Thursday, April 17, 2014

Flicker


Flicker 

flick...flick...flicker the light

pianissimo...adagio...ripple the darkness


You stand at the door
of the elegant ballroom, head covered,
thin gown. You peek in.
Your face says you know
you're not just the maid who empties it,
you are
the chamberpot.












flick...flick...flicker the light

tap... tap... the drum


You are young in the long line of soldiers
your face shiny and new,
your mustache as convincing as
a  chalk mark on your lip.
You will bleed at the first
and die at the second shot;
it's all in the eyes of the woman
seeing you off.

flick... flick... flick...
flicker the light












In the garden of money and sighs
contrived as pom pom dahlias,
your mouth is a larkspur, open and
bending with life, your love is the seed that blows
in the wind and behind the wind
you hide the coming rain,
the storms that break trees.


flick... flick...
                                            flicker the light



At the society dog show packed
with blue ribbon poodles, tiaras and
dandelion tails, you are the bright-eyed,
the little laughing ferret
slinky and soft, let out of her cage by
an innocent, petted and dropped at the bite,
dead in a spaniel's mouth.


flick... flick... flicker
out the light

pianissimo...adagio...finale
in darkness.










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Kerry's Challenge: Silent Movies
Kerry O'Conner (Skylover, Skywriting) asks us to transform the non-verbal world of silent film into the very verbal one of poetry. As always, the word 'challenge' is completely appropriate. 




Process Notes: This poem just sort of happened, after seeing a video clip at Shay's Word Garden that she chose to accompany her own excellent poem, a montage of silent film stars who died young. I was taken with the face of Olive Thomas, who died in 1920 at 25 after accidentally or otherwise drinking her husband Jack Pickford's syphilis medication, mercury bichloride. Her rags to riches, party girl story is tragic in every sense, and prototypical of Hollywood. Her ghost is said to haunt the New Amsterdam Theater, where she began her career as one of the famous Ziegfeld Girls.








Photos: Olive Thomas, Jack Pickford, public domain
via google image search.


18 comments:

  1. I really don't know what to say. You have taken silence and given it such an emotive voice..Your work here moved me to tears.

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    1. Thank you, Susie. i feel we were writing from the same place in many ways.

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  2. This challenge befuddled me. Likely because I'm never internally silent so am unable to conjure up the necessary quiet to inhabit the space. :)

    The final line in the first stanza is a punch in the mouth (is it chamberpot, btw?)

    I like how you begin the third verse with "garden of money and sighs" - I interpret it as a variant / play on Bosch's "garden of earthly delights". That girl is trapped - I guess, forever, in the celluloid. Enjoyed this write ~

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    1. Gosh M--thanks so much for the heads up on the typo! And I read this dozens of times, with my glasses on, even. Thanks for reading, too, and catching the Bosch reference.

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  3. This does bounce with strange synergism when paired with Kerry's "Celluloid Kiss," not apparently from having read that poem as becoming similarly transfixed by silent film imagery. Old time is gold, its gilt free of present guilt; yet it is also a fallen Eden, and history is also, as suffering Stephan Dedalus said, the nightmare we can't wake from, the labyrinth there is no eccape from, though we try, though art gives us sort of wings to fly. There's something weird-moonish to the silver images of silent films, decayed and grasping at our feet as we walk by, as if buried histories are still unquiet. Old sins of the Jazz Age still fester; behind the Harlequin scripts the mouths were singing much different things. The structure of this poem bathes these images in incantory salts that will not let them emerge back to view without a certain dripping dreadfulness. Not freed from their history but awakening us from the official one. Wowsers.

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    1. Yes, I think the imagery, as Kerry says in her comment below, it's infinite otherwordly perfection and symmetry(no HDR there) dictate how we perceive these people and their soundless mumming shows--just one step past the strolling players stage, which is so tightly wound with the bardic, with the larger-than-life symbols and archetypes of pantomime, back to the shaman's blood sacrifice--rituals of purification and transcendence brought down to earth and sold--and the price the sellers pay for their innocent profaning is high.(Look at Norma Jean, let alone Miley Cyrus.).If anywhere in life illustrates that things are not what they seem, it's film. You may be interested to know that Olive died after a night of clubbing in Montparnasse, where surely some of the last sounds she heard were the new music of jazz, and also that she played the first flapper (in fact, the coining of the term is attributed to that film.) Thanks, B. I enjoyed your own very creative take on this theme very much.

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  4. Olive Thomas and her story have long fascinated me, so I'm excited and delighted that you chose her to write about. Indeed, her husband was Mary Pickford's not very impressive brother; Mary was supporting her entire family while still really a child. That, and her subsequent fame and popularity, probably rankled him. Anyway, what you have done here is really interesting and fresh, as well as being a pointed cautionary tale. I love the "flicker...flicker" inserts, and the poem is thick with a coming storm, not one of renewal, but of tragic destruction. I see you found the shot of her with the dog, and worked that in to your poem! It's early morning here and am not hitting on all cylinders yet, so forgive my rambling comment, but I adore this. First rate interpretation, Joy!

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    1. I was surprised by what I read about Mary Pickford and her amazing drive and gifts--organizing United Artists and so forth, and also remaining somehow above all the self-destructive excess going on in her world--her brother strikes me as the classic flawed and weak soul, but also as a victim--his behavior at Olive's death seemed genuine and as if he knew he was losing something more valuable than he ever realized, and not just a panic at the bad publicity, which I'm sure was, along with his own diseases, the beginning of the end of both him and his career--he was only 37 when the syphilis finished him off. Thanks Shay, for the inspiration your film clip gave me--do you remember the poem I wrote about Kiki of Montparnasse, who said all she needed was an onion and a bottle of wine, and someone would always give her that? Olive reminded me of her.

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    2. I *do* remember that, about Kiki! As for Mary Pickford, you're right, she was not only "America's Sweetheart", but she was a very tough and astute businesswoman.

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  5. wow. these are very cool snap shots....each one an intricate study of the person....the chamberpot...eww...not a good feel....seeing his death in the eyes of the woman seeing him off...the ferret woman set free/dead in spaniels mouth....cool character sketches hedge

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  6. There is something almost other-worldly about their faces, these men and women of the silent movies. I flipped through so many pictures last night and couldn't get over their symmetrical perfection and ethereal delicacy. I love the way your scenes flicker on the screen, with some interruptions as the projector overheats or celluloid snaps, and the audience waits patiently while the film is re-threaded on a slightly different scene. It says something of the brevity of both the genre and the lives of so many who died before they turned 40, yet each is immortalized in the annals of human consciousness.

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    1. Thanks, Kerry. It's not often a prompt produces what I feel to be one of my if not best, personal-favorite poems, and I am very grateful to have been able to write this--it really was as if those images got inside my head and spoke to me. I agree, these images are larger than life.

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  7. This is breathtaking! How you've broken it up with the flickering of the light, the sometimes harsh comparisons - just all of it! Beauty in words and such an epic take on the prompt! I am, as always, in awe!

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  8. This is something special, Hedge.

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  9. I've held my hand over the screen so as not to see until I get mine in order. Just letting you know why I haven't stopped by. k.

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    1. I completely understand--and there's no schedule to worry about here, k. ;_)

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  10. She's so cute (held her hand over the screen :) I read the poems three times, and all the comments - gazed at all the photos - just didn't' want to leave. I remember spending hours in the library two blocks down from my grandmother's house and I would always go to the section with books about old movie stars … the black & white photographs "spoke" to me in some way… I would spend Saturday mornings watching for hours all the old movies. This just is one of my favorite posts… You outdid yourself.

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  11. Agh. Well I should have read it first! I've gone completely plebian--this is wonderfully inspired. You are very gifted at looking at a picture and making a poem from it, and it is such a wonderful gift as there is a very big world of pictures out there--of course, you make them your own, but in a very wonderfully inventive way. This has very much the cut scene montage of old silent films, and especially the fate foretold in the expressions. I have to say that my favorite is the second about the soldier, which does not seem to exactly fit into a narrative of Olive Thomas, but very much fits into a narrative of Hollywood film--when we see the eyes of the maiden left behind, we know the soldier's fate, and the details that you have are so terribly poignant--the chalk mark mustache and the first and second shot--and we know it is Hollywood and yet this is also a time that knew World War I so it rang true in a certain terrible way. The other parts are also terrific--the first so funny and mordantly unfunny and the last so funny and mordantly unfunny, and throughout there is a poignancy about the woman's flattened-out plight - the cuts work just so well. And the music and the candle light to flame of flicker. I can understand that this would be a personal favorite--it has such a great sense of humor as well as the poignancy.
    I have to say though that my sympathy somehow wanders not towards the true Jack Pickford who sounds pretty awful, but for the stupid soldier. Great stuff. k.

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