Friday, October 11, 2013

Sleighride


Sleighride




When the night was dark as a burnt-down barn
and the young moon hung her sawblade overhead

we stood together lost in the ringing bell, letting the lies line up
like sleeping lemmings where the ocean kissed the cliff.

Under the mince of stars, in the salt-pillared  cathedral,
harsh darkness saw our fingers arch in a mockery of prayer

never real until the sacrificial smoke, the cinder-heart slowburning
at the altar of remorse, the drowning man's communion of vanity and shame.

From the manger where the newborn thing is safe to cry, the blessing
comes still bleeding as each flimflammed shoddy spear begins to break

in the lunatic captain's hand; on the last Nantucket sleigh ride
scarred whales may live to fight again, and killers die.



~October 2013








posted for       real toads

Fireblossom Friday: Redemption
Never one to shy from the larger elements at play in our world, the inimitable Fireblossom has chosen redemption as her challenge today. Specifically, she wants us to write about 'renewal and hope.' Not my strong suit, but I did my best.





Process Notes:  from Wiktionary.org: Nantucket sleigh ride: (idiomatic) An obsolete and dangerous method of whale hunting in which a small boat manned by rowers and a harpooner, or a series of small boats tied together, would be attached to a whale by means of a harpoon and would then be towed by the creature at high speed across the water's surface, until the whale eventually became exhausted [*or broke free.] *bracketed addition mine






Images: Top: An engraving from "The cruise of the Cachalot"
Footer: 1902 illustration for Herman Melville's Moby Dick via wikimedia commons

23 comments:

  1. your abrupt turn at the end convinced me. hope may be restored for the whales/for us. I enjoy the strength of your opening and also your intense images playing off of each other. barn and cinder heart, newborn crying and spears breaking. this is just delicious with metaphor.
    From my perspective, the antics in the white house are a combination of single-sighted ignorance, and something beyond ignorance which is more the fight for survival of old ways. Vanity and shame so efficiently used here in your poem (if I am understanding it correctly.) I also especially enjoy the salt cathedral and arched mockery of prayer which recall for me the aspect of deep fear - all trust abandoned, which often looks a lot like evil. really great writing, Hedge.

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    1. Antics in D.C. you mean--yes I agree, there is a terribly strong (and imo opinion deluded) nostalgia for 'the way things were," even if they were actually never as pretty as we think, and had a price we no longer wish to pay. Then there is the whole money and power thing...It pleases me to see you take a unique message from this about the obsessive behavior I was describing --it is a very valid one, and enriches the poem,making it ask a different set of questions.Thanks for reading, Jane.

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    2. yes, antics in DC. (this is why I seldom write on the topic of politics) Certainly is on my mind, though.

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  2. you caught me with the twist at the end... great write... :)

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  3. Exquisite to read...I always say this of your writing but I have to say it again...I enjoy the sound play throughout...you make reading your poetry feel like a trip to the amusement park!! You casued me to look up the lemmings, too, I didn't know about the mass suicides or the urban definition either. I really love how you infuse your work with historical bits and facts as well and in such a creative voice...Thank you, Hedgie!! :)

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    1. What a nice compliment Hannah. Thank you--I would love to think my poems were a trip to the amusement park--or the house of mirrors, anyway. ;_)

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    2. Absolutely, you're welcome my friend! :)

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  4. Your allusion to Moby Dick works so well in expressing your main theme. Of course, I am always on the side of the whale, and live in hope to see it break free of all travails (and maybe take a few whalers to the bottom of the ocean with it.)

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    1. Yes, I was definitely rooting for the whale throughout Moby Dick--Ahab was a nasty, twisted man.Have a safe trip and a good visit this weekend, Kerry.

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  5. I am mesmerized by the final stanza. Wonderful, my friend, so wonderful.
    K

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  6. Flimflammed - haven't heard that word in eons. This is a pure joy to read aloud (third time through) - not because I didn't understand it, I am hoping to learn something. :)

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  7. the drowning mans communion of shame....zinger of a line that....what a crazy way of whaling eh? geez, the original thrill junkies eh? and those lucky enough to escape the harpoons, we live on another day...scars to remind us....

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  8. Ha! I love to think of the whale getting his/her own back. This is so very compressed that I have to read it with more attention than I am almost capable of this late in the day (and life!) But the attention pays off -- such a very cool opening--the specifics of the night--the darkness like the burned out barn (terrific), the sawblade moon, the minced stars--this is all just so distilled and descriptive! One can glide over it like a sleigh just on the sound, but of course, you've got actual meaning here! And so one has to pay attention -- or should--because the payback is there.

    Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I believe that the whale will get payback, but the cockroach might. (Sorry - I'm not in the best mood!) You have some just terrific language going here--and just wonderfully original yet accurate descriptions. k.

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  9. It is true as always "the gray whale my Harvard and the right whale my Yale" says Melville- but I like best the idea the moon was young as an image here... for in a rocking rowboat the moon was new and really new for me. as young... I got the impression I had discovered the evening star as well... poems always to reach for the original in the bounty then now lost at sea.

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  10. Hedge, I read Moby Dick as a child and was horrified. Your take on the repentance prompt is original and so real. Whales - and dolphins - are still poached. Some for their flesh; others to learn to dance in captivity at Sea World. The killers... who probably never live to repent, nor believe they did wrong. Amy

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  11. "The drowning man's communion of vanity and shame". Read this several times, seeing Ahab and his folly, Washington and its. The whale is scarred, but liveth still. Thank you.

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  12. Hly Captain Ahab!! This was full of life and death for sure.

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  13. I think you did a fine job. I wonder how many people know what a "Nantucket sleigh ride" was? Now, there are not even whales off the east coast, as far as I know. Nevertheless, I really liked the turn your poem took at the end, with the scarred whales escaping to the ocean and to life.

    Thanks so much for being a part of my challenge, Joy. It means a lot to me that you are.

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  14. in the lunatic captain's hand; on the last Nantucket sleigh ride
    scarred whales may live to fight again, and killers die.

    How often a dangerous mission just failed. Wrought with danger, whaling and simultaneously putting men at risk could go either way. And the whale survived! Great write Joy!

    Hank

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  15. The language spill in this third stanza has me in awe:

    "Under the mince of stars, in the salt-pillared cathedral,
    harsh darkness saw our fingers arch in a mockery of prayer"

    Just gorgeous imagery here.

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  16. Thank God they discovered that Oil burns a flame cheaper than Blubber eh?
    Great visuals here.
    Love your new profile pic...:-)
    Coming out of seclusion?

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  17. As a huge fan of Moby Dick I love this - especially the great penultimate stanza. I'd bet Melville himself would love this. It's hard to believe they used to hunt whales like that - harder to believe that whales used to cavort within sight of Nantucket's shores. Bringing a whale back got successively harder until it became a perilous adventure.

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  18. Glad the whale free and the newborn safe to cry in this manger. Hope all well . K.

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