Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All The Things That Kill



Linen towel with drawn threadwork accented with embroidery in stem and satin stitch
  
All The Things That Kill




All the things that kill
are beautiful tonight
sleek with purpose
come to end promises
sworn in diamond dust;
the poison drop, the  quick
metal bee, the slick sharp edge;
all beauty's finality shining
under a flawless moon.

In my sleep I hear
the spell of no more
lifting the weight of life
beautifully
boiling the clinging
off into black:
Let us unpick
the pulled-thread smockery;
return us the
whole cloth we were.

Let the light bend
beautifully
into our blinking eyes
blinded by tiny needles'
broderie-anglaise tasked
to make order out of holes,
whitework fine-stitched over
vacant years by galled fingers 
in candled rooms 
too dark to see,
so at last we

are no longer terrified
by the corpse march
of  dawn after dawn
where we imagine
the uncaring dead
dance around us
potent,  grasping,
more alive
than our own blood.


~November 2013
 


broderie-anglaise detail, Broken Vows by Philip Hermogenes Calderon







Process notes: I mention in this poem three types of embroidery, described here:
"Whitework embroidery refers to any embroidery technique in which the stitching is the same color as the foundation fabric (traditionally white linen). Styles of whitework embroidery include most drawn thread work, [as well as] broderie anglaise...[which is] is a whitework needlework technique incorporating features of embroidery, cutwork and needle lace that became associated with England, due to its popularity there in the 19th century." via wikipedia




posted for     real toads
Kerry's Wednesday Challenge: Black and White
Kerry O'Connor asks us to think of the composition methods in black and white photography, and transmute them to a poem. I attempted to work with some of the concepts she presented, including high-key and low-key images, and her key words of" contrast, tone, mood, atmosphere, focal point, highlight, patterns, textures."


Images public domain via wikimedia commons

26 comments:

  1. Brilliant, Joy. Especially striking :
    "Let us unpick
    the pulled-thread pockery;
    return us the
    whole cloth we were."
    Oh how I wish!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This kind of work baffles me in its intricacies and the creator's persistence...wow.

    I love the reference to the needle as a "metal bee" and the blinding feeling in this phrase,

    "Let the light bend
    beautifully
    into our blinking eyes
    blinded by tiny needles"

    You've definitely gathered in the contrast, tone and texture with this poem.

    Excellent Hedge!! I enjoyed your creative and informative response.

    ReplyDelete
  3. smiles...i like the unpicking to get us back to the whole cloth...the making of order out of the holes as well...while i know nothing of embroidery, i like how you used it in this...cool piece hedge...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your first photo reminds me of my grandmother and all her childless sisters (collectively "the aunties") who left me many cutwork and drawn-thread pieces. I am older now than they were when I was born, and the thought of joining them some day is somehow comforting, except for the fear that they might continue trying to make me learn to play Bridge. Despite the bridge-playing, they are not at all the "uncaring dead".
    K

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It always amazes me that women of past times had the motivation to do such intricate, demanding things in their few hours of leisure--perhaps it was soothing to create something that didn't immediately have to be done over the next day. I agree on the comfort, and I'm glad your dead are less intimidating than mine. There are several I never want to meet again. Thanks, Kay.

      Delete
  5. I would cheerfully kill to have written those opening lines. Beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. On a recent trip to the island of Burano near Venice I saw the intricate lace embroidery of the older women there who work in teams, each woman specializing in a type of stitch. One piece takes 7 women two weeks to finish. But while your poem references this art it goes so far beyond and so much deeper into the fabric of life. It, too, is sleek with purpose.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This seems to me to be about the snipping of that last thread--either with scythe or hand scissor--or one of those three sisters--it is a wonderful to think that death could make whole the holes, as it were, or to get to a place where death is more lively than life. (Unfortunately, it is imagineable.) Interesting too that the killing things seem to have a purpose while the living/nuturing kind of go unmentioned! (Maybe I'm just naturally gloomy.) The use of the embroidery images makes me think of a certain sweatshop kind of life where this really may be the case. For me it's really the second stanza that was kind of the meat of it, though all very compelling, beautifully stitched. Agh. k .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I promise to write about the nurturing things another time, k. This was about death, but I wanted to use Kerry's concepts of contrast, and especially high and low key images. I don't know how that worked out as it seems a bit uneven, but your first premise is spot on about the Atroposian functions, and you never have to apologize to me for being naturally gloomy. ;_)

      Delete
    2. PS Thanks so much for your thoughts, as always. Hope your Thanksgiving is stressless and delicious.

      Delete
    3. I think you did get the high and low key images -- some much sharper than others--the quick metal bee and the blinding needles--down to the galling fingers (to me much quieter). The black and white is not only there in many of the images--and the references to dark and light, and the de La Tour kind of candle stuff--but there's a feeling of the grey scale between life and death--that part of the journey. It's not really a prompt-dependent poem. I'm thinking about the prompt but I don't know if I have enough focus for it, right now. Have a great Thanksgiving. k.

      Delete
  8. I'm always amazed by how you respond to prompts - usually with a poem that looks as though it has gestated for a long time. Mama Zen is right, that first stanza is a killer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mark. Yes, I wrote the bones of this earlier in the month, but the challenge gave me some excellent things to work with to develop it in this current form. First stanzas are often the most purely 'mused' to us, I think.

      Delete
  9. That ending made me think of something Poe wrote, but i can't seem to find it. Anyway, the sense of it was, that he often felt himself surrounded by the spirits of those loved ones who had departed life, until they seemed more real than anything else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://versiscape-lifesentences.blogspot.com/p/off-shelf_7.html

      I'm sure reading this ten times this month had something to do with this poem--thanks for pointing it out, Shay. Poe is a great source of insight into the subject discussed here.

      Delete
  10. What an amazing 'memento mori' with the colours of the world fading into night, the white cloth, the dark shadows. I think your metaphor of the drawn thread work to represent one's life in old age is inspired, not to mention the final lines. I imagine it will be so at the end, when one feels closer to the dead than the living.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kerry--an excellent prompt--it definitely gave this poem its final shape.

      Delete
  11. Yes, a brilliant response to the prompt, fresh and dazzling like moonlight on snow -- the work of embroidery is so much like writing a poem, abusing white space, dirtying speech, so that what is created is also that which is damaged, infused with absence, and, of course, death. In the dead of night only so much color survives, and ink laid there -- like embroidery -- has a beauty that can only be devastating. (Hmmm, is that what sleeplessness allows?) It's the holes in the pattern that make the embroidery compelling, the what black mouths are created there and what they're singing--dreadful work but someone's gotta do it. My wife uses antique lace for her custom bedding, she has oceans of it hanging in a closet. I think I can hear it mewing and ululating in that darkness now ... Singing perhaps of beds they once were endeared to, old marrieds, widows, estate sales. The dead head for oblivion but their voices are never quite silence. Really fascinating stuff, Hedge. - Brendan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agh! Lace! That's even more terrifyingly intricate--it does have beauty though, like death itself has simplicity and resolution as well as the deepest horrors injected from the Unknown. I like your analogy of poetry, or any art, being much the same, as is also the trying busy-ness of life, where we often work at intricate, repetitive quite decorative but empty tasks to disguise the holes in our lives with some sort of meaning, even if its only survival. Thanks for the feedback, B. Hope your mother is better, and your Thanksgiving calm and good.

      Delete
  12. whitework fine-stitched over
    vacant years by galled fingers
    in candled rooms
    too dark to see,

    Amazing that some of the most vivid imagery I've come across is in black and white!! Stellar Writing HW.

    ReplyDelete
  13. apparently your muse has taken up residence again of late, HW. I merely recapitulate those observations eloquently stated prior. wonderful pen ~

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love embroidery ... my mom has taught me some of that as well crocheting. There is something about creating art with your hands & needles, letting the cloth take shape & patterns. Wonderful metaphor here about returning to the cloth ... and the black & white images of dark vs light.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love, love, love that opening line! You did wonders with this prompt. Using lacework as a metaphor was brilliant. I'll never look at it the same way again!

    ReplyDelete
  16. .. 'let us unpick the pulled-thread smockery; return us the whole cloth we were' ~~ so hard to cover the tiny pin-pricks left behind. Amazing poetry, Joy.

    ReplyDelete
  17. My God. I love this. Will we ever find solace in that bent, indirect light? I really don't know.

    ReplyDelete

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