“Take full account of what excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations

From our house to yours . . .


“The funny thing about Thanksgiving ,or any big meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it then go home and cook,chop,braise and blanch. Then it’s gone in 20 minutes and everybody lies around sort of in a sugar coma and then it takes 4 hours to clean it up.” ~ Ted Allen, from The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

How about a little Thanksgiving history, including some similar feasts around the world . . .

Did you know?

  • The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, one of the symbols of Thanksgiving, comes from ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally “horn of plenty.” In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is an enchanted severed goat’s horn, created by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
  • In England, the September 23 Harvest Festival goes back thousands of years, during which plaited corn dolls were hung in the rafters. The pagans believed that the Spirit of the Corn resided in the first cut sheaf of corn. During the Harvest Festival, children take fruits and vegetables to churches and schools for distribution to the elderly and the needy.
  • Thanksgiving is a part of U.S. military history, including days of Thanksgiving during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
  • In Germany, Erntedankfest is officially celebrated in October, but can be celebrated anytime during the fall. Following the Erntedankfest celebration, the unused food is distributed to the needy.
  • Pumpkin pie has been around for hundred of years, possibly dating back to the 1500s during which a dessert was made by stewing pumpkins and wrapping it in pastry. During the 17th century, recipes for pumpkin pie could be found in English cookbooks, but it wasn’t until about the 19th century that pumpkin pie similar to what we know today became a Thanksgiving staple. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem called the pumpkin in 1850: “What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?” Lydia Maria Child’s poem (later a song) “Over the River and Through the Woods” (1844), includes the following verses:
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
  • One of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea is Chuseok, a three-day harvest festival that is s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. In the morning, foods prepared with the year’s fresh harvest are set out to give thanks to ancestors through Charye (ancestor memorial service). After Charye, families visit their ancestors’ graves and engage in Beolcho, a ritual of clearing the weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound.
  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 and has been held every year since, except for 1942-44 because of WWII. The first major balloon featured in the parade was Felix the Cat, in 1927. Floats were introduced in 1971. Each parade has ended with the appearance of Santa Claus.

Seriously though,  I hope the day finds you warm (or cool, depending upon your hemisphere), safe, and with family or friends, that your table has enough to fill your hunger, your glass has enough to slate your thirst, and your body feels the comfort of close companionship. And tonight, when everyone has gone, and the table has been cleared, may you spare a thought for those out there who find clean water a luxury, warm food a bounty, and a safe pillow something found only in dreams.

I miss you, Dad.

More later. Peace.

Music by John Denver, “The Wings that Fly us Home.” (yes, it’s blatantly sentimental)

                   

Moment

Before the adults we call our children arrive with their children in tow
for Thanksgiving,

we take our morning walk down the lane of oaks and hemlocks, mist
a smell of rain by nightfall—underfoot,

the crunch of leathery leaves released by yesterday’s big wind.

You’re ahead of me, striding into the arch of oaks that opens onto the fields
and stone walls of the road—

as a V of geese honk a path overhead, and you stop—

in an instant, without thought, raising your arms toward sky, your hands
flapping from the wrists,

and I can read in the echo your body makes of these wild geese going
where they must,

such joy, such wordless unity and delight, you are once again the child
who knows by instinct, by birthright,

just to be is a blessing. In a fictional present, I write the moment down.
You embodied it.

~ Margaret Gibson

“The day exhausts me, irritates me. It is brutal, noisy. I struggle to get out of bed, I dress wearily and, against my inclination, I go out. I find each step, each movement, each gesture, each word, each thought as tiring as if I were lifting a crushing weight.” ~ Guy de Maupassant, from “Nightmare”

Emil Nolde Reading 1908 watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper

“Reading” (1908, watercolor in black, washed india ink on fine laid paper)
by Emil Nolde


“But there’s a litany of dreams that happens
somewhere in the middle. Moonlight spilling
on the bathroom floor. A page of the book where we
transcend the story of our lives, past the taco stands
and record stores” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

Wednesday evening. Rainy and cold, 46 degrees.

In this dream, I am back at the department store, but by accident. I began on some kind of motorized scooter, and I was traveling through town, but turned down a road that I knew might be dangerous. At the end of the road, I saw four figures who looked very menacing, so I turned around, but the scooter sputtered and died. I rolled it to the bar where my father worked, only it wasn’t my father, it was someone else, but he was my father, and I told him that I really needed this scooter to be fixed so that I could get to where I needed to be, which was another town, apparently. I could hear music from the band playing on the upper floor, and my father said that he would fix the scooter.

Fred Williams untitled c1958 gouache on paper on board

Untitled (c1958, gouache on paper on board)
by Fred Williams

While I was waiting, I wandered through an underground mall, only to realize that if I went all the way through the mall, I would end up where I needed to be, which was across town at the store. I got to the store, but I was still dressed casually, and there was a store inspection, and I couldn’t be seen by the general manager until I changed clothes. I ducked into a bathroom, that was more like a spa, and I asked one of the other manager to grab me some clothes and shoes to put on, and I said that I would pay for them later. I just couldn’t be caught dressed as I was. There was a hound dog asleep in the stall next to me, and the general manager came in to inspect the spa, and I pretended to be taking a shower. He wanted to know who the dog belonged to, but we all pretended that we didn’t know, even though we knew it belonged to one of the other managers.

As I was rushing to get dressed, and I grabbed some make up samples that were on a counter in the spa. I began to put on foundation, but it went on much thicker than I expected, and I had way too much on my face, and I couldn’t get it off even though I kept wiping and trying to blend. My father came in and said that the scooter had been fixed, but he wanted to know why I looked so funny. I told him about the makeup, and a lawyer who was with him suggested that I try to blend it better. I gave her the dirtiest look I could imagine even though I thought that I probably looked like a clown, and then I went to find my students because suddenly it was a teaching dream.

It turns out I hadn’t been assigned a classroom, so I was trying to teach the small writing class in front of the elevators in the store. I hadn’t graded their papers, and one of the students insisted that he had turned in the paper to the office, but I couldn’t find the office. I looked down, and I was wearing a cocktail dress with blue tights and silver pumps. I knew that none of it matched. I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a copy of the schedule, so I didn’t know when I was supposed to work next. Dan (a real person from my past), gave me a hard time for never getting anything right.

blowing from the east
west south north . . .
autumn gale ~ Issa

I think part of the dream may have arisen from reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children yesterday. Great book, full of mystical creatures and fantastical people. I need to order the sequel.

Anyway, last night was hellacious outside and inside. The winds were so fierce that the wind chimes in the front yard sounded like someone was beating them, and this morning, the floor of the garage near the back door had standing water from the wind and rain. Inside, I was unable to get to sleep after I finished reading until sometime around 3:30 or 4, partly because of the  trigger point injections I got yesterday from my head to my buttocks and every point in between, and I was completely unable to get out of bed until well into the afternoon because I slept so poorly.

Victor Hugo Torquemada ink wash on paper

“Torquemada” (nd, ink wash on paper)
by Victor Hugo

Part of the problem today stemmed from being sore, and just thinking about  trying to get all of the preparations done for tomorrow kind of left me overwhelmed and unable to get much of anything done. The house still needs to be vacuumed, and the dining room table is covered with all sorts of domestic detritus, the kind that accumulates whenever Corey is home because the table is a convenient place on which to lay anything and everything.

Put all of this together, and you have one pitiful soul, completely unprepared for tomorrow’s festivities, as it were. At least the menu has taken shape: the two turkeys a la Mike and Corey; oyster stuffing, compliments of Eamonn; deviled eggs and cake, compliments of Lex and Mike; sweet potato casserole and banana cream pie, compliments of Brett and Em; and sausage stuffing, greens with smoked pork, whipped potatoes with heavy cream, kale crisps with sea salt, steamed green beans (maybe), yeast rolls (not homemade), and gravy, compliments of me. Oh, and we picked up a sample box of cheesecake squares to go with the other desserts.

So there you have it. Too much food, more than enough for the eight of us, and that we can do such a thing after years of want does not go unnoticed by any of us.

I hope your plans for Thanksgiving offer you some measure of peace and plenty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jamestown Revival, “Heavy Heart”

                   

November Rain

How separate we are
under our black umbrellas—dark
planets in our own small orbits,

hiding from this wet assault
of weather as if water
would violate the skin,

as if these raised silk canopies
could protect us
from whatever is coming next—

December with its white
enamel surfaces; the numbing
silences of winter.

From above we must look
like a family of bats—
ribbed wings spread

against the rain,
swooping towards any
makeshift shelter.

~ Linda Pastan

 

Two for Tuesday: Waning Autumn

Pierre Bonnard Autumn Morning 1922

“Autumn Morning (aka The Grand View of Vernon)” (1922, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard


“I am tired of the litany
of months, September . . . October . . .
I am tired of the way the seasons
keep changing, mimicking
the seasons of the flesh
which are real and finite.” ~ Linda Pastan, from “In a Northern Country”

Tuesday late. Very windy and stormy, 51 degrees.

We’ve had Olivia since yesterday morning, so I haven’t really had any time to sit here until now, which is, unfortunately, because I cannot sleep. And I cannot sleep because Thanksgiving is in two days, and the house is a wreck, and Thanksgiving just generally becomes one long litany of stress and pain and a terrible ache because my dad died on Thanksgiving morning, and this is the first one without my mother, and can I just please, please, stay in bed for two or three days?

                   

Pierre Bonnard The Grand-Lemps, Autumn 1894

“The Grand Lemps, Autumn” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

Autumn

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

                   

Pierre Bonnard Le Cannet, La Route Rose 1913

“Le Cannet, La Route Rose” (1913)
by Pierre Bonnard

I Love Autumn and the Shade of Meanings

I love autumn and the shade of meanings.
Delighted in autumn by a light obscurity,
transparency of handkerchiefs, like poetry just after
birth, dazzled in night-blaze or darkness.
It crawls, and finds no names for anything.

Shy rain, which moistens only distant things,
delights me.
(In such autumns, marriage procession
and funeral intersect: the living
celebrate with the dead, and the dead
celebrate with the living.)

I delight to see a monarch stoop,
to recover the pearl of the crown from a fish in the lake.

In autumn I delight to see the commonness of colors,
no throne holds the humble gold in the leaves of humble trees
who are equal in the thirst for love.

I delight in the truce between armies,
awaiting the contest between two poets,
who love the season of autumn, yet differ
over the direction of its metaphors.
In autumn I delight in the complicity between
vision and expression.

~ Mahmoud Darwish

                   

Music by Cass McCombs, “Harmonia”

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” ~ Albert Camus

Camus autumn


“Life can be magnificent and overwhelming—that is the whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would almost be easy to live.” ~ Albert Camus

Monday afternoon. Rainy and warm, 74 degrees.

I have an appointment with my pain doctor today, am expecting a lot of trigger point injections in my back. Then I have to find a turkey, which I’m hoping isn’t too big of a deal on the Monday before Thanksgiving. Actually, I have to find two smallish turkeys: one for Mike to smoke, and one for Corey to deep fry. We’re trying something different this year. We shall see . . .

Anyway, not a lot of time to put together anything in any way coherent, so I thought I’d marry Camus and Bonnard in a lovely blend of autumn bliss. Enjoy . . .

Pierre Bonnard Autumn colon The Fruit Pickers 1912 oil on canvas

“Autumn: The Fruit Pickers” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

“For the moment at least, the waves’ endless crashing against the shore came toward me through a space dancing with golden pollen. Sea, landscape, silence, scents of this earth, I would drink my fill of a scent-laden life, sinking my teeth into the world’s fruit, golden already, overwhelmed by the feeling of its strong, sweet juice flowing on my lips. No, it was neither I nor the world that counted, but solely the harmony and silence that gave birth to the love between us. A love I was not foolish enough to claim for myself alone, proudly aware that I shared it with a whole race born in the sun and sea,alive and spirited, drawing greatness from its simplicity, and upright on the beaches, smiling in complicity at the brilliance of its skies.”

~ Albert Camus, from “Nuptials at Tipasa”

                   

Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “Light Year”

“I am overflowing with words I do not have.” ~ Adam Falkner, from “When it Matters”

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Les Cygnes 1930

“Les Cygnes” (1930)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer


“Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing”

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and 50 degrees.

So today I wrote another poem. It started out as a thought, and then it just grew and grew. I’m not sure, but I think it may have gotten away from me at some point. This creative spark, wherever it comes from, leaves me more than a bit mystified. I mean, the lines, the phrases—they come, and they seem to make an odd kind of sense, and I find myself playing with new themes, internal rhymes I’ve never tried before. And after each new piece, I feel more than a bit spent.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Scene in Venice oil on canvas

“Scene in Venice” (oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

But all is good with the writing muse, even as unaccustomed to it as I am, or have been. Really, really good. I mean, today’s poem and one other recent one are not such personal pieces. Most of my previous poems are very personal, about me, about my life, about my loves and losses. But I find that lately I’m able to think on a larger scale, take on more general themes about the human condition. I’m not claiming that I’m achieving any kind of success in doing so, but it’s a different kind of approach, like trying on new clothes that I never would have worn before.

Too esoteric? Sorry . . .

I would truly appreciate any feedback that anyone cares to give me. It’s hard to write in a vacuum. Honest, constructive criticism is a very necessary part of the writing process, and since I am not in any kind of situation in which to garner that criticism, I turn to you, my readers, whoever you are out there in the ether.

“But though the lights
one by one extinguish
as you explore deeper,
that final light — the sun —
grows stronger,
despite the coming winter,
the darkening seas.” ~ John Kinsella, from “Tenebrae”

Speaking of readers, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I’ve picked up a few more subscribers in the past few weeks: Thanks for subscribing to my little blog. I hope you enjoy the journey. I do have my regulars, like Leah in NC, and Izaak Mak from I Want Ice Water, and then I have people who have been with me for several years: Titirangi Storyteller (who is so busy being creative in New Zealand), ViewPacific (check him out). If you would like for me to mention your blog, just drop me a line. I have no problem with sending some props out into the universe.

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer pastel on paperGondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune

“Gondolas à Venise, sous un clair de lune” (pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

One other thing: I’m terribly curious as to how some of you arrived here on this site. WordPress doesn’t allow Google Analytics, and I’m not nearly savvy enough to figure out such things on my own, but I’m curious, truly. Was it an accident? Were you searching on a word? a name? a song? a work of art?

If you would be kind enough to let me know, then I can try to pay more attention to such avenues. I mean, I’m still on blogsurfer, but I think that it’s mostly a dormant community. I’d love to find another blogging community to join, just not something that gives you super inflated stats, like Alpha Inventions, or whatever name it’s going by these days. Suggestions would be appreciated.

Anyway . . .

“It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt—
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out
and digging down” ~ Eamon Grennan, from “Steady Now”
Lucien Levy-Dhurmer Le Silence 1895 pastel

“Le Silence” (1895, pastel)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

So I am absolutely gaga about this particular Lévy-Dhurmer image. I know little to nothing about this artist’s history or what he was trying to achieve with his art in general, but “Le Silence” is one of those pieces that I find particularly haunting. According to the Musée d’Orsay site, the artist kept this painting his entire life, so it must have been pretty important to him.

I’ve been waiting for the right post to feature the image, and I think that this post is it: juxtaposing the symbolic silence, the cloaked woman who will not speak, against my poem about speaking—somehow it seems to fit; at least I think so.

This poem came about after I saw the line from The Crucible on my tumblr dash, and I began to fixate on the idea of speaking sins. (If you’ve never read Miller’s play, here is a link to an online version in its entirety.)

So following is my latest effort. It’s different for me, not just thematically, but also as it is structured. I ended up using repetitive rhythm quite by accident, and then the references to other works just kind of evolved naturally. I really didn’t think too much; I just did . . .

Speaking My Sins

“I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.”  ~ Arthur Miller, The Crucible

I remember when smells of sex and sin
rolled from my shoulders and puddled
‘round my feet, how I
delighted in the act, the doing, the making
and taking of sin, such a smooth, ironed out plane of being,
my afternoon explorations—virginal
in their corruption
as I lay ensconced
in the arms of my newest lover,
safe from the mundane existence
my mother laid before me,
a vapor trail of bottled Joy
enveloping every word she spoke, but
oh how I, oh, how I, oh
how I saw myself
far beyond the reaches
of PTA meetings and casserole recipes
and all of the trappings
offered up so blithely within
the pages of women’s magazines.
Oh no, not I, I sighed,
even as I eschewed the words that spewed
from my mother’s Revlon
fire and ice red lips, circa 1950s
Oh no, I, no I know, I

know what you think there,
in the safety of your white-washed
life of dinner on the table by five
and a nice side of green beans and
slivered almonds, you see, you cannot see
how I see you there, cannot unsee
the fuzzy lines of deception and desire
I wield like a non-stick spatula
gently turning the unsullied egg,
yolk intact, like your reputation.
What say you now, oh mother dear, oh
harbinger of rules and commandments com-
mending to me the care and feeding
of cherubim and nephilim alike?
Oh no, you know, no

matter how many times you wag
your finger in my face, for
some reason, the lesson never sticks
but you smile and smile and so I
too smile my way into villainy
one time, no two, perhaps
more? the number has been for-
gotten, obliterated from any records
recording my vices and desires
It’s so much better this way,
after all, aren’t we all just
carbon copies of our mothers’
motherings, smothering
our yearnings with learning
the right ways to right-
eous actions, act like
a lady, for god’s sake you little
tarted up upstart. Now, now

now don’t you fret none,
nothing to do but sweep up the bits
of egg shell on the kitchen lino-
leum, hey, um, howdy,
did you do it? No? I know,
no more gallivanting about
like the cheap hussy you are,
hows about you come inside,
get that load off, let me
shake the rain-
drops from your jacket,
sit here, won’t you, snif-
ter of brandy for your chill,
what say you now, now
that you have so completely
washed away my sins like
the long-lost Breck shampoo-filled
Saturday nights when everything
was so clearly defined and
ruled by advice column ladies
with shellacked hair and

Max Factor pan-stik complexions?
Just a little tete-a-tete, no need
to get testy, after all,
weren’t we just talking about
setting to rights all of the wrongs
you carry with you—cummings said
he carried your heart with him
wherever, so I will too.
Okay, oh? KKK, wait,
no, that’s the wrong one, Gracie,
gracious, goodnight, goodnight, good-
night, I reek still, sweet princ-
ciple of humanity, kind,
human cup of charity—
it begins at home, after all.
What? say you, you say? What
do you say, once more, even though
I have never understood the sake
of old time, no, no, know-
ing me the way you do do
you doubt my commitment,
my cunning com-

mingling of lies and truth?
Commendable really how we
commit so many sins in
the name of veritas yet in-
variably too many truths
spoil more than the broth, you see
seeing as reality’s all connected
really, I can no more real-
istically atone for my sins
than Faust could foist off
his one-way ticket to
ride the conflagration
ferris wheel, wheels up,
hurry up, it’s time to
bring out the dead-
ened spirits of our sweet,
sweet youth, birds
and flocking and feathers
and foibles, mea culpa,
mea maxima culpa.
Peccavi, peccavi, peccavi,
regrets, none, but
sine qua non.

L. Liwag
November 22, 2014

                    

Today’s images are again by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer—a selection of his blue works.

Music by Mary Gauthier, “Walk through the Fire”

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Friday night. Clear and cool, 41 degrees.

Woke up with a migraine that left me puny for almost the whole day . . . Le sigh . . .

This week’s headline:

“You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent!” ~ Joseph L. Mankiewicz, from All About Eve

The philosophy of Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

Finally, I have found the perfect graphic to illustrate my complicated relationship with math beyond algebra:

So Ellen does Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln Commercial, and it’s soooo much better:

And speaking of women making it better, you must read the Amazon comments for this product:

And continuing with the education themes . . . this teacher does it for the win:

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing . . .

A possum broke into an Australian bakery and ate so many pastries it couldn’t move. This is how they found him.

Things that make you go hmm . . . Yes, these were real ads (click here to see more):

Speaking of the past . . . things Olivia’s generation will never know:

incredibly long download times for one song . . .

Saving homework on one of these and then losing it . . .

Twitter turns Time magazine’s proposed ban on word feminist into Princess Bride tirade:

Dogs can be such dweebs:

Music by who else? Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall”

“Is all that we see or seem | But a dream within a dream?” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, from “A Dream within a Dream”

 

Edmund Dulac The Haunted Palace from The Bells and Other Poems 1912

Edmund Dulac’s “The Haunted Palace” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe


“They wave:— from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep:— from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, from “The Valley of Unrest”

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 40 degrees.

Edmund Dulac-alone-from-the-bells-and-other-poems-by-edgar-allan-poe-1912-wikipaintings1

Edmund Dulac’s “Alone” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

We have Olivia today, but she has a cold. You can really tell when she isn’t feeling well. It shows on her whole body.

Anyway, this post contains some works by French artist Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), who created a series of illustrations as a companion to Poe’s The Bells and Other Poems (1912). Click here to see the rest.

I came across the Kin Fables video below, created by Seb and Ben McKinnon, and it reminded me of both Poe and Dulac, so I have paired the video with a few Dulac illustrations, a few selections from Poe,  and the Margaret Atwood poem, “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing.” By the way, Atwood turned 75 yesterday.

It’s a veritable cornucopia of things.

More later. Peace.

                   

Edmund Dulac The Valley of Unrest from The bells

Edmund Dulac’s “The Valley of Unrest” (1912, pencil and watercolor)from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

 

Kin Fables:

                   

Edmund Dulac TO --- --- MRS. MARIE LOUISE SHEW from the bells pencil and watercolor

Edmund Dulac’s “To — — (Mrs. Marie Louise Shew” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they’d say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I’ve a choice
of how, and I’ll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it’s all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything’s for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can’t. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape’s been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there’s only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it’s the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can’t hear them.
And I can’t, because I’m after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That’s what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look–my feet don’t hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I’m not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.

~ Margaret Atwood