Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Harpies



the harpy celaeno





The Harpies



No beaks
only claws
the flap of wings like old clothes
stinking in the murdered hope sheen
of black slum soot rain.

In front of me 
the table is spread with chalices
bread of life support smelling
round as a kept promise,
fat cheeses laughing on the board.

My stomach's gone bitter as april snow
inured to inanition, yet mouth
like dead eye still floods with useless water
staring across to where they snatch and fly;
tireless banality of the cruel.

Born full, their striptease satisfaction
slobbers the unendurable table,  plugging ears
with the noisome smack of smirked lips
pressed facedown to the plate,
gobbling, gabbling, dripping.


This is the punishment of the gods
for having foreseen
all the wrong things.
O how apt and kind of them
to keep our choices blind.

~October 2012


Harpy





If you would like to hear this poem read by the author, please click below:



Posted for   OpenLinkNight   at dVerse Poets Pub

Process notes: Writing of monsters seems suitable to the season. In Greek mythology, the harpies were messengers of the gods, used to punish crimes. They took the form of winged women above the waist and birds below. They are most well known for punishing Phineas, who was blinded and exiled by Zeus for the crime of prophecy, by perpetually stealing the food from his table before he could eat. My personal belief is that they also come in human form.


Header image: Photo by tom clearwood on flick'r
of a bust of the Harpy Celaeno,  1902 -by  Mary Pownall
Marble - Bequeathed by Alfred Bromed, 1944
Kelvingrove Art Gallery - Glasgow - Scotland
Footer photo: The same bust, photo by seq, on flick'r
Photos  shared under a Creative Commons License


44 comments:

  1. I can't make a very full comment right now but just a lot of terrific word play adding up to something somewhat deeper and more terrifying than most play - bread of life support particularly striking - and the general sense of slobber and greed, and blind being led by themselves. Agh (or blind gods.)

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  2. Vivid, fascinating: I had only known them as part of the curse on Orestes, This has the added horror of dinner table smirks and drama.

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    1. Orestes had nothing to do with harpies. He was pursued by the Erinyes,(Furies)deities of vengeance,cthonic goddesses in their own right.

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    2. When I mix my harpies and furies, it's time to bow to the fates and take a nap.

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  3. As usual, Hedge, there's far too much brilliance for my mind to decipher, so i wont try.
    You always select the perfect word for the cause and that's truly an art.
    I loved the simple set up for the table. You blend the simple with the magnificent so well.
    It's truly a joy to read you
    Not sure if you were being sarcastic at the end, and i like that too.
    And yes, i suppose there are the same among us.

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    1. I call them "family" ;-) Thanks, rick.

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  4. We were kind of on the same wavelength with our poems this week...but of course mine is much more lowbrow than yours, heh heh.
    (And I have been intimately acquainted with numerous harpies over the years.)

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    1. Nonsense on the lowbrow--I'm just cursed with an archaic syntax. And yes, they're everywhere, imo.

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  5. Gorgeous! I especially loved "flap of wings like old clothes stinking in the murdered hope sheen of black slum soot rain" and "round as a kept promise, fat cheeses laughing on the board"! Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, Jenny--enjoyed your own fickle pen very much.

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  6. I first met Celaeno the Harpy in the early 90s during my first read of Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Fitting w the season, we are re-reading it now. From there I learned- never run away from immortals- always walk. Dang if I'm not still learning. gobbling, gabbling, dripping.... SNatching. My stomach's gone bitter as April snow. killer line!

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    1. That is a great book--need to re-read it. Thanks, Jane.

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  7. smiles...i would agree with your personal belief....ha...your verse is chilling, you use language very well to set the moon...very visual as well...and gave me a shiver at watching them eat....

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  8. Hedge! The sounds...the scents...I've been to the very edge of hell...LOVE the awfulness that the old clothes line stirs in me...took me back to my grandmothers when I would hide among her yardsale finds as she prepped them for reselling...I am swimming in the scent! Beautifully gruesome!

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  9. Reminds me of my son and nephews when they were teenagers. Love the vivid descriptions!

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  10. wow... an incredible ending to a fabulous word journey... creepy and fascinating all at once. your use of language is always so masterful!

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  11. Such hellish bitches, in a manner of speaking. If we were all punished this way for not seeing how our youthful choices would turn out, then we would all be in the very same boat. Oh wait...we are. The only difference may be in the number and enthusiasm of the harpies who swoop down.

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  12. You are so good at incorporating mythology in your poetry...and I so much appreciate your process notes as my mythology education was a bit inadequate. Enjoy the season, hedge!

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  13. stealing the food from his table before he could eat....honestly..this sounds a bit like politics to me...ha...cleverly woven..your mythical write has always strong roots into reality..

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  14. The opening stanza was chilling enough for me with black slum soot rain ~ I also like the last stanza, with blind choices ~

    Thanks for the process notes, it helped me appreciate your words ~

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  15. Oh, Joy Ann, I do see politics in this wonderful blend of mythology and the truth of nowadays. They are so blind as they led the blind. I also love the irony of the Ayn Rand quote on your sidebar.

    Pamela

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  16. You, better than any dictionary, explained why gossiping, conniving women are referred to as harpies. Well done, Joy Ann!

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  17. i love reading mythology, all kinds of mythology, great rendering here. i really don't know what to say that i havent said before about your writing... just keep'm coming, im glued to the screen.

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    1. Thanks, wood. The feeling is mutual.The cover on the book above your poem tonight is almost as good as the poem.

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  18. I love the darkness right from the beginning, "murdered hope sheen"
    among a "slum soot rain". Amazing imagery, Hedge, especially the laughter from the cheese. Love the overindulgent scene of water flowing from a full mouth. Perfect contribution for this season. Happy Hallow's Eve.

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  19. wow, went all harpy on us tonight, love that. Such a diverse group of mythological creatures, seen them painted utterly vicious and seen them drawn misunderstood, the way you used them, in both the surface poem you penned here is super effective and was a pleasure to experience, yet the underlying metaphoric offering is exceptional in how subtle it was, at least how I read it. Loved this. Thanks

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  20. stunning imagery and killer last stanza, Joy! amazing!

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  21. Wonderful to hear you read it, to get the music as well as the visual imagery.

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  22. This is the punishment of the gods
    for having foreseen
    all the wrong things.
    O how apt and kind of them
    to keep our choices blind.

    What a great take on the perils of 'seeing/choosing'...the gift of light is fine, so long as we can perceive the right wavelengths. And here's to the glories of archaic language!

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  23. I’ve been wrestling with harpies for awhile, too —to no avail. Scary, lovely critters. Enjoyed your poem very much.

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    1. yes, they were originally portrayed as winged women with lovely long floating hair. The the Greek dramatists got hold of them. Thank you for reading.

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  24. Hey hedge

    I'm lingering late in the bar this week…

    Of course: I've messed with plenty of birds and ended up with the Harpies . . . (Lingering late in bars and lowering the tone!)

    at cheeses laughing on the board . . . Some of the lines and phrases that spark up from your poetry inspire and fire my enthusiasm for the written word.

    Your constructs, the measure - spotless and marble-clean

    statuesque


    . . . From the moment I heard we were made in his image,
    I knew we were F$%ked!

    Give me the Greek versions any day . . .

    I already have a bad case of the furies!

    All the best hedge



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    1. It takes a certain genius to lower the tone in a bar full of harpies--treasure your gifts, Arron. Thanks as always for your superb work, and for reading.

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  25. "bread of life support" That's freaking brilliant. And, the fourth stanza --- I was thinking Republican fundraiser. Incredible writing, Hedge.

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    1. HA! I think they caught that on tape, actually. Thanks MZ.

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  26. A timely reminder that the imagination of our ancestors is a powerful source to tap into, which you do so well. Lovely word play and use of language.

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  27. Wow, indeed! This is vivid and ugly, and I mean that in the best of ways.

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    1. Appreciate the compliment, Charles. ;-) Thanks.

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  28. Wow, Hedge, you out Poe for visual horrors~! And yes, the perfect season for this and for harpies in general.

    I, too, believe they exist in human form... in fact, I know they do. A relative too close...womb close, who proceeds in life to destruction much like the table above.

    The hair on the back of my neck rose with your words...and I remember seeing a movie of a demon that came to life every few decades...and his howling destruction through a mass of young folk. In the end....he had skinned a young man and looked through his eyes, holding up the skin as he looked out across the city. I always felt that I would never feel that horror again, it could not be reproduced....but in reading your "Harpies", it was. The same fusion of horror and humanity.

    Your voice reading this pushes up the horror a couple of notches.

    I forgot their place in Greek mythology, yet you mine this with finese.

    Lady Nyo

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    1. Thank you Jane--I think Stephen King mines that same place--the most terrible evil is in the falling of the characters into petty, irrevocable evil that grows in them like a tumor--why I can't hardly read him anymore, way too scary.

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  29. A powerful re-telling, clothed in tangible horror and powerless humanity. The second stanza is perfection, but only because of what surrounds it.

    Brilliant dark sheen.. great poetry.

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  30. I am ridiculously late to the feast this week (in more ways than one) perhaps bemoaning my own family of harpies too intensely. This is brilliant, horrifying, and perfectly carved, a masterpiece among the great works of your imaginarium.

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    1. Thanks Anna--birthdays can be very labor intensive.

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