It’s just this way, she agonized, and I won’t end where I’ve begun. It’s the dream I’m waking up to.
I wonder, he antagonized, what if today becomes your cannibal past tomorrow, feeding on today’s life, keeping itself alive, demanding its pound of flesh?
She knew his aim. It was to lead her in circles, to origins, not beginnings.
But each cross-road meant progress, a royal one, or common as a pilgrim on a well-worn track, peculiar as a dream
singular as a vision, a glaring blaze of glory, immense as a grain of sand sparkling in the New Jerusalem.
A three-prompt medley is the tune I'm playing off with Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers photo prompt & 100-word challenge, dVerse's Poetics: Visionary Poetry, and GirlieOnEdge Six Sentence Story ("lead"). Join us!
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)
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
This long November day unravels, filaments of self unthreaded spin in disarray seek a coalescing glance from Thee, my soul’s desire.
This long November night defeats, malingers yesterdays that moon in shallow doorways guilt-shadowed, hammering refrains that only Thy voice can silence.
Hasten to send Thou, Oh Lord, Thy Word, Thy Light by day, by night, my sight unblind, my thought overspread, unroll yard by yard Thy seeded spring in frozen heart by Thy Spirit’s warmth.
And then shall November night become as day, November day as night unfurled in Thy blanketing love, and like a traveler who spies a bridge o’er torrents harsh, I’ll race to cross encircling time, and so abide in Thee.
malpaís(spanish: mahl-pah-ees; lit. “badland”): an arid, rough barren landscape of lava flows difficult to traverse; image: A Juniper bush grows out of the lava beds at the Carrizozo Malpais
In the malpaís – the badland – burning – a bird flew down And on my right hand sat
His eyes spoke love, so complete His feathers gentle gleamed, so glorious Where sun beat heavy in the malpaís
His kingly talons dug into my flesh Scored pain, bled wounds, I cried scorched by heat in the malpaís
Yet the good song he sang as I died Was one that filled my heart with joy, With peace ne’er felt in the malpaís
In the malpaís – waiting – once hopeless, condemned – With my last breaths, enlivened I rise
Lamentations 3:16-25 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
Romans 15:8-13 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
I hear the call, Eternal, sound in my heart and in the stars. Is it timeless or infinity itself? Is its Voice a song? I do not question, so much yet to understand and I am not able.
I only respond in gratitude, though one-legged in faith still hobbling, letting go finger by finger my pride, and taking up, hand after hand, my cross of self-denial.
For this Eternal is Love.
By Purgatorio, Canto 11 of the Commedia, Dante the pilgrim has exited Hell and entered purgatory by permission of the angel at the gate who uses two keys, one silver (remorse) and one gold (reconciliation). As he and his guide, the poet Virgil, enter they are warned not to look back at any point in the journey up through the terraces of purgatory to the Garden of Eden. In Purgatorio, Canto 10, Dante had seen examples of humility. Now on the first and lowest terrace he sees souls of the proud bent over by large stones they carry on their backs, due penance for their sin of Pride, of which there are three kinds: pride of family, pride of art, and pride of power.
Purgatorio is filled with the prayers of souls as they ascend the terraces. And Canto 11 opens with the only complete prayer which is really an expanded version or gloss of The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6: 9-13; Luke 11: 2-4).
“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens
but are not circumscribed by them out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,
Praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
by every creature, just as it is seemly
to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.
Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.
Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.
Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.
Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.
Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.”
Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, Canto X1, lines 1-21, transl. Alan Mandelbaum
The Commedia ends with Paradiso where Dante receives the beatific vision: “The Love that moves the other stars” (l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle). As Giuseppe Mazzotta notes, Inferno and Purgatorio also end with stelle. “So when Dante says that love moves the sun and other stars, what he’s really doing is placing himself immediately right back on earth, back at the beginning of his quest. He’s here with us looking up at the stars.”
The Mountain under the marble Moon speaks to that blind assassin whose cold shards impinge upon a brave rider’s heart, and asks:
“Why dost thou not strike a flame from off thy flinty eyes and lend a light to this lost child that wends through thickets of devils to reach the gardens of her gods?”
“Fool!” cries the Moon in pale fury, “the devils are her gods and hence, my stony countenance notwithstanding, I refrain from giving aid to those who seek her bitter demise.”
The rider unaware of all but her own desire, puzzled o’er the Moon’s cold stare and the Mountain heaving ‘neath her horse’s feet as if to urge her retreat, yet rides on breathing, “Brotherhood for all!”
Now she hears a melody bewitching strong as near a tomb o’erlaid with dew she spies a stranger with a grinning mask of Pharaoh’s gold singing, “Brotherhood for all,” and she hastily stops short.
Unease strikes her restless heart, she wipes her fevered brow glad for once of the Moon’s restraining sight, the Mountain’s sudden shadowed dips, and decries the siren’s call that had led her thus on such false hope.
For that golden mask she knew had enslaved far more than greed or fame, and hid a braggart’s deceiving face to lead to doom all those who brotherhood seek yet flinch to own the One who came as brother to die upon a cross.
The Moon shone brightly now she turned, still breathing, “Brotherhood to all,” and a Mountain toad among sweet violets croaked when dawn came glistening o’er the dew as the Sun, once dark to see its Maker’s pain, now sang a song of life.
The eve of Hallowe’en a bird was freed: it wasn’t meant to be; it had been tied to the end of a string designed by devilry. But up it flew o’er a bubbling brew into the boughs of a tree.
“Where goes that bird?” Judge Holden cried cursing all wizardry; for its escape was not foreseen by those of his company. “It’s singing loud o’er field and town” said a blackhearted mercenary.
“Then all our lies will be undone, and all our schemes they’ll see!” “Not all, Judge Holden,” a satyr croaked, “the bird silenced will be, when stirring this cauldron of discontent, to you they’ll bow their knee.”
The bird had heard the words they said as it flew o’erhead happily; this people’s fate lay not in mortal hands but in truth that would set them free. So it louder sang, and it never feared Judge Holden and his mercenaries.
She slow walks the hope that others tango away, with that fermented sway she blends like warm cashmere, sari fragrant in folds full to embrace high-strung husband or the frightened chit at full-speed running into a silken bungalow, avatar of lighthouse flashing “no amount of grave concern not handled here,” and behold, juggernauts vanish beneath her feet of frangipani, ethereal gold.
September rolls around like a pumpkin, like a pumpkin on a skateboard careening round the corner past the tail-end of August, catching me off guard every year, and I’m knocked off my feet and on to my keester, a pile of leaves cascading around me, muffling the laughter of neighborhood children.
blackbirds call – in the yellow orange light a morning shines chill and pure
It’s the memories that leave me agape more than the innumerable pumpkins, the shedding trees and goblin children already looking forward to October and All Hallow’s Eve. So many crowd into the season’s turn, old faces smiling from the theater screen of autumn’s cerulean sky, busy with the doings of a golden declarative moment. Yet one stands out.
a half-remembered song – a black-limbed tree of blackbirds scatter in the wind
My Indian parents arriving in New York with six-year-old me in hand with silk Singapore jackets on our backs from a well-traveled in-law and my mother walking home with groceries and fainting on the sidewalk from hypothermia in a freak snowstorm. Nothing quelled her spirit though. Ever. Her Christian faith was unshakeable. Besides, we were in America, land of freedom, land of dreams, land of promise. Later a church fixed us up with proper coats and my mother’s face emerged regal as a queen’s out of an oversized pumpkin-orange coat, wearing her red sari, gold-threaded border in folds, daring fashion, daring my smile.
under palm trees a new grave – blackbirds carve silhouettes in September
She was still swaying as the last honey-laden tunes Of sweet summer faded away like fragile baby’s breath— Her eyes were closed, a shawl lightly over shoulders Under the net of stars that had become a shroud As one by one they died silent into the pale light Of a clouded dawn, and all the guests had gone In a whispered goodbye, like the twinkle in his eye.
But the womb still has its memory as does the heart— Heart over heart, head over head, eight months bodied Though autumn breezes steal him away like a changeling, Like a changeling into winter’s overcoat to fleeting summer’s loss— I will not speak of spring, she said, breathing gusts of prayer Aware at last of the chillness in the air, but of tombs, oh LORD, empty Oh, my God, in that long-expectant day, birthing him to eternity, holy.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (NIV) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
“Without hope we live on in desire.” Sanza speme vivemo in disio.
Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, line 42
Love ran through his island heart From springes freed took flight Left swallows’ cries of yesteryears Desire-torn in apple-bright
Bone-white his wings that beat the air And strain bent low his neck Wind beat hard his sinews bare Yet Hope grew clear his sight
Quiet-warmed as kingly deer by brook Calm shattered shivers of doubt Drawn unseen through cloud and dark Dew-quenched his thirsting heart
Love and Hope together sang He heard their various strain Not far the wing-breadths that remained To reach the One he loved.
“That without hope we live on in desire” The pagan poet found But pity more each one whose fire Burns for themselves alone.
Before Canto 4 of the Inferno where the pilgrim Dante is introduced to the virtuous pagans among whom is his guide through Hell, the poet Virgil himself, Dante first crosses the gate of Hell whereon he sees inscribed, “Abandon hope all who enter here” (Canto 3). Here, he sees the first sinners in Hell, a craven company who lived for themselves, filled with envious desires, whom Virgil describes as “the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy or praise. They are mingled with that base band of angels who were neither rebellious nor faithful to God, but stood apart.” Being disengaged from the battle, this endless line of souls have no hope of death’s oblivion, “mercy and justice disdain them. Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass on” (trans. Charles S. Singleton). Virgil won’t even name them for they have reduced reality, reduced the world to a show, a spectacle for their own amusement. These rage and wail as swarms of stinging wasps and flies follow them and worms engorge on their blood. In contrast the virtuous pre-Christian pagans whom Dante meets next in Limbo live in a bucolic garden, their great sadness, desiring yet remaining apart from God.
“What is all this love for if we have to walk into the dark?” (M.R. James)
This is no country for old women Scavenging among the shops of younger Birds feathered-fit for triumphalist high-fives Impatient of scarecrow’s creaking shoes, masked Grimace reaching for a tin on a grocer’s shelf.
Pain exacts through sickness and age Its own price, even as we gingerly kneel To find the lisolia of those now lost to sight, Praying hands held aloft, clasping light In the aftergloom of laughter’s ghosts.
In the heartmoor of these days and nights Visions appear, and I press forward into the dark Of words that like crumbs from the children’s table Fall upon me, as manna, as showers, as stories Of love that even scarecrows can laugh to tell.
Linda at dVerse asks us to choose one or more words from a list of neologisms to write a poem. Click on Mr. Linky and join in! I've chosen "heartmoor," "aftergloom" and "lisolia," definitions of which are given in The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:
Aftergloom: the pang of loneliness you feel the day after an intensely social event, as the glow of voices and laughter fades into a somber quiet.
Heartmoor: the primal longing for a home village to return to, a place that no longer exists, if it ever did.
Lisolia: the satisfaction of things worn down by time, broken in baseball mitts, the shiny snout of a lucky bronze pig, or footprints ground deep into floorboards by generations of kneeling monks.
It was coiled and glowing in a single ray of light, speaking of treasure maps
and I am there when she gives it to you, the thin gold filigree weaving delicate
through coral one after another, jostling into the tender skin of your palm
cupped like a boat that had sailed too far to be retrieved by a golden hook
that cut into the bark of heart and home but landed somewhere between reality
and the wound that never heals: “I’m leaving it with you,” I hear her say
to you. And you look at it like the sum of all mysteries and said to her, to me,
“Where will you go? Can’t you stay?” and I said, she said, “It’s no more use to me,
maybe for you,” and you tore the coral off your neck and your hands bled for a season
and a day, until you drew its poison out of your body and praised the Light that stayed.
Image credit: Amrita Sher-Gil, "The Little Girl in Blue" (detail; 1934).
Merril at dVerse asks us to "write about a historical artifact…You may write about any object—a family heirloom, a museum piece, a monument, or a palace. The choice is yours, but there must be some link to history and the past. You can write in any form or free verse."
Aristotle wrote that women are incomplete men. I was raised on this with my mother’s milk. What is a girl when your firstborn could have been a boy. In my mother’s eyes, shame. In my father’s, disappointment, shame. Flawless would be a boy. Flawed would be me.
Christmas with a baby at the center just turned up the drollery of fate. Each year’s gift whispered, “Be a man. Someone notable. Do that for us and we will love you.” How unkind to have only a girl child to celebrate the birth of a King!
What child is this? Daddy asks. Mummy echoes, What child is this?
I ask, Dear God, What Child is this?
“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?”1
Now Christmas comes to a woman whose hair is thinning, whose hands and feet are deformed with disease, whose gait is slow, whose back is bent. Not under the weight of shame. She sees the One in the manger born and wonders that Love came down into the muck of a world where children cry themselves to sleep and no one hears or cares. Jesus, You came a long way. And so did I with You.
This, this One died lonely tree-hung to save a girl child from pitiless hands
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1What Child Is This?
What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping, Whom angels greet with anthems sweet While shepherds watch are keeping?
(Refrain)This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, The Cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh, The babe, the son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh; Come, peasant, king, to own Him! The King of Kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high! The virgin sings her lullaby. Joy! joy! for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary!
William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
Donna's Go Dog Go Cafe’s Inaugural Haibun Wednesday
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "notable"
Maisie gazes up at the light-catcher’s abode. She had tracked him down to this narrow street months ago, carefully observing his habits.
She still wonders why he’s here, when the comfortable far-palaces of Glinoraram are his for the asking, this youngest son of the king.
She was sent to bring him back, by force if necessary. Instead she finds herself discreetly helping him as Abaddon’s1 darkness grows heavier.
The dwellers on this dismal street need every light-scrap the light-catcher can find to give.
Emerging from his eyrie, his keen eyes meet hers knowingly. Did he know she loved him?
1The Hebrew term Abaddon (Hebrew: אֲבַדּוֹן Avaddon, meaning “destruction”, “doom”), and its Greek equivalent Apollyon (Koinē Greek: Ἀπολλύων, Apollúōn meaning “Destroyer”) appear in the Bible as both a place of destruction and an archangel of the abyss. In the Hebrew Bible, abaddon is used with reference to a bottomless pit, often appearing alongside the place Sheol (שְׁאוֹל Šəʾōl), meaning the realm of the dead.
In the Book of Revelation of the New Testament, an angel called Abaddon is described as the king of an army of locusts; his name is first transcribed in Koine Greek (Revelation 9:11—”whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon,”) as Ἀβαδδών, and then translated Ἀπολλύων, Apollyon. The Vulgate and the Douay–Rheims Bible have additional notes not present in the Greek text, “in Latin Exterminans”, exterminans being the Latin word for “destroyer”.