Sunday, August 19, 2012

Snuffing Out the Dead



© John Edwards

Snuffing Out the Dead

Parched, head in the dust,
coughing out the hairball past,
the summer passed in a sequence
of hearses, rolling
black, dead brown, zebra striped with
love and loss
and the scent everywhere
of the burning dead.

The choice of what
would live or die was left
to the old nixie, fighting for
a drop of wet, picking which
would green and which would wither
her rheumy eyes lifted to a sky 
that mocked her with
the blue of endless rivers.

Every day a sugarwater war buzzed
between hummingbirds and strafing wasps
till at last the killing fever dropped, the bright ball
bounced over August's wall and autumn's coat of clouds
shook out her rain. The charred fields were sponged
with jade light, snuffing the dead in malachite,
the soft breathing of grasses stronger, deeper 
than the blackened ash they consumed.

~August 2012




Process notes: 'nixie; noun, German Folklore .a female water spirit.' dictionary.com
and credit to Ross MacDonald, for the Zebra-Striped Hearse in stanza one.


Posted for    real toads
Sunday Challenge: Photography of John Edwards
John writes under the name of Scriptor Senex and has generously shared some of his photographic work with real toads. Thank you, John.

and also for

where Karin Gustafson hosts the prompt, Dog Days of Summer




Image: Photo © John Edwards
Used with permission.

39 comments:

  1. great images hedge..loved the zebra striped with
    love and loss...the nixie was a cool touch as well...and we tend to forget how much fight and death a really hot summer brings...

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  2. loved "zebra striped with
    love and loss"
    excellent take on summer!

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  3. Ah - lovely relief here at the end - all the different greens and growth--I love the idea of the soft breathing of grasses, but also cannot hear (especially in the context of death) without thinking of Whitman - and leaves of grass and isn't there biblical something with grass too and wither? So all very evocative on lots of levels as well as plain old--thank God for the rain! Sugarwater too great thing in context of patient (etherized on the earth).

    So thanks. Also, I forgot and too tired to go back to it at this minute - but thinking about your nun and priest poem - the huitain _ and all those difficult bishops and the poor Nun bus! And the papal indictment (or sorts) against nuns who have the effrontery to be worried about poverty! You remind us of the age old quality of such issues. k.

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  4. I have never loved a poem of death more than this one.
    Odd how calmly the coffins pass by this harsh year, complete with references to snuff films. I can see the drama rising in front of me, with all the actors longing for the end of the harvest moon who reflects that dastardly murderer in the sky. Do not mock the nixie! Nor the wasp nor the hummingbird, survivors in the race to reach August. I love the personifications and living off the dead:
    ". . . autumn's coat of clouds
    shook out her rain. The charred fields were sponged
    with jade light, snuffing the dead in malachite,
    the soft breathing of grasses stronger, deeper
    than the blackened ash they consumed."

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  5. An unsentimental invocation. I especially like the last stanza and the lovely "autumn's coat of clouds/shook out her rain".

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  6. Oh, brilliant, some great lines and internal rhyme

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  7. "which would green and which would wither" — wonderful words, Hedge, you are an artist with words.
    K

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  8. Now I know what a nixie is! (at work we use the term, but there it means a letter that cannot be delivered.)

    This has the feel of an extended close call of some sort, a drought of the spirit, I think, as much as one of the land. How cruel the sky, teasing the old nixie. But by poem's end, there is stirring, and life, even if it is built on that which has not survived.

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  9. I've never read such a description of the height of summer, and the change brought by advancing months. This is an extraordinarily rich evocation of all that is planetary, growing, dying, regenerating. I love the bouncing ball of sun going over the wall of August.

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  10. Oh, wow, Joy. So many images. It's like reading a painting or watching a movie. I could visualize this so clearly.

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  11. Just had to stop and listen to Starry, Starry Night. I can't tell you how VanGogh affects me.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I've cried to that song before. And that slideshow is very well done, I thought. Thanks for reading and for listening too, Victoria.

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  12. the zebra got me too. but because this is supposed to be a summer poem, and so many people are writing about the beach, i could not help but think "what's black and white and red all o9ver - a zebra with a suntan!!" were u thinking that at all?


    street rubbish

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  13. A sensory visual laden with the fever of summer and all the ashy rumblings that close the season! Powerful drama!

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  14. The killing fields, indeed...love the nixie, the zebra stripes "of love and loss"...such powerful imagery. And because I am a cat lover, I had to chuckle at the "hairball past". If only it were that easy, comparatively, to rid ourselves of some of it! Thank you for this.

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  15. Why do I relate so strongly to the nixie? I can see her so clearly!

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    1. If you're anything like me, Sherry, you're looking in the mirror.;_)

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  16. wow...feel the heat and lack there of that summer brings in the war just to stay wet....really cool imagery in all the hearses...there is life yet in the end...a hope...perhaps now that the rain has broken thorugh even a bit...more will come...its been a very wet day here...

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  17. This is beautiful, Joy... love all the colors and especially like the last stanza.

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  18. The picture is beautiful and I love the mention of the nixie... where was she when we were in a drought?It's definitely been a rough summer for some.

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  19. "the summer passed in a sequence
    of hearses"

    I just really feel that.

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  20. All the seasons bring with them a harsh side, summer sometimes the worst, bushfire, drought that oppressive heat that at times is callous. I do love the soft breathing of the grasses, stronger when the cooler weather and rains come... I could hear them. We are all so delicate beneath that summer sun.

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  21. Oh and thank you for posting Vincent, Starry Night... :)

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  22. This is so cleansing and raw. I love the vivid images, the loss and love and the burning dead; her rheumy eyes; the killing fever and the blackened ash, so much inevitable reality. I'm drowning in this, I love the water spirit.

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  23. I can hardly believe the depth and beauty and pathos of this gorgeous poem, Hedge. You truly described our yard here in Silverton with these words and I am so thankful for them:

    Every day a sugarwater war buzzed
    between hummingbirds and strafing wasps
    till at last the killing fever dropped, the bright ball
    bounced over August's wall and autumn's coat of clouds
    shook out her rain.

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  24. There is such pain in this...one who sees nature with feelings and the struggle to survive. Beautiful poem!

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  25. the circle of life and death, but brilliantly expressed! love this, Joy!

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  26. I love these sections:

    "left
    to the old nixie, fighting for
    a drop of wet"

    "a sugarwater war buzzed
    between hummingbirds and strafing wasps
    till at last the killing fever dropped"

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  27. Such a fantastically written piece. Love the natural feel here, with the strong emphasis on features, whether of the face, birds, nature itself, or even the allusions of supernatural imagery. Also, really enjoyed the amount of symbolism you layered here, especially in the final stanza. Great read. Thanks

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  28. The imagery is perfect esp '... the old nixie ~ to ~ ...the killing fever ...' wonderful poem.

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  29. A real thriller of a poem this, with telling images everywhere, but the first sentence of the final stanza reaches bits that even poetry has no right to reach. Sensational.

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  30. gosh i just love this. you are just the queen of description, really. wow. i love your use of the word "nixie" and also "hairball past" and "sugarwater war." excellent, just as i would expect.

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  31. we just drove through the central valley in California and saw the summer's burn. this is beautiful, striped with love and loss. the nixie drew me in and your malachite reminds me it is ok to breathe again.

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  32. The Nixie needs a couple of sidekicks named Pixie and Mr. Jinx!!
    So...I'm now an enigmatic writer?
    (Sniff)
    This is the happiest day of my Blackened Ash existence..:-)

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    Replies
    1. Dude, where's your beret? Paris and Hemingway are calling--no wait, he's dead, and you've been to Paris--Texas, right?

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  33. Amazing, Hedge, truly!! I could read this a lot more times and see more and more each time...your poem is just so full of beautiful and unique wording and imagery. A feast! :)

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  34. I loved the line "autumn's coat of clouds shook out her rain". Thanks for some lovely imageryv. John

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