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