Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quills

Stekelvarken Aiguilles Porc-épic


Quills


Living with her
was like living with roaches,
flimsy, easy to kill but never
really dead, always stutter running
always more hidden than shown
always a scuttling when the switch flipped,
impossible to hold accountable.

In a hard country, the dog chased
the porcupine
catching a hundred razor
barbed quills in his face every time.
Every time, they'd cut and pull them while he cried, 
saying, he's learned now, 
he won't do it again.

Before the blood was dulled dry, he'd be up
hunting, disfigured nose twitching, bantam
brain eclipsed, swollen with the useless rage
of the violated; just so, the child came back at her 
teeth bared, howling outside the den, nose down
for the yelling, the curse, the barbs in its
face, a hundred times.

In the rank stillness Mama Roach
drops her eggcase on the drainboard
casual as shedding a dirty thong.
Mating. Eating. Her own survival
absorbs her, and there will be more
eggs, many more. It's nothing
personal.


~August 2012






Posted for   OpenLinkNight   at dVerse Poets Pub
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If you would like to hear the poem read by the author, click below:





Header photo: Porcupine quills, by lamiot 
from Stekelvarken.JPG (Image:Stekelvarken.JPG) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


48 comments:

  1. This is scathing. I know that roach-run from the first stanza. I grew up with that, too. It wasn't just that my arms were to short to box, it was that i was boxing a fucking hologram that could never be nailed down and could never be wrong.

    The quills and the dog are an amazing metaphor. It's hard to even read about the animal simply reacting in its natural, if uncomprehending way, and always getting stuck by the rather bizarre but impenetrable porcupine. And of course, the dog mom in me can hardly stand the image of the quill pulling and crying.

    "the useless rage of the violated" is so powerful and instantly identifiable. To go back to my boxing motif, "In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade/ and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him til he cried out/ in his anger and his shame, I am leaving I am leaving, but the fighter still remains." Paul Simon of course. Neither the dog nor a child has the liberty to leave. Survival sits in the same space as pain.

    Your ending is terribly chilling and catches the bedrock selfishness of that person, not to mention the utter lack of connection she has with her own. This is brilliant and horrible. I applaud your courage in writing it...it cannot have been easy.

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    1. Thanks, Shay. No not easy, but brewing for a long time. That's one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs--really one of those perfect metaphors, and very applicable here. It would be the perfect accompaniment.Thanks again.

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  2. I can't add anything to what Fireblossom has written, except: it is indeed a "hard country" and you have handled it brilliantly. Thank you.

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  3. This is brutal in it's truth. Raw, brilliant writing.

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  4. You have captured one of life's darker mysteries for me.
    Ouch.
    If there is no accountability we have Kafka! and cockroaches forever!
    You show how we live with someone like that: Between the jolly behavior of the dog and the unconcern of the cockroach is: "just so, the child came back at her
    teeth bared, howling outside the den, nose down
    for the yelling, the curse, the barbs in its
    face, a hundred times."
    Child, teen, adult--we seek love despite abuse and neglect again and again. Walking away is the wonder. Either way, the memories are also Quills.

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  5. casual as shedding a dirty thong. ...well now...smiles....why do they go back knowing they will be hurt? when will they ever learn and why not...these are some pretty deep questions you are approaching in your work hedge...for some it is all they have known....and the only thing they ever felt....

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  6. Ooh, this was deep & biting....a child takes a while to learn that truth...heartbreaking and brilliantly written, Joy

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  7. it's nothing personal...that closure gave me shivers...and mostly because i think that's like it is...she's so absorbed.. there's no room for anyone else...tough and sad and excellently written

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  8. The imagery, metaphors, depth in this poem are stunning. The roach, especially, being so reviled a creature and yet a life-giving one, too. Thought-provoking indeed!

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  9. Multi-layered and jam packed with metaphor. Stunning poem.

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  10. Joy--this is so strong, so powerful. Loved it spoken, too.

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  11. Stunningly rich in metaphor and biting in its truth---wow

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  12. Awesome. The reading added ice. At first it seemed like the blues, then it ended in kind of a scorn or quiet rage. "Nothing personal" The professional assassin. Metal. Evanescence.
    Your music selection was outstanding. What a bunch of cool,handsome guys. Great photos. I usually hear the Fillmore East version. Really liked this one. One hell of a band. Thanks for making my day.

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    1. Thanks, Scott. Exactly.

      And they *were* amazing--I also like the post-Duane versions where Dicky Betts plays lead--that man is smokin--but this radio/album promo cut for that Live at the Fillmore album is pretty damn tight, and still has Duane,a great and sadly unrecognized guitar genius.

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  13. Oh, this one hurts. Raw and ragged edges. The dog-porcupine bit gave me stomach butterflies. Liked hearing it as well!

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  14. Wow, you've captured the narcissistic parent with characteristic perfection. This one will haunt me for a long, long time. You are a master.

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  15. Brilliant poem — so strong, so impeccably crafted. Yes, I can see it's been a long time brewing, and all the better for it.

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  16. A superb write full of tight metaphors and powerful imagery!
    Vice or any kind is hard to put down and to walk away from. . .
    Life lessons learned and the relearned all through our lives!
    Thanks for sharing such a deeply felt poem --

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  17. Brilliant imagery, metaphors. Very haunting....

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  18. the clung ferocity of humanity's egg cased longing to be continued, is captured perfectly in this...love it...un molto, molto buono poema!

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  19. Great imagery,and metaphors....a brilliant write, Joy.

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  20. I'n not sure if I fully understand the extended metaphors in this one but, nevertheless, I can tell it's a powerful one. I love that closing line.

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  21. Oh, these parents and their legacies. And what a portrait of mother in the truthful, devastating "nothing personal", and the child with "teeth bared, howling" but of course, impotent with that useless but powerful rage. How brave you are!

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  22. The apparent objectivity of the descriptions here is the key to this strong piece, at least for me. I found myself drawn in and enveloped by the brutality of the imagery and the ideas. I love the windup, the 'banality of evil' tone and feel. Excellent, as always.

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    1. Thank you, Steve. I had to put it into third person to even be able to read it. I'm glad if it gained some objectivity--I think that's important in these kinds of poems.

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    2. Excellent and very powerful write!
      The dog/porcupine reference immediately brought to mind this stanza from Rudyard Kipling's, The Gods of the Copybook Headings :
      As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
      There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
      That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
      And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

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  23. Yikes - this is so powerful on so many levels - well more than skin or even nose-deep. The close is really chilling, the thong - a perfect sleazy touch. Agh. The beginning with all the scuttling, the poor dog, the child - just wonderful work here, if terribly grueling content. k.

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  24. purely organic in this piece, the necessity of the cycle so perfect, so indiscriminate. I love this write Hedge, send love and peace to you ~ Rose

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    1. Thanks, Rose. Yes, nature is resilient and beautiful in her efficiency, but she doesn't much get personal--its about survival, and its equally important or unimportant to her what you are.

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  25. oy. this one does hurt. i think that this is in the 3rd person makes it even more damaging... it could be a metaphor for anyone. exquisitely written.

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  26. Hedgewitch, I have delayed commenting on this, wanting to be sure I can identify 'in memoriam'...and I certainly can.

    So much of my life (our lives?) was buried beneath countless layers of denial. And choice-forgetfulness. You awaken a life with your words, and absolve the scrupulous conscience.

    Yess, you nailed us, girl. Without a program which relieved me somewhat of the bondage of self, I would be dead 35 years ago.

    And the world would have missed...WHAT? Maybe nothing. After all, it's not personal--grin!

    LOVED this.
    PEACE!
    Steve E

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    1. The world would have missed only pain if you'd not freed yourself, but would have missed a great deal of wisdom and joy in the simple beauty of life since you have. I know I would have missed the comfort of knowing you made it, which is also the comfort of knowing any of us can make it. Thanks, Steve, so much for your words.

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  27. When I read this, I come away wishing I had you nearby. This understanding, this life experience must have given you armor, a sense of who is dangerous, what is sham, and what is authentic. Your subtext is always virginal, pure. Never more so than here where there is no deceit, no hiding, no disguise. Oh to have you answer the door to those roofers, builders and contractors always trying to hoodwink me. I think you are fierce, beautiful and impenetrable!

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  28. This is so hard and brilliant all at once... you chose the perfect subject/symbol to convey your point, scathing and chilling and heartbreaking.

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  29. The best poems embrace one powerful metaphor, and this is one of them. Knowing that, it becomes clear that the most transformational, the most powerful part of this poem is those subtle, understated first five words - "Living with her was like" - the concept that is never repeated again, allowing the metaphors to dominate the psyche with their uncalculating, yet horrific, "nothing personal" naturalness.

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  30. A ferocious and chilling write, so originally crafted.. that ending is superb! Brilliant!

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  31. I guess some people can never be but what they are. Haunting depiction that ran through me with a dead-cold shiver. Brilliant.

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  32. Wow. Strong write Hedge. What a tonal opening. Great pic of the quills you found btw. The stanza with the dog, really, really impressive. Great piece. Thanks

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  33. Maybe we never do learn just by getting hurt. We always think it has to be better next time, and it often isn't. Your poem is a complex layered piece, with no resolution possible.

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  34. The analogies you employ are a fierce way of offering some distance and broadening the application of what feels an excruciating experience. Perspective.. thus making it accessible as a poem. Perhaps most impressive is the plainness of the language - all the more powerful for its incisive simplicity.

    Wonderful writing.. thank you.

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  35. was like living with roaches,
    flimsy, easy to kill but never
    really dead

    It's chilling in its brilliance. I could feel the indifference of a person as aligned to what a 'roach is.There are some who just couldn't be bothered over anything until the 'barbs struck their noses' Nicely written Joy!

    Hank

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  36. Like the cockroach and the dog (bantam brain eclipsed-a favorite), dare we hope to be any more that who we are, naturally? Great poem, Hedge. I like how you overlap your subjects and consequently take me a little closer to myself.

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  37. never shocked to be in awe!

    these plates shift with the reading . . .
    a depth only to be found in experience: to articulate
    it in such a way - with this level of skill . . . control

    taking the power back
    enough to hold the essence
    long enough for it to be beautiful

    then it dissiaptes and i go

    WOW!

    it is a bath . . .

    and i bathed

    shedding skin

    awe!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks very much, Arron. Metamorphosis continues...a healing thing as well as a growing on one,I think.

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  38. Joy Ann, this is scathing and yet, I see such beauty in it. Your use of metaphor here is outstanding, layer upon layer. This is an awesome write.

    Pamela

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  39. Biting imagery here. This made my stomach turn a bit:

    "In a hard country, the dog chased
    the porcupine
    catching a hundred razor
    barbed quills in his face every time."

    and "casual as shedding a dirty thong". Well crafted poem.

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  40. This is chilling, Hedge, especially to us 'children' who had no way out. The abuse, neglect and especially the casual and constant humiliation. I felt it to my bones...and perhaps we can only deal with this when we are far into adulthood....and not before.

    Psychology? You get to the essence of the issue here, Hedge...
    The metaphors are spot on....and it stings the heart even when the abusers are dead...or should be.


    Wonderful poem, and you strip it to the bone. So many layers and so many are afraid to face the past but you aren't. I have this in my brain pan now. Thank you.

    Jane

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  41. I love this poem. You respect the life, even when it grosses you out ("you" being this reader, at least).

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