Monday, December 1, 2014

Blackbird's Funeral





Blackbird's Funeral


In the silent dower house
the lodging by the gate
through which
the black-plumed horses passed
so little and so late
a toll to pay
for all the clumsy
years lived as a wraith
in charity's cribbing walls,
for charity's careless fate,

no mourner stirs.
No handler comes
to crate the funeral meat.
Only the small ones gather and talk
in the clatter of wings and beak
of fur claw-thrown and heart-thud break
down in the windy bracken
of stone crust taken/never forgiven
of winter's hunger acorn bleak
of blue water gone dead dry

in summer's intimate heat.
In a moment's stare
the bare-handed tree 
made for small-clawed feet
will deafened reach, 
above will be blank
star eyes gone vague
in the shape of a face
random as clouds,
that instant she burns

in sheets of fire
thru the dower house gate;
a flutter of smoke,
an ash of a cinder
suddenly awake.


~November 2014






Image: december sky, copyright joyannjones 2014

21 comments:

  1. Greetings, all. Hope your holiday went well if celebrated, and your time the same if not. As you can probable tell, I did some writing while away. I don't know if I will jump back into the fray just yet as far as linking in to anything, but I may post a bit here and there. This one is just to keep Brendan company in his current ongoing conversation with death.

    See his Apologia here:
    https://blueoran.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/an-apology-for-my-little-book-of-the-dead/

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    1. Thanks Hedge, for cawing from this wire, for engaging the lively fray of the dead ... Nice bit of Poe black porridge to start things off (love those Hadean horses), turning to mourn a member of the boneyard's chorus, this blackbird ... Why aren't animals in heaven or hell, do they not have post-living pleasures and torments? We don't even ask the question ... No funeral for animals in the wild, no attention to their passing, when those specifics can offer precious solace. Here today, a collapsed yawn tomorrow--but most importantly and so contrary to our style of living and dying, on fire at the door. And whether one's whole existence is just that -- a magnificent flicker -- or is most meaningful at the moment of passing -- well, I applaud the roused cinder. Welcome it. Thanks Hedge, and great to see some fresh pulsing here. Loved the lead pic, there is a joyous affirmation to the living and the dreadful within it.

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    2. After reading your(unnecessary but illuminating) apology, I realized that I had been writing quite a bit on the same subject--I do think it's a part of our time of life, to come to grips with the bony intruder, but it's also a way of holding it a bit at bay at the same time, don't you think? Your point about the lack of panoply for animal deaths and such--their great blessing, I've always felt, part of the freedom that comes from not even knowing you will die. No need for an elaborate afterlife when this one is as forever as it gets. But really, this was about the non-human things/beings one has cared for being perhaps what misses one most on a real level, as well as the concepts you mention--we are here on Nature's ruthless charity, and perhaps that is all we will get in the end. Thanks for reading, B--and for writing on.

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    3. (Did this comment fail to go through the first time?) I sometimes wonder if humans made a ghastly mistake conflating the animal images on Lascaux's walls toward religion and art -- that both took the erroneous view that death was to be mastered, not celebrated. That we've been going wrong ever since those initial flashes of brilliant harmony. Figures. And this reckoning-with-death that seems to vapor eventually into the work -- it keeps us writing as much as it threatens to extinguish it. Maybe that's all the ledge we've ever been afforded, we just run out of false gods to give up. Makes for interesting poetry, though.

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    4. Well, we have to remember that the painters and hunters of Lascaux were not given very much time to sort *anything* out--death was a daily adversary and surely a most unwelcome guest when one had barely lived two or three decades--amazing that they celebrated and honored that interdependent duality as much as they did, really. For us, in our comparatively infinite lives, I think it's more of a mystery than a terror or a brutality, and that's why it sucks the ink out of our pens in its need for shaping, or at least addressing. It is maybe more ambiguous even than the (false, laughing) gods. Thanks for opening the basement door with me, B. (And this is the only comment I see--no trace of a ghostly predecessor.)

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    5. Thanks H. While we may have a "comparatively infinite" life, they had the advantage of drumming the same theme for, um, 30 centuries or so. Maybe Ginsberg was right when he said the first exclamation is the only worthy one. Some say we reached the spirit's full human potential in those Paleolithic caves -- nothing more, really, has been added since -- we bonked the wall in 10,000 BCE or so. And walked away, deciding just to master the world instead. I do prefer the refinement of a pen's angst to becoming a big cat's Whisker Lickins' treat, but I supposed my expression of must be that much more limited. False gods, Internet knowledge ... same crap, diff'rent day. Love that cold breeze.

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  2. Hi Joy! So great to have you back! The opening of this especially had a Dickinsonian feel to me--the horses' heads I guess turned to eternity -- or however that goes--here what I especially like is that you carry out the small details of the blackbirds' event, or this particular one's event, the tree for the small-clawed feet, the sense of what's tossed on the bracken being fit for beak--it feels almost like a blackbird's cremation at the end, but my thought is that blackbird's are so like cinders in life, it may be a bit difficult to determine--their flying upwards all ways is a bit of a like something gone up in smoke--here I think a big key is the dower house, which seems (kind of sadly) to imply that the death is not so much death as the commitment to a certain kind of family state--which can be a kind of harness indeed--so that this blackbird feels a bit like Cinderella only she is the cinders rather than the ella part. All interesting and beautifully musical and evocative. So glad you're back! Even out of the fray! k.

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    1. Thank you, dear k. I had a poetry anthology with me on vacation, and it was wonderfully freeing just to sit and read--like talking with old friends--and yes, of course, Dickinson was there as no anthology worth its salt would be without her. So maybe some influence--there are several points where there could be dashes, yes? ;_) You are right to fasten on the dower house, though the poem is meant more as a final freeing from it than death as continuing it--a fascinating concept, the monetizing of the wife that a dowry implies, and also, the tidy filing away of a woman/widow once her useful (reproductive) life was done.Thanks again so much for all your support, and your deep dives into what I hope is not a shallow pool that will hurt your head. :_)

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    2. Ha! Hardly! I came back to visit but on phone and on train so very messed up. I can see your point very well--but quite terrible to think of death as final freedom, but certainly, it is that way for many--one thinks especially for those dressed all in black--but others too. I am still at office and can't quite think straight, but wonderfully evocative poem. k.

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    3. I think death is hardest on the ones left behind sometimes--though of course, it is terrifying, too, but the older one gets, the more one realizes that living forever would not be as fun as it sounds when you're twenty. ;_) (Until they are able to give us the bodies of twenty-year-olds again, anyway.) I'm not in a rush to get there, though. It sucks that you were still at work at 8 pm last night--hope you got some rest.

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  3. I feel the shades of death here very strongly, in your word choices. You convey a sense of dormancy - a cessation of thought more than life.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to stop and read, Kerry--much appreciated.

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  4. hey you...what a treat...and gives me hope that we have not lost you forever...
    this has a rather haunting cadence, at least in how i read it...love the bluntness of
    funeral meat....at that point it is all that we are...the tree limbs/claw feet/deafened reach
    was a great run as well....

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    1. Oh you're not getting rid of me that easy ;_) Good to see you back, too, bri.Sometimes you just have to go find a quiet corner and chill, because writing is listening as much as it is talking, I think.

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  5. I've always admired the way animals crawl away to a secret place to die, as if not to trouble the living. After all, there's so much death of a sort in living already, punctuated by those intense or tiny sparks and flashes (of consciousness, awareness, joy, pain, whatever) that reveal life to us, and the poems that record those moments. Just read Brendan's Apologia--amazing.

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    1. Yes, a dive deeper than i am able to go there--and the many facets of his exploration are dazzling. I'm afraid I'm much less of a metaphysician about it all--one wants to just accept things for what they are, but first one has to come to some conclusions about what that may be, and that's the difficult part with death--it's all feeling, because you can't experience it in advance, or know it by doing it or any of the other methods we bring to life's knots and mazes. Why we have art, I guess. Thanks, Mark.

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  6. So great to read your work again. There is such a forlorn feeling to this. I think we all have our season of reflecting on death.

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  7. This is very haunting, and beautifully elegaic, to read. I especially love the tree for small-clawed feet....and the windy bracken. A wonderful write!

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  8. funeral meat. i just love that turn of phrase. as well, the final verse, the cinder now awake, all the irony implicit in that, as B notes, the flicker. (you've set up a lovely gate to his meander behind Orpheus, by the by - really, a tour-de-force he's unleashed).

    i'm so far behind in reading. a lifetime, I suppose. good to read you, H ~

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  9. Thinking of all the wonderful 55's you did. it's really very sad. k.

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    1. I know--very sad and unexpected, which seems to make it worse. Now if I write one, it will really be for the 'ghost of the G-Man.' He was special.

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