dVerse — Poetics — The Move

From childhood I’ve led a nomadic life, then thankfully settled down for a while after my marriage; but due to varied pressures over the last dozen years or so, we found ourselves moving not once, not twice, but four times!

Michael Whelan, “Lights” (1991)

The Move

Let slip the dogs of war, cry ‘Havoc!’1
My life is in boxes. Taped wounds reopen.
Something’s lost, new scars of the march
Mark rosewood and disquiet heart,
Chipping tall glasses into which descanted
Expectations contain shards. I swallow

To survive. Patience. There is no end to it.
Nothing is ever put away in just the right place
As it was before, or ever after. A life’s exhumations,
Dislocated. Some funerary remains stay buried mysteries,
Supernumerary or symptoms of malaise. Diagnosis:
Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized

Comes at Christmas, when more than one treasured
Ornament is missed, or smashed, glitter powder, a crack
On Nutcracker chin. His stout smile now on my face.
Shrugging away another casualty. The clock chimes.
There are cookies in the oven in the new-not-new

Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf
To shelf to find a home. The doorbell rings.
I prepare my bravado. Hopeful eyes meet mine,
A Christmas tree on slim shoulders, angelic annunciation
To their father’s bemused smile. Now a certain

Cavalcade of the heart, benediction of wise men’s gold
Escaping boxes, escaping from what was
To what is. Another Egypt. Another promised land.
Father Abraham. Mother Sarah. Tents folded
Unfolded. Tinsel time like tinsel tears shimmer past.
Frankincense and myrrh. My life by blood covenant, Thine.


1“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos. The ‘let slip’ is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily ‘let slip’ to allow the dogs to run and hunt.”

Image credit: Michael Whelan, "Lights," acrylic on watercolor board, 1991

I'm guest-hosting today at dVerse "Poetics: Epiphany in the Time of Holiday," where we will write on what an epiphany during this holiday season would look like for us (or someone we know or imagine). An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is 'some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.' Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.)
Click on Mr. Linky and join in!

Media Vita

image ©dorahak

Media Vita

“In the midst of life

we are in death” sang fair

Notker the Stammerer


whose spoken words

when they emerged

wingless apart hobbled:


but when he sang

Notker’s sodden eyes

gathered gold like wheat


till we fared as kings

upon the bread of angels.


In the year 912, Notker the Stammerer, a monk of the Abbey of Saint Gall, is said to have written what became the Gregorian chant below, the English translation of which is a poetic adaption from the Book of Common Prayer (1549).

Media vita in morte sumus
quem quaerimus adjutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris
juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus,
sancte fortis,
sancte et misericors Salvator:
amarae morti ne tradas nos.

In the midst of life we are in death
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins
art justly displeased?

O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

2 Samuel 14:14
We must all die;
we are like water spilled on the ground,
which cannot be gathered up again.
But God will not take away life,
and he devises means
so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.

Image for Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD), November 15, 2021
Linda at dVerse: Quadrille#140 asks us to use some form of the word "fair"
in a poem of exactly 44 words. Click Mr. Linky and join in!

Gospel Truth

I know this music, she said,
her bow singing across the riggings of the ship,
vibrations of string, quivering, a Stradivarius
on seascapes wild, Colmcille’s blessing on her lips.
Her petaled fingers close on each note, wind-whipped,
prayer stinging her eyes, cutting grooves calloused
by play, tonal cry of pregnant labor for a birth
where words and sounds attuned once only to elemental
spirits, now midwife new life, the dead burying the dead,
but the people of the Way hearing, come dancing.


Colossians 2:8
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Luke 9:60
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Image Credit: cocoparisienne from Pixabay 
Ingrid at dVerse: Poetics Tuesday asks us to "write a poem using only concrete nouns, subject matter and imagery." Click on Mr. Linky and join in!

Unbereaved (a haibun)

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

Apple-spent (A Compound Word Verse)

An inch the moon moved, me eyeing
through sleepless lids I lay dying:
apple-fed.

Dim my sight, breath weakening
death’s poison ever strengthening:
apple-cursed.

Whispered prayers, hurried words of flesh
plead soul’s deliverance afresh:
apple-damned.

Darkness now floods the mind distraught
I would, I could, but I cannot:
apple-bent.

God’s Son whose flesh my guilt impaled
On cross for me o’er death prevailed:
apple-freed.

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels
Grace at dVerse challenges us today to write a Compound Word Verse, an unfamiliar form to most ous I daresay. She writes: "The Compound Word Verse is a poetry form invented by Margaret R. Smith that consists of five 3-line stanzas, for a total of 15 lines. The last line of each stanza ends in a compound word and these compound words share a common stem word which is taken from the title. (In the first example below the stem word is “moon” from the title “Moonlighting”; the compound words related to the title are moondust, moonbeams, moonsongs, etc.)

The Compound Word Verse (3 lines) has a set rhyme scheme and meter as follows:

Rhyme Scheme: a,a,b
Syllable/Meter: 8, 8, 3

Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!

Writer’s Block: A Brown Study in Haibun

I want to start a poem like this: I am brown, very brown. Then I get writer’s block. Because now it’s out there.

There’s a story to tell, but it’s not poetic. It’s definitional. I have to define wheatish, fair, tan, light-skinned, black, white, and all the colors that separate you and me, and beat us into submission, into bearing the crimes of our color, even though not once have I cried because I was dark brown. But I have cried because you spoke to my skin color and not to me.

And tears are wordless, colorless. Their salt shorts out syllables, keyboards, laptops. Already I taste it on my tongue. So I eat the heart of a dragon and listen to the gossip of birds.

A blackbird flies south
Its shadow falls on Mt. Fuji
Western sun descends

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) “Tea house at Koishikawa. The morning after a snowfall”
Frank at dVerse asks us to write on Writer's Block for Haibun Monday. 
The haibun form "consists of one to a few paragraphs of prose
—usually written in the present tense—that evoke an experience and are 
often non-fictional/autobiographical. They may be preceded or followed 
by one or more haiku—nature-based, using a seasonal image—that complement without directly repeating what the prose stated. 
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Always in Season

I met the devil at the crossroads
he was holding a basket of fruits

summer fruits: heightened in blush
eloquent in fragrance, tickling ears
choreographing sinuous guitar-strung blues

I asked him what he was selling
that I could afford, ‘cuz I had no money

peach skin: fuzzy ripening soft
dizzying delectable drippings
through juice-famished fingers

The night was thick with Southern mist
the road steamed where darkness sifted

sweet desire: the devil smiles
the basket away and disappears
like will-o’-the-wisp

sifted, sifted my soul like chaff, alone
at the crossroads looking after him


Mish at dVerse Poetics: "Always in Season" asks us to write about fruits or berries, giving us a broad flexibility of topic, from concrete to abstract. This poem was inspired by legendary blues singer and guitarist Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" (1936).

Knife-walkers

Girl with Balloon or There is Always Hope, original mural by graffiti artist Banksy (2002) on Waterloo Bridge in London’s South Bank; photo Dominic Robinson, 2004

writers are knife-walkers
we walk to make the final cut
where the blade
ruptures the heart

surgical artists dissecting ourselves
in the Circus Maximus
for the amusement of the gods
in their curtained prosceniums

they, eviscerating each other,
we rip ourselves up to see the truth
in fictional lives stitched up later
as scarred tissues of lies

only to find we’re not hopelessly alone
that our arteries flow into one another
through artful bridges of aqueducts
leading one to another’s aortas

in ancient tides and ocean swells,
each as wombs incubating embryonic
lives of who we are meant to be
where the bone meets the marrow.

Today Tricia Sankey guest hosts at dVerse Poetics, and she challenge us with writing about risk. Inspired by Tricia's own poem, well, writing poetry is a risk for me, but as I tried to say, one well worth taking when it's done in community like the poets at dVerse. Thanks to one and all.

On Prufrock Reading His Love Song: A Palinode

Image from “Dante’s Inferno,” a video game

Grace at dVerse asks us to meet the bar by writing a palinode or palinody, “an ode or song that retracts or recants a view or sentiment to what the poet wrote in a previous poem.” She has various examples of this and I’ve chosen to follow Monica Youn’s model. Modernists like the young T.S. Eliot have always intrigued me, their loss of faith, their perceived dissolution of any moral center so that it could not “hold” (Yeats) leading to a hellish fragmentation of their psyche, the untethered remnants of a “lost generation.” Their poems nevertheless are replete with the religious symbolism of earlier ages. I thought I’d pluck a character from one of Eliot’s most famous poems (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) and see how he would do in a palinode.As a palate cleanser, which you may be in great need of after my clumsy fan fiction, listen to the Jeremy Irons reading of Eliot’s poem below. Click on Mr. Linky to read more dVerse palinodes and join in.

Continue reading “On Prufrock Reading His Love Song: A Palinode”

Stay Bright, Yellow

“Stay Bright, Yellow”

Stay bright, yellow
Roughshod blue the bliss of it
Corner it free to humility
Bother the pride loose
Trill the tree-lit melodies
Emblazon green
In ragged hearts
Gush on the joy
Glory forth the holy
Genuflect the new life
Grace unspeakable
Stay bright, yellow


WhimsyGizmo at dVerse asks us to use any variation on the word "bother" to write a quadrille (a 44-word poem). Click on Mr. Linky to join in!

Recrudescence

Slim, liminal, posterns of light
these words given and received
outskirting impossibilities
and health-riven cheek-jowling pain
absenting gormless vacuity,
Jude not Judas, thirty pieces of silver
husbandry of waterless clouds
but faith’s Canaan vine-laden
Jerusalem’s milk
unfathomable peace
Cross-borne recrudescence
and a Kingdom come.

dVerse's Quadrille #116: "possible," 44 words
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October Fire

Once, a child alone when October came
I hear his footsteps just in the next room
and when I rush to see him there
he wasn’t there. He was everywhere.

Much later I cross a river, climb the embankment
of trees, upwards to the plains, dry and dusty
their breath, until I choke, my breath raw
diseased, my bones on fire, the pain rasping
pits of agony, feet twisted into unnatural screws.
He stands clothed like a burning bush in wilderness
autumn’s cloak across the mountaintop
a fire unnatural, burning yet not burning
for blind eyes to see, deaf ears to hear, “I AM.”

Now as another October comes
I feel him near, the warmth of his presence
a river running through the weatherized
windows and doors, invisibly clear.

I know this darkness before light
I know this voice before sound
I know this death in life
where bush burns but is not consumed.

I wait.

Mish's Open Link Night #275
Click on Mr. Linky for more poems and join in.

Interior Dream

Image by Catrin Welz-Stein

It’s a paper moon in a darling’s tomb
On the wallpaper in the green-lit gloom
There a swallow-tail with a robin’s breast
Speaks an omen of a tailor dressed
In a silk-hat heavy on his balding pate
A dark coat collared, the pants of slate
Graveyard shoes that steal starlight
An iron key balanced and held upright.
Off he flew from the paper moon
Left a keyhole remark like an empty tune
Sung by a voice in the gloaming mist
Heard by a tailor holding in one fist
Secrets stitched by a loveless hand
On a flightless bird o’er a clouded land.


Written for Lillian's dVerse "Let Your Words Be Your Paintbrush!"; write an ekphrastic poem using one of four Catrin Welz-Stein images. Click Mr. Linky to read more and join in!