Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Exercise in Metaphor





Exercise in Metaphor



Under the trashcan my rosemary lies, concealed to
endure bleeding hell in this intractable garden,
so far removed from your wild conception as a weed
for Aphrodite’s aromatic cloak, spun of the sky god’s seed,
living dew of that Attic sea from which the goddess rose
before Athens, white limbed and cold as fear.

You were her mantle of living warmth, austere.
You lived on sea spray and sun in the maritime dunes,
wild and free as the piping of Pan.
Your  needles mimic tongues philosophers ran
standing where grey pillars capped words of gold
now debased and traded from your native land.

You eke out your life a  commodity of man
in each fold of this foreign world that seeks your savor,
still giving your pale shy flowers to each rutting bee.
Here you’re made to stand against the burning lee
of American days, feet bound in clay unaccounted,
damped with calcareous tepid water shorn of salt.

When hard times come, I cage and darken you in a vault,
make you winter a cold that wracks your bluegreen bones.
Wind sucks them dry and bleeds you like a blade.
Still in death you give what’s asked from what you’ve made,
that undying and remembrance-laden scent
that releases mnemonic prisoners from their cells.

But all’s forgotten now of what your fragrance tells;
how once you were the herb of fussing alchemists
boiled to bouillon in precise alembic wells;
for sweet union men once begged those body-spells.
Your arms were crowns in countless lost endeavors.
Even crushed in death your juniper lingers.

Tonight the front freights down with frozen fingers.
Blue express of oblivion, dark wailing wind.
Across millenniums the sky god gives and takes.
I bind you in  burlap, secure the shroud it makes,
cover you with a  plastic catafalque
meant for the dregs and detritus I buy,

and your last freedom, daughter of the sky,
is to choose if it’s better to live like this or die.


January 2011 


Posted for real toads
Kerry's Challenge is to write a poem in which flowers do not appear in a cliché'd way. I hope this one works. It was originally posted at One Stop Poetry, about this time last year, when I was struggling to keep a rosemary plant alive, and boggled at the state of our democracy (both things coming to us from Greece--yeah I know, a stretch.) Whether this metaphor is appropriate or not--who knows, but the plant in question died.


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Image 1: West Front of the Parthenon, Edward Dodwell, 
1821, Views from Greece
Image 2: Rosemarinus officianalis

25 comments:

  1. Love this..rosemary/democracy...it seems both are strangled to be what "we" wish while taking them far from their original intent.

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  2. I remember your rosemary, and this poem. Did you mercilessly kill off all of the previous comments?

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  3. I remember this, I think. The closing lines are magnificent.

    As for rosemary, I've killed it every time I've touched it.

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  4. Sounding like a broken record...I remember this, I think. I must concur with MZ, the closing lines are so wonderful!

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    1. hey angela--didn't see a comment from you on the first post, but you may have read it. I'm basically just checking out the new reply feature. Good to see you stop by.

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  5. Thanks all--I'll be making the rounds on this cool prompt in the morning.

    @MZ--yeah, you left a comment about reading the first line as 'under the trashcan my ROSARY lies' cracked me up earlier. I've resigned myself to growing it as an annual.

    @FB-No, the original post is still back there with all the comments(yours was particularly sharp)--I just copied and pasted into a new post so people wouldn't have to wade through a bunch of year-old comments here.

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  6. hey all look at this--looks like blogger is adding an individual reply feature. Yay.

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  7. Wow. This is more than an exercise in metaphor; it is an entire fitness system. Loved it!

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  8. I love rosemary, but I really struggle keeping them alive through an Iowa winter.

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  9. maybe that is why i could not comment earlier...nice verse hedge...seems like i remember this one...love the end...and you know i guess we all face that one, one day...

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  10. This is fabulous. An epic, truly, with philosophers and alchemists. Yet I had to smile at "rutting bee"!

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  11. Sorry the plant died, hedgewitch, but the poem bloomed beautifully.

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  12. I loved the images of Aphrodite. The entire verse sounds delicate with an ounce strange fear. The end- marvellous!

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  13. You are the story teller poet. I love this.

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  14. Did you do something different in settings for the "Reply" feature to pop up?

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    1. It's an automatic upgrade from Blogger for blogs with the comments set up as embedded below the post--doesn't work if you have pop-ups or separate page or whatever the other options are. Thanks for reading, Margaret.

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  15. You hope this one works? It is one of the most touching poems I've ever read (three times now). "Daughter of the sky" is a a soaring, but really fitting, name for this particular plant. And this, oh!
    Still in death you give what’s asked from what you’ve made,
    that undying and remembrance-laden scent
    that releases mnemonic prisoners from their cells.


    Some Christmases ago my sister had a rosemary tree (plant trimmed in that shape) delivered to my door. I treasured it, would have written a poem to it if I was capable, and I struggled as it struggled for about four months to survive. I was so heartsick when I placed it in the compost bin, returned it to the garden...

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    1. Thanks so much, Lydia. I'm glad you enjoyed, and sorry for your rosemary. We used to sell those trees at Lowes when I worked in the garden center--they were murder to keep alive--finally I talked the manager into letting me keep them outside, just covering them when it got super cold, and it worked better, but I know, I used to stroke them every time I walked by for that scent, and absolutely hated it when they succumbed.

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  16. Um, yeah. Not clichéd; just tremendous. I adore rosemary, and when you get to those last two lines, I root for yours (sorry for the pun), more than ever.

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    1. Yes, I spent a lot of diligent effort on that plant, but she made her choice. Last winter was one of the coldest on record, though, so I have better hopes for this year, where I'm just ignoring her successor except for watering--so far so good. Thanks for reading, Ruth.

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  17. It is is quite a stretch, tying the desperate attempt to save a rosemary bush from the assault of winter cold to the European Union's attempt to salvage the Greek economy: just the sort of challenge though a Hedgewitch accomplishes and with finely crafted relish. So many redolent lines that warm the memory of pagan days dazed with lust and beauty and indolence, living on though even present collapse. (My faves: "You lived on sea spray and sun in the maritime dunes,/wild and free as the piping of Pan." The final couplet buttons together two likes into one perfect garment that's way too gossamer with gilded memories of better days and loves to survive the present winter's cold. Flora would weep a tear while Boreas would gloat and Saturn harvested the fallen for his melancholy realm. - Brendan

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    1. This is probably the most unsuccessful metaphor I've ever written, but I have a fondness for the poem because of those myth sprinklings you cite..I really was thinking as writing of how democracy all over the world is forced to submit to the rigors of the pervading society's (mis)interpretations,grow in foreign soil, as it were, and how here in America especially no matter how some of us want to protect it, it's being starved and tortured into a plutocracy. But I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and glad you picked up on that sense of past sweetness. Thanks for reading.

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  18. I think the conceptual idea of an "Ode to Rosemary" is completely original in terms. When I set this challenge, I knew that you would have to reply to my prejudicial statement that flowers in poetry are a cliche (tee hee) and I am certainly not disappointed by the fact that you decided to flip casually through your archives and choose from any number of 'un-flowery hedgewitch specials'. I do not know of any one else who handles the subject as well as you do.
    I always consider that rosemary is used traditionally for both weddings and funerals, and there is something of beginnings and endings in this piece:
    You lived on sea spray and sun in the maritime dunes...
    and: 'I bind you in burlap, secure the shroud it makes...'

    Now I've probably said far too much. Love each brilliant stanza - thank you for linking it up to my challenge.

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    1. Ah, Kerry--I loved this prompt. I wish I could have come up with a new poem for it, but my muse had gone off to sleep yesterday. I really had five or six old ones I wanted to link, but most were recent enough that they had been read by everyone who visits. I'm glad you think it fits the prompt, as technically, rosemary is not very flowery, though it does turn into a mass of tiny bee-feeding blooms in summer.Thanks for your insights into the underlying feelings here, and for your inspiring prompts, which always challenge and engage.

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  19. 'Here's rosemary for remembrance'...Hmmm....I remember my bush with fondness. It lasted many years, but England finally killed it off by producing a hot summer which baked almost everything to death in my paving slab covered, tiny outdoor space.

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