Days of Samhain (“The Cheek of the Devil”) and Thursday’s Six Sentence Story (“Structure”). Enjoy!

Word/Sentence Count: 100 words/6 sentences; Genre: Fiction

The Structure of Things

“Mom, that lady was rude and you just let her walk without telling her off!!”

Ruth considers her outraged child.

She picks up the broken glass structure at her feet, says quietly, “I’ve always taught you to turn the other cheek, haven’t I? Someone’s got to be the first to take the hate, stop it from spreading, and I can, because Christ gives me that power.”

“But Mom, if you keep turning the other cheek, it just keeps getting bloodied!”

“Like our Master’s on the cross, and whose cheek would you rather have, Christ’s or the cheek of the Devil?”


Matthew 5:38-45:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Balaam To the Kindly Moon

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” — Plato
“They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.” — 2 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

You set me a riddle of romance,
Kindly Moon, a beguiling trap
by the waters of Babylon
where Cartier trinkets line
red-bowed caskets made in China
riding on Charon’s ferry

by the waters of Babylon
where I hung up my Guccis
like spangled semaphores
testifying to the Sinai fire
on a holy mountain while
sipping Florentine wine in D.C.

You sent me a Utopian dream
of Jerusalem under kindly eyes
before my breakdown,
where I dwelt perennial
in the tongues of state
-craft, sightless as a stone
gargoyle with carbonized

hate, when home after home,
city after city I visited, inflaming tribal
sigils, leavening in unguarded hearts
dystopias in abandoned strollers,
palaces of discontent, malodorous
diffusion, contentious, disfiguring.

So now I frame you, with Pyrrhic ruins,
dead-to-rights from my watery
bier with the very crimes
you silver-framed me
in Chicago (Kabul or Kiev)
where all roads meet
with a gunshot and a cry.


*The October full moon is known in China as the Kindly Moon.

Continue reading “Balaam To the Kindly Moon”

The (Other) Girl Next Door

I hear Dante pass, still fresh with the horror of the infernal pit he had risen from to see the stars once more. My breath catches again.

Does he see me? Now? Ever?

I’m no Beatrice. My face proves not salvific.

I had lived too long. She, too short a time.

Would you say to her, death is quite romantic? Or, death will immortalize you in terza rima? You would not say that of me, the one overlooked in search of another.

Here in purgatorio, my envious eyes are sewn shut. My mouth is not. Yet the voices in my ears speak generosity.

So I say, as he passes, The pain that twisted me to bitter envy I unloose to blessing. May it guide you to Beatrice. Nay, may it guide you to the God of love.

And the wires loosen from my eyes.


As a young boy, the poet Dante lived next door to Beatrice who, though he never spoke to her, he loved from afar, and to whom, through his love for her, he credits his spiritual and poetic journey. I have imagined in this piece of fiction, “the other girl next door” who never caught his attention but had fallen in love with him to no avail and to her own self-destruction.

Continue reading “The (Other) Girl Next Door”

Metamorphoses in Traditional Mongolian Meter

Metamorphosis: A Gothic Tale

He gave me starlings, dark dowry,
Hidden betrayals in gardens,
Houses muttering in the rain,
Hoarding secrets in rosaries.

Then sent he catbirds three, to kill
True love, their mimicry like
The day’s news, veiled, shifting half-
Truths, eyed over coffee and tea.

Crows by the murder he hastened,
Choreographed in gothic,
Cawing incessant, evil
Conniving to see my end.

Bedeviled, accursed, he must then
Bequeath me bats, like foreigners
Bearing plagues, designed to cause fear—
But now I’m more deadly than he.


The above poem is in response to Shay’s Word Garden Word List (inspired by poet Dave Kelly) and is the first of two as I experiment with a new (to me) poetry form: the Traditional Mongolian Meter. This form requires quatrains written in lines of 7 to 8 syllables, each line head-rhymed with alliteration being a prominent element of the form. Grace at dVerse explains a head-rhyme as being “the first consonant of each line matching. However, while still alliterative, with the matched consonant heading the line, it is often seen as the first syllable in each line rhyming with the first syllable of the ensuing lines.”

Christ’s Wine

The wine that Jesus made runs sweet
To quench my thirst like rain in spring
That falls on ground which hardened lies
Till it yields to softening streams.

No Cana wedding had I to go
Nor hear His mother’s firm request
Nothing but His love for me
Nourishing remembrance brings.

See wine in cup and bread on plate
Speak His body and His blood
Shed upon the Cross for me
So from guilt, from sin to free.

Jesus is my God and King
Joy unspeakable He gives
Just to know He loves me so
Joins my heart, my soul to Him.


Top image: jplenio; bottom image: Bouf16

Cold Fusion

The stairway is not
the woman
nor the stairway
the bird

The bird sees the woman
but the woman does not see
the light

The light descends
over the flight of the blackbird
over the black form of
the woman

The woman is not resting
nor sleeping nor dreaming
curled weary on
the limestone

The limestone does not know
the hardness of
each step

Each step
is blind to
the descent and
the ascent

The ascent is known
only by the light
and the bird
and the woman

singing
singing
singing


Photograph by Gregory Colbert shared by Carrie Burtt for her Sunday Muse #229 ekphrastic prompt. (Thank you, Carrie.) Click here to join in.

That’s So Random

He said I like to jazz the sky
Sometimes, you know
See me some hardcore Detroit
Drummer overdosing it
Like intensely
On proximal melodies
Ghosting me some romantic moonlight
Jigging up this wasteland
Taking an axe to all the quotidian brainiac
Entanglements of pigeon-freaking
Sh**—

She said Brick it up, man,
I’m not one of your ratty here-today-
Gone-tomorrow charm-school
Friends on anesthesia for the last stages
Of their latest art-appreciation-activism
Veering destitute of anything but ego-
Maniacal mimetic devolution into hedonistic
He**—

He said I want—
She said I want—

They said —you

And the woman on the bench said That’s a wrap.


You can blame this beat offering on the “absurdist” mood I’m in right now. But don’t leave out Shay’s Word Garden and her celebratory list of randomly chosen words from the first issue of the recently returned CREEM magazine, known for its irreverent presence on the music scene. The word list from which we are to pick at least three for use, is as follows:
anesthesia, axe, brainiac. brick, charm, Detroit, drummer, ghost, hardcore, intensely, jazz, overdose, pigeons, proximal, ratty, romantic, stages, transmissions, veering, wasteland. For more or less random poetry, check out dVerse’s OLN hosted by Björn.

When I Am Most Sick

When I am most sick, she confesses,
My mother’s face swims close
Like a dimly discerned form
On tree bark on which

I trace the tenderness I craved
Drawn by sickness to my window
Witnessing penance in unremitting pain
As in a cloister where whispers seek

Absolution that will never be given
By roots winding, coiling, her fingers
As leaves brushing bark into memory
Locked in a brace of trees.

“Embrace”
(painting by Lee Madgwick used by permission
for dVerse’s Poetics ekphrastic prompt)

This is not a show:

“Adoration of the Magi” tapestry (1890) designed by Edward Burne Jones, woven by William Morris et. al.

This is not a show
Don’t let it fool you
This baby escaped a tyrant’s slaughter
Not a carpet of flowers

Jesus knew hummus before kosher
At Egyptian tables to eat (Rimbaud yawns!)
These wise visitors bore gifts for an exile
Oh glorious! for the King of kings

We beg/steal/borrow tv Santa’s wigs
Play jolly, play Marley’s ghost
Turn engines of Christmas to erupt
Merry, when Jesus was born for sorrow.

Count His bones on the tree, no beauty
This mother will see, only a sword piercing
From cross to myrrh-anointed shroud

An ocean, an ocean of darkness to bear
A birthday for a Man whose death will be the death of Death
Erupt in hallelujah! Turn nuns into acrobats!

This is not a show
Don’t let it fool you
This baby escaped a tyrant’s slaughter
Not spring weather on a tapestry

Design for the “Adoration of the Magi” tapestry, Edward Burne-Jones, 1887

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:1-10
Shay/Fireblossom's "Word Garden Word List #5 (Gregory Corso)"
"What we do here is this: write a poem using at least 3 of the twenty words on the following list. Your poem need not have anything to do with Corso except for the three (or more) words. The list is a springboard."

Somewhere

Somewhere
I can find a rainbow
smuggled in like an overcoat
thrown across my shoulders
in chilly December.

Somewhere
I will see a dark window
where a winged angel sits cradling
a homeless soul on a grimy ledge
over D.C.’s VIP traffic.

Somewhere
maybe what we don’t yet know
will be all that is true power
faith beyond snip and tucked illusions
on venal wrinkling faces.


Carrie's Sunday Muse #190 photo prompt
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt#239: 66 words exactly, "smuggle"

On Reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary: Fragments

Sta viator. Stop traveler.
Amabilen conjugem calcas.
Tread upon a loving wife.

“I’ve never read it myself.”
“Tell me.”

On an island
a mahogany bed
shaped like a boat

The extraordinary in
the ordinary: love
in language

Flaubert writing Emma,
who’s trapped
in a familiar broken cauldron

The ordinary in
the extraordinary: language
in love

Only lies of happiness
and unhappiness
(I read it after all)
meet expectations

I am the girl –
the book is the wolf –
believe me

image prompt: sunday muse
Shay/Fireblossom's The Sunday Muse, weekly picture poetry prompt
Laura at dVerse: "write a Modernist/Post-Modernist Fragment poem"
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt, 79 words, "familiar"
Punam's RDP Saturday: "the extraordinary in the ordinary"

Tales from the Beyond: Woodbury Piles No. 13

Come along and join in with Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers.
Rochelle asks that we use the photo prompt (©DaleRogerson)
and limit our words to 100 or less. 
Click on the frog to read more stories.

Genre: Horror
Word Count: 100

Tales from the Beyond: Woodbury Piles No. 13

M.R. of Woodbury is “E-tonic” to Oxbridge friends. He retires nightly with a tonic, his Eton tie, and an e-book of M.R. James, his namesake, until McQuin, his uncommonly phlegmatic valet, comes to softly extinguish the lights. McQuin says he has “the mind of a nice child.”

Tonight he reads, “saw someone crawling towards him on all fours with his eye hanging out on his cheek,” when he does. See someone. Like that.

“McQuin, when you’ve husbanded the modicum of blood left in you . . . ” he says.

Just before McQuin slips its thin arms round his neck.


Today’s tale brought to you by the inspiration of that master of horror, M.R. James, whose story, “The Mezzotint,” is happily alluded to.

Judgment Day

Come along and join in with Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers.
Rochelle asks that we use the photo prompt 
and limit our words to 100 or less. 
Click on the frog to read more stories.

photo prompt © Ted Strutz

Genre: Realism
Word Count: 100

Narrator: dorahak Background: Arctic White Noise and Wind (link)

Judgment Day

Cur Deus homo.* Why? Blindly, we sail past the pinnacle of what we could be.

The cruise ship Earth is all fun and games. Whether the fun intended causes others misery or not isn’t part of the equation. The equation only includes playing gods, every individual for himself, the rich richer, the poor poorer because they were losers. Losers become slaves because that’s how the game is played.

Like the pharaohs of old, we will take the living into hell with us.

Out across the ice, I see Frankenstein chasing his monster. And the worm turns.

Judgment Day.


*Cur Deus Homo (Latin for “Why a God Human?”), usually translated Why God Became a Man, is a book written by Anselm of Canterbury in the period of 1094–1098. In this work he proposes the satisfaction view of the atonement.

In its preface, Anselm gives his reason for writing the book:

I have been often and most earnestly requested by many, both personally and by letter, that I would hand down in writing the proofs of a certain doctrine of our faith, which I am accustomed to give to inquirers; for they say that these proofs gratify them, and are considered sufficient. This they ask, not for the sake of attaining to faith by means of reason, but that they may be gladdened by understanding and meditating on those things which they believe; and that, as far as possible, they may be always ready to convince any one who demands of them a reason of that hope which is in us.

Preface to Cur Deus Homo, transl. Sidney Dean in St. Anselm
The beginning of the Cur Homo‘s prologue, from a 12th-century manuscript held at Lambeth Palace

Journey (4)

A lone tree
alone tree

parched finger roots on limestone
see:

above the clay
careening

this Rock has a hold on me

as winds, storms buffet free pride
of trunk unbent:

steady in heat of day, laboring:
oh Lord my God, I thank Thee.


Image credit: Splitshire.com
Lillian at dVerse Quadrille (44 words) prompts us with the word "careen"
Click on Mr. Linky to join in!

Unbereaved

Frank at dVerse asks us to write a haibun (prose plus haiku) dealing with fear. Unlike the trumped up fear of Halloween games, there are real fears that children deal with at the hands of a parent, their childhood stolen. Perhaps years from now in their adulthood, one will thank you because you noticed and cared. 
Kathleen Munn, Composition (Horses), c. 1927

Nightmares when they roughshod ride primeval, cross cave walls and closet doors, charm no one, least of all you, appearing on site like a combative cow to remind me that when you gave birth it was in pain, a pain that didn’t end with birth. For you it won’t be enough that the shamanic horse runs wild torment across my plain features, flushed hot, now cold with fear, gaping at the undisclosed terrain of days yet unrun, populated by masked faces finding a home where I cannot. Flesh-like you appear to say, “I screamed bloody murder, you devouring me inside out, the doctor said, literally, you were eating me alive, like some malnutritioned demon-child, and I’m just a shadow of myself. To haunt you. In whatever caves you may roam. Gypsy-cursed.”

Have you seen a cow eat its calf? A hen pluck out its chick’s eyes? A mother hate her child? From where does this malformation derive than in red misery, bitter burning coals, stone-shaped eyes that glitter from the grave to shriek and shriek and shriek?

I fear you. But it’s not what you think. Though you’re dead your pain inflicts me. Your strained neck as you push onward defying all but gravity, defying the gods of nature to take from you the child you will punish because you can’t punish them.

steel-born heart in sheath
trampled plain of childhood’s corpse
nightmare by firelight