Monday, October 13, 2014

Bulldance



Bulldance




I dreamed your ghost again, alone
forlorn in a maze of trees,
inapposite, a minotaur in need of stone
off-balanced by the forest wind's trapeze.

I'd followed a red string that dripped and flexed
into the tangled center of leaf-carved night
to where you shook and stood perplexed,
a myth at bay gone blind in its own light.

I couldn't tell if it was the ruin no one knows
or the run of your own blood that drove you mad,
or if madness was a thing you chose
to put on like a change of clothes,

a bulldance where the shadows tense and leap
through the hoop of horns you had to wear.
Still, I wiped your bleeding shoulders clean
with the wheatstraw tumble of my hair.

White eyes wide, you gave your fur-soft back;
mounting there I rose on salt-slick skin
out of the labyrinth to the grandstand roar
where the faceless picadors closed in,

where there's no dance, only the fight to win,
where you and I would part to  meet no more.


~November 2014




posted for     real toads
Open Link Monday




Image: Bull-leaping Fresco from the Minoan Palace at Knossos
currently displayed at the Herakleion Museum in Crete
Public domain via wikimedia commons


24 comments:

  1. nice...i like the play on the minotaur and the maze...the red string also made me think of following the blood...a myth at bay gone blind in its own light....heh, i like...and in this day and age they would probably put it on pay per view....ready to see which one walked away

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  2. The beginning echoed that song for me--Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust?--(but in a good way)--because there is a lot of music in this poem and that sets the tone of remembrance. This is a new favorite, really. One rarely feels sorry for the minotaur, but here, he seems bemused, mazeless--or without his stone maze, and the red thread that is like, I think, what Ariadne gave to Theseus to get out of the maze and away from the minotaur now leads to him, with a woman narrator--she seems like a narrator--coming to him. So it feels a bit like Ariadne's apology, as if the minotaur has now been thrown out and will be given the bull ring-- And Ariadne has come back for him following a thread like sinew--

    I am putting my own narrative in there, but I do like that sense of reversal--there's great poignancy--particularly in the description of what made the bull so bull-like/mad--something in his nature, or something put on--and a kind of understanding for it--which beyond the Ariadne myth feels very human on a more quotidian level--forgiveness for the person who may even be kind of a bully in certain ways, crazed at least, but can't quite seem to help it and is so very wounded as a result (even when wounding). Anyway--many very memorable and poignant details==re the madness and the climbing on the back especially, I thought--so tactile there. Also the end reminded me rather of a family or couple's argument--where the parties can be quite vicious when aimed at each, but will join forces when faced with the attack of the greater world. Thanks. k.

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    1. Forgive me for the Pinocchio nose here, but i deliberately saved Karin's comment for *after* my own, and now I see so much more in the poem. I knew what a minotaur was(in appearance) but didn't know the story of the maze or the thread or Ariadne and Theseus. Now i do! (but i still feel for your minotaur.)

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    2. @FB: karin is so good at seeing all the layers--she even makes me see things I did not consciously know I was doing sometimes.
      @K: As usual, you have picked up on everything I intended--you might have known the person in my past who came up in the dream that inspired this, you describe him so perfectly. Thank you so much for the attention and involvement you always bring to reading my work.

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  3. I'll admit, Sunny Meadowlark here was hoping for a happier ending; I thought they might make each other stronger and win the day. So ya broke my heart with your killer poetry again, Hedge.

    The language and the magic of the wording here is up to your highest level. The wind's trapeze, the tender gesture with the wheatstraw hair, the wide white eyes (oh could I see that, immediately) and the way you describe his back and getting on, are all just first rate.

    I admired and also felt bad for your bull/minotaur in all his strength, stoicism and looming ruin. He seemed to me bewildered and world-weary, but still possessed of his natural power nonetheless. I loved how the speaker treated him so tenderly and was drawn to join with him, and how that was shown not in prettified images but in earthy and heartbreaking ones.

    The final reference to the damned picadors of course calls up the idea of a bullfight--as opposed to the masterful title Bulldance--and imo, there is not a more brutal "sport" in the world this side of dog fighting. It's ceremonial murder, and I say that not merely to get up on my soap box, but because it seems to me that the reader can infer that this bull has been murdered in a way already--by being taken from or becoming lost from his natural element.

    Well, I know you don't like lonnnnggggg comments, so I'll hush now, but goodness, I sure liked this.

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    1. Thanks so much for this comment--it could be a page longer and I would still love and appreciate it. Yes, I wished for a happier ending too, but that wasn't the story that life told, no matter what we worked for or deserved, in this case. Your point about ceremonial murder is exactly what I was going for with the transition from the demi-god in the center of the Mysteries worshiped with a dangerous and inclusive dance, and the brutal goading and slicing of a bull ring. Thanks for this, Shay, and for linking me in because of the storm.

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  4. I love this new view of an old myth, particularly for its sympathy for a being myth demonized when he was also a prisoner and forced to his obscene diet. Sympathetic touch enroute to slaughter is the least that beast deserved, and I love the touches--the salty sweat and slick fur:
    "Still, I wiped your bleeding shoulders clean
    with the wheatstraw tumble of my hair." WOW.

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  5. After such full comment what remains to be said.. taking the bull's point of view.. the resemblance to the Minotaur myth, his end so sad. I had hoped for an end more like from the Story of Ferdinand the Bull... in Sweden that's a tradition to watch the Disney version each Christmas. The bull might be happier in his prison than to fight to death for some artificial glory of a bullfight.

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    1. Thanks, Bjorn--I appreciate the sidelight on Ferdinand as well. I have a personal tradition of watching the Rocky Horror Show every Christmas. ;_)

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  6. PS - I wanted to agree with FB that really love the trapeze rhyme and wheat straw hair tenderness--especially fitting for a bull- and the name has this rather amusing double-edge--because, you know, it isn't really a dance they are set up for. k.

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    1. Tenderness is something that is evoked, for me, not always my first response, or even a very natural tendency in a reserved and (at the poem's stage in my life) disillusioned Capricorn--this person literally saved me at a very bad time, and though he had so many problems, it has always served as an illustration to me that even the craziest and most damaged people can do valuable, vital, loving things. I'm so gad you got this, k--thanks again for you insight.

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  7. This is such slick poetry, Hedge. There is so much to this age-old tale - the twists and turns of fate, the paths we follow, the ones we lean on, the part played by the crowd, and at last the sense of loss. What a metaphor for life.

    I love so many of your lines and phrases but the concluding epigram will stay with me for a long while.

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    1. Thanks, Kerry--so glad you liked it, and extra thanks for taking the time to read after a hectic month and busy weekend.

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  8. My knowledge of the myths is too inadequate to comment in a truly informed manner but I can at least acknowledge the beauty of your language and the poignant mingling of memory, loss and desire. Ariadne's thread here seems to be a living blood-like fiber that never really leads nor connects but keeps the drama in place, forever. Beautiful writing.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mark. Praise indeed from a poet like yourself. You might enjoy the novels which retell the Theseus(and Ariadne) myth, The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea, by Mary Renault, a post WWII gay writer who wrote some classic historical novels based on both myth and history--they are both literature, and a great read. I read them in high school, and they still haunt my dreams, as this poem shows.

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  9. I could dance to your poem. And this would be my favorite steps:
    "a bulldance where the shadows tense and leap
    through the hoop of horns you had to wear."

    You have such a gift for feeding new life into old myths. I love it. ♥

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    1. Thank you, Magaly. You do it rather well yourself! I enjoyed your anti-columbus day poem much.

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  10. Ooh, how very deliciously dark and tangled. It pulls my heartstrings in a note akin to a touch of Poe. The lines "a myth at bay gone blind in its own light" struck quite an image! Beautiful work. Cheers.

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  11. Stanza 4 struck me as completely empathic and loving, a recognition of the bull's significant personal challenges. Succor is given, kindly, gently, irrespective of past or future.

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  12. Hi Joy Ann,
    I haven't been here for a long time to read you.I have been hiding, it is so much more comfortable. I am as always never disappointed. Your imagery and words combined are a wonderful journey. Bullfighting is still legal here and I often wonder what is the attraction? I have a student whose father was a matador. She loves the game?, not sure if that is right.

    Also, I understand the most damaged and craziest people saving you from yourself at just the precise moments.

    Thanks for writing this,
    Pamela ox

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  13. "Inapposite" is what set the conceit of this bull-dance into motion, turning or troping the myth of the Minotaur from one perspective into another--maybe ancient into contemporary, or simply going into even deeper regions of the myth that we have slowly, painfully evolved into. I mean, the virgins were sent into the Labyrinth to feed the unholy bull-son of King Minos ... Yet, according to Karl Kerenyi in his monograph on Dionysos, the trick to surviving the Labyrinth of Daedalus was to make such a decisive turn in the center, that only by doing so one found the counterclockwise spiral passage leading up and out. (It also helped to see the design from above, as Icarus might have flying up and away; that's why you find the labyrinth doodled just about every way, an old-school Rubik's Cube). But back to the trope in this savagely gentle (or is it the other way around) poem, where the speaker as Ariadne leads us to and through with acts of kindness for the monster within, a forgiving gesture: It isn't enough to to save any of us from history (personal and collective)--the slaughter of the bulls in the ring continues (and bad love will forever shine darkly with siren allure)--but the divine seems to be returned to those magnificent creatures the leapers of ancient Crete had learned to dance with. The balancing act of the rhyme and meter accord perfectly with the skein that leads us through the poem, and as the turn in the middle is surprising, the ironic turn for the worse at the end give us pause for inaposite applause. The world is still stuck deeply in the first course and curse of the labyrinth--it keeps the lonely cowboys crooning at the moon. Thanks for taking this ancient elixir of myth off the shelf for a fresh whiff, Hedge. Wonderful.

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    1. Yes, minotaurs--are they still pertinent? Yet I've met several. Talk about existential angst. ;_) Perhaps I've gentled up my minotaur a bit here--not much of a virgin-devourer as he stands and shakes in the dark. I disagree about not saving *any* of us from ourselves, from our personal dark,, because I think as many are saved as fall, and perhaps the speaker could only save herself, yet crucial help was given from the one who fell--a selflessness of the damned one doesn't expect. And perhaps all the redemption they have.

      Anyway, I was struck by your point about the 'decisive turn in the middle'--seems extremely appropriate. Without both the turn and the decisiveness itself, one remains lost. I think the ancient mind found puzzles and mazes a lot more significant than the toys of idle time for which we emply them--I've been reading the Prose Edda, and in the Skaldskaparmal Sturluson begins going through 'the kennings'--fanciful,metaphorical ways of referring to gods, men, objects and natural forces--they require so many frames of reference and bits of memorized arcane lore, that each phrase is itself a puzzle, some simple and some tortuous. I think of a bunch of mead-sodden fighters listening to this in the feast hall, and clapping each other on the shoulder when they figure out that 'raven-beer' is blood--fairly basic, or 'the river's elf-disc' or 'sun of gold' refers to treasure hidden in the water, or that the 'sea-thread's father' is Loki, parent of the Midgard serpent. It's fascinating as any Rubik's cube--more so if your puzzles of preference are words.'. Poetic license doesn't even begin to go there. ;_) Thanks for reading, B, and for your in depth and insightful thoughts on the piece.

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  14. Really masterful work, Hedge. Visceral and incredibly visual.

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  15. but for you and a few others, I would hesitate to muddy the term 'epic', yet here it is, compact, incisive and insightful, heroic (and in this modern age, anti-), plumbing our collective mythos, glittering and yet accepting of the doom we all face when a-mazed. a gem ~

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