Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Griffin King

Beatrice Addressing Dante (by William Blake)


The Griffin King


No lion walks here
on the cold plains savanna
under a tame pale moon whose soft
cloud paws never knew the scorch,
stepping high above the empty grasses.
Only the memory of a lion
under the buffalo’s skin
keeps it restless in the dark.

Once the tawny sisters pneuma'd these
low hills, scanning dry miles with
yellow slit eyes, split suns, millenniums
of grass restless around their heads.
The herds were only stones of flesh that
displaced the winding grass river
with their bulking meat but no more; now
paper bags and coyotes own the night.

Full moon brings the shadows,
beige and boneless, in charade of
the wild hunt lifedance that ends in
something’s death, where the ochraeous 
griffin king of the lost lion imperium shakes
a ghost’s mane in coy command of his aparrat.
All the wetwork still is theirs, coursing silent
with their moon-glabrous snouts aloft.

Meanwhile the griffin rolls sensuously in 
the dust of bones or trots the perimeter with deep
gravitas, throwing his insubstantial scat.
God by force even here, powered by
his massy paw, foul hellbreath, throatless
cinematic roar, his skeletal belly
always hollow, emptied by that
staring yellow river flowing out.

So they rise and hunt
in the black menagerie, an
agency of endless night,
and fall under him when
their turns come
to bear the pierce of his desire,
but know him
they will not.


September 2011 






Posted for   OpenLinkNight  at dVerse Poets Pub



Top Image: Beatrice Addressing Dante, (Purgatorio, Canto XXX, 60-146 ) by William Blake
William Blake [Public domain], via wikimedia commons.

38 comments:

  1. ha. ok i will admit i may totally be misreading but i think there may be a bit of political bent in here...once all the meat is dead will the griffin still roam his land, rooling in boats, throwing his shit, leaking a river of piss...will he just eat his own eventaully...deliciously dark underneath hedge...

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  2. Sharp as always bri--you are looking at things with the same leper's squint I am these days--and this really started out to be something completely different.

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  3. Simply exquisite with minute detail in this silvern poem's crafting...along with sensing words that makes one feel the essence of the place..."under a tame pale moon."

    Roger ☺

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  4. only the memory of a lion...so sad when what once was strong turns weak...be it politics or whatever..

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  5. Whew ... Chills as I read this feral memoriam. Even extinction, for this local species, is a magnitude worthy of mythic status (the griffin). The absence of these long-dead animals is so keenly felt here that their ghosts so fluidly animate and prowl. Makes you wonder if Lascaux was a door to our billion-year animal dreamtime, each image painted there the placental wash of a wilderness imagination. This big kitty is the animal equivalent of Stevens' Snow Man, where to know this beast is to smell its rotting breath and feel the rip of its fangs and know the darkness of our dying in its mouth. Want to know the dark? Say whoops when the Griffin leaps. Way down our brainstem we have ancestors who knew quite well what it was to fall to the Griffin; I stirred along with the buffalo when its skin fluttered with the ancient memory. Fine fine poem, Hedge. - Brendan

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  6. This a drought of life- terrific!

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  7. So much detail here...and so many words for which I had to check the dictionary. A fine and creative write. Thank you.

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  8. wow, the imagery is so rich... this poem holds many meanings, in my opinion... bravo

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  9. He reminds me of our Kit-Kat, same coloring, but mine's belly is almost always full. :)

    Split sun eyes. Nice!

    insubstantial scat. I like that too.

    Hey, did you ever watch the documentary about the couple that lived with the wolves out West US somewhere? LOVED that show. Showed how the wolves are just as loving with each other as we are. Wouldn't it be cool to live with the lions too? I bet they are an interesting family to observe. But as you say.... probably never to know.

    Amazing, as always!!

    xo

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  10. Joy, really? When are we going to have a book of your words to curl up with and devour? This, like so many of your writes, calls for contemplation and reflection, as you trip our minds down so many avenues of perceived intent. Brilliance flows through your pen and should be guarded as priceless. Much easier to do with a hardcopy!;)

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  11. Thanks all. I became fascinated with lions a few weeks back and decided I wanted to write a poem about their gregarious, primate-like social structure unique among cats, the strange sort of afterthought role of the male lion, and the fact that they once were present in droves all through Europe and North America but died out and now are fairly close to being an endangered species. Things did not exactly turn out that way. You just never know. ;-)

    @B: You caught all the echoes of the early poem under the hood (which was going to be about shapeshifters--maybe someday)as well as the final product, and yes, that's how my griffin king decided he wanted to be played here, totally death incarnate.

    @Natasha: I know what you mean, whenever I hit a complex poem I wish I had it in a book, so I could curl up with it and a pot of Earl Grey and really get to know it. I'm very flattered you feel that way about my stuff. Thank you.

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  12. I'm sorry, Witch. I'm still all about your previous poem. I've read this one twice, but my brain wants to stay on that other one for a while yet. Forgib me?

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  13. This was a delicious piece of irony held up for all to witness that even the kings have feet of clay, and the mighty shall fall and take with them all the rest. Amazing use of language, texture and image. All the elements that make me race to your work. All my highest regard, G.

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  14. Wonderful ideas and wonderful images. I'm fascinated thinking about where people's ideas come from, and where the imagination takes them. this is a fine and tight work, with a universal message underneath.

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  15. the use of 'cinematic' was nimble. it's a word loaded with meaning and ties a lot together for me here.

    i too am dabbling with the big cat energy. no beast like a lion. one of the nature channels has a commercial for big cat week, i think, and one of the short clips is a crocodile leaping out of a river toward a lion sipping at the water's edge. the lion jumps back from surprise but quickly gets his bearings and charges at the croc who back pedals into the waters as fast as possible.
    :)

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  16. Another amazing write, Joy . :)

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  17. Love the images, love the layers and the sheer deliciousness of the words on the tongue.

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  18. Joy,
    Even the Lion King will age. As long as they age with dignity it is all that matters. But no! There'll be fights for supremacy to sustain its progeny. The way of the wild make great stories!

    Hank

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  19. it all comes down to the foodchain - survival of the fittest, etc. etc. (damn Darwin :) Intense tale chock full of gruesome metaphors.

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  20. Incredible writing Joy! I will keep coming back to this one...
    Best
    Padmavani

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  21. I always enjoy reading your words because you write with such a skilled pen..
    You took me on a journey with these lions and at the end have me wanting to wrap my arms around them, save them..
    too many great lines to cite..just wonderful

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  22. Your lyrical use of language is always amazing. Fascinated by the depth this took me to ~ Rose

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  23. So so delicious, Hedge! Your gorgeous, voluptuous language (at your very best here, oh thank you), and the poignancy of what has been lost, but exists in your poem, and in our imagination, wrap up rapture for me. Deeply moving down into the soul. "soft cloud paws . . ." !!

    Holy freeholy.

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  24. Thanks all. And thanks to all whom blogger refused to let comment yesterday--especially those who have emailed me with their thoughts. That means a lot to me.

    @Ruth Glad you enjoyed it--I really can't explain this poem. As I've mentioned, it isn't at all what I set out to write, but I like it--sort of like children, yes? You can't always rely on a preconceived notion, just love what happens. And I really love your holy freeholy expression. Such a pure poet you are.

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  25. Joy, wonderful write. Exquisitely written Wowed by the 3rd stanza- Always thought Griffins were wonderful mythological creatures and the way you used it here was nice. Favorite lines though came early:
    Only the memory of a lion
    under the buffalo’s skin

    A lot being said in those 10 words. Thanks for the read

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  26. This holds so much thought and reflection. It makes one go deep inside themselves and consider the many faces of strength and weakness.

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  27. You blog and words are so in depth and they always amaze me at what a depth you take your words too. I love this and the beauty of your work. I do so enjoy reading your poem and thoughts.
    http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/09/27/addiction-to-solitaire/#comment-1224

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  28. I have always loved griffins... (although I've never thought of them quite like this :)
    Great job with this, I love the last stanza, so filled with power.

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  29. On an unrelated note (to get it out of the way), your title for some reason kept bouncing my mind back to the tune "Hall of the Mountain King," which wouldn't stop resonating through my head yesterday...

    To the related notes, however (yes, I'm a silly creature), glad blogger's letting me post now. Had some issues with that yesterday, but then, I'm gathering that many did...but that's alright, it gave me an excuse to come back and read again! Stirring engagement with language, here, an intense and layered bit of imagination - something tells me tells me there's intricacies my mind has missed, but what I see is intense imagery, detailed in the manner you have so mastered. What can I say? Fine work.

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  30. Rich in so many ways-- there is a lot going on here, I think, beyond the lion's absence. "moon-glabrous snouts aloft" did it for me-- the language is exquisite.

    Also appreciated the Dante image at the top; coupled with the lions, it leads the mind through a selva oscura indeed!

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  31. I posted a comment earlier but I see it didn't show. So reposting this:

    I like the tale of the griffin, rich in imagery and details. Like these lines:

    Meanwhile the griffin rolls sensuously in
    the dust of bones or trots the perimeter with deep
    gravitas, throwing his insubstantial scat.
    God by force even here, powered by
    his massy paw, foul hellbreath, throatless
    cinematic roar, his skeletal belly

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  32. Haunting write, though, the whole read, I couldn't shake the feeling of "our" hunt of the wild buffalo, the extermination of that breed (basically) to gain power over another...

    Full moon brings the shadows,
    beige and boneless, in charade of
    the wild hunt lifedance that ends in
    something’s death,

    ......that part just sang to me a more
    political write. I wish I were more versed in the griffin, though, when I did a quick read up, I was so in awe of how its symbol is used world over...not to mention some of the hypocrisy in its use, oy!

    Your place is always for learnin' for this one, thank you ~

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  33. A great write throughout. I especially love "beige and boneless"

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  34. So, so many great word combinations and images. They felt so good in my mouth and left my mind dizzy.

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  35. The way you are able to create such amazing imagery is inspiring. One of my favorite parts is,

    "The herds were only stones of flesh that
    displaced the winding grass river
    with their bulking meat but no more; now
    paper bags and coyotes own the night."

    If that's not a perfectly crafted group of words, I don't know what is :)

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  36. Many thanks all. I really enjoy getting the feedback on this one because, as I say above, it kind of took its own direction. Thanks for explaining it to me. ;-) I needed it.

    @Chris--sorry to have flooded your mind with one 'those' songs--the kind that set up tents and won't leave--even inadvertently. Happens to me all the time, Dylan's idiot Wind was the last one to really do that--I had it looping for days.

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  37. I would hate to think of a day when all we have left to recall these great beasts are film and taped recordings of their calls and roars. But if there comes such a day, I hope people can appreciate such art as yours here, Joy, which does honor to the lions and their like as they tread the scrim of dust that keeps them above oblivion.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg