Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snakes Across Monet's Last Lilies


Snakes Across Monet's Last Lilies




Memory, the circled snake
is a hoop that binds 
the rolling barrel even as 
it smashes on the rocks.

Love I tell you
is a grape that's dried
into a raisin, twice as sweet
but nothing like it was.

Everything is shining
with a light of blurs and halos,
each pinhole star enlarged
and yet more vague;

a wash of blue-green shadow
floating fingered bolls of cotton,
meant for water, gardens, lilies:
all Monet's last brush, blind color on
the ghostly dregs of form.

So time has had its way
with these and every thing
a wrecking that becomes uncertain rapture
for every shape that's salvaged

for every bird-note sharpened,
pulled loose in one fuzzed-peach 
piece from dawn
disintegrating
at our feet.



~November~December 2014







Images: Water Lilies, 1899, by Claude Monet
Water Lily Pond, Evening, 1926, by Claude Monet
Public Domain via wikiart.org

17 comments:

  1. "A wrecking that becomes uncertain rapture / for every shape that's salvage": that seems to me to be the end- and perhaps master-work, what comes after because there's no ahead. The first stanza for me so echoed Rilke's 13th sonnet to Orpheus, second book: "Be the crystal cup that shattered / even as it rang." How? To be forever dead in Eurydice, to winter through the endlessly winter. There's an Augustan shine here, deep in the center ground of tone, maybe like the iron loops of that barrel, or the snakes that have begun filling Monet's canvas. For me, that's evidence that the dark is shining through, that the invisible story is most evident now. It was always a love song, yes, but as Jack Gilbert says, love lasts by not lasting. Great stuff, Hedge. You've been sorely missed. (If it's gotta be LTTP, its always worth the wait.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, B. the dark encroaches, yet it also shines--is it only a reflective/reflexive glow, or is there truly something within that is keeping the ultimate secret of light until the very end?--afa the myth, I wonder how Eurydice felt, myself. Fairly easy, very human to imagine oneself in the agonized failure of Orpheus, but was she sorry or relieved that he failed, had death been kind to her, sitting on Hades' right hand in his palace of unending solace, did she flinch just a little at the thought that, even with love, life's work would suddenly have to be taken up again, with all it's trial and pain? It's a very deep urn of wyrms you've opened up, B. Enjoying the resultant mental froth of serpentine chaos unleashed. There's a very similar Norse take on this concept concerning Baldr, also replete with conditions and trickery.
      Delete

      Delete
    2. I wonder if the ultimate secret of light is the very darkness if fends ... that the interior paramour was always paramount in our life's path and work ... "Be forever dead in Eurydice" was one line from Rilke in his sonnets, as if that was as close to true north as the artist could get. Embracing the snakes. And yeah, Eurydice might have found it greatly offensive to return to the upper world of touch (don't we all retreat from physical intimacies over time?). ... I found the Hermod tale fascinating, first that he travels to Hel by going north and under, exactly where Oran swam in his 3-nights journey, to the Land Under the North. Also, the condition he was given for bring brilliant Baldr back to the land of the living (like returning far-shining Apollo from the land of the Hyperboreans) was that Hermod had to make BOTH the living and the dead weep for Baldr, which is an almost impossible task, if you believe that one world is the exact opposite of the other ... how to make both realms weep? Perhaps that is why the advice of a poet a read long ago -- A.S. Asekoff -- is so true: "Avoid what tempts. Trust the difficult." Read things from their depths. Live the metaphor. Dying resurrects. Victory defeats. Only in such midgrounding of the voice can both the living and dead cry Awwww. Or something.

      Delete
    3. Yes, the model of what is lost being so much more impactful and precious than anything else found--except of course, as in your Orpheus poem the other day, at the very end, when it is finally integrated and sings its last-act transcendent chorus from the finale within. Baldr was, like Eurydice, much beloved, and his loss was one of the signals of the ragnarok, when so much more would be lost, though lost not helplessly, but in a great battle of light versus dark, which is all we can do to know which is which. Still lost, though, and fated so, like that turn of the head that could not be helped. I always find it most comforting that Odin and Thor and all the others fought for the world of life anyway, knowing they were going to die. Thanks as always for the conversation, B. I have put up a poem from last year that continues this theme a bit.

      Delete
  2. This is exquisite. The line breaks are really striking (particularly peach / piece), and the second stanza . . . well, I can't imagine that put any better.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love is like a raisin...I loved the entire picture.

    ReplyDelete
  4. that second stanza..it is the one i went back and read...it felt honest and almost like the narators direct voice without the frills just is....nice close as well...its a reckoning...in that disintegrating dawn...

    ReplyDelete
  5. it's the form you've made, too: the concrete (amazing) tropes in each of the first two stanzas, each so vivid, leaping up and grabbing the reader (well, me) by the throat - then the blurring, unwinding, until the final disintegration. Love is a grape-cum-raisin. Well, call me grapeling, cuz I'm all dried out.

    https:/grapeling.wordpress.com/ (looks like blogger still won't take open id...) ~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Raisins are a good thing, M--lots more iron concentrated in them, and sweeter---your ID seemed to come through--I don't know what blogger is up to lately. I have no dashboard reader anymore(blogs I follow don't show up) and various widgets have become inoperable. I blame devices! (And of course, the evil windows h8) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and very glad you're writing again despite all challenges.

      Delete
  6. The whole poem is wonderful but I agree that the second stanza is especially compelling-- memorable and apt -- just a great metaphor , even unto the dried darkness. The rapture lines -- the wreckage that is a rapture also Very intriguing -- one thinks of An uplifting as in the rapture as well as a wrapping up as well as a certain joy that one has been and has somehow uplifted. I especially like the confidence of the voice as in phrases like "I tell you." Thanks . K.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Joy--I wrote the comment above late last night on my phone, but came back here this morning and saw that it hadn't "taken"--it was still stuck in some kind of captcha land - so got it to post without re-reading it. Then looked again more carefully at the poem. I realize that I did not focus at all on the title or on the two images you supplied so (per usual) I read it for its general truths without following the specific story line as it were. (You might at some point think about clarifying the title somehow--maybe specifically referring to both paintings, were you to publish it without the images.) It is so very interesting to read in the light of the pics, and I'm sorry not to have focused on this before as I can see how specifically ekphrastic the poem is, and how it writes of all aging but of the specific aging here in such a tender and wonderful way--what a very cool comparison-- it made me focus especially on the blind color on the ghostly dress of form--such a great line anyway--perhaps especially powerful to someone like me with fear-inducing vision issues. But your description of how time has affected the water lilies (like it affects all) has especial meaning if one really only read the words in their literal senses! There is a feeling in that second painting of a falling at the right side, like a water fall, and of course the disintegration of dawn (or dusk)--anyway, I'm so glad I look at this on my computer as of course, it's bigger than the phone. (I am staying with a friend right now, so don't retrieve my computer in the same way somehow as my things are a big packed away at moments.) Anyway, I really urge other readers to read the title! (Ha!) And actually think of how it relates to the poem. It seems to me there are a lot of little raisins in the late painting. k. (It's manicddaily and I'm not even going to try to assert that ID at this point as this comment too will be stuck somewhere for days.) k.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant to say the two images you supplied so SWEETLY and the per usual relates to my usual glossing over of things like titles. k.

      Delete
  8. I'm sorry to be so incoherent--I swear it is my eyesight not just my snake-ridden mind. The barrels are busting! k.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a way, this poem was about failing vision, and what might supersede it--(mine is also worse every year, and will at some point in time require surgery--)but it was also about the way time has blurred so many more things than my(and Monet's I feel) eyes. I was not looking at these paintings when I wrote the poem, but they just floated into it from times when I had, so not sure if it is purely ekphrastic--but definitely influenced. The contrast between those first Impressionist but still well-defined water lilies, and the completely abstract treatment in the second painting, which to me is purely about color, as if one could only see that and not shape any more, just struck me as what the dubious clarity of age induces, I think. It's a clarity of blurred things, changed things which their original form still somehow haunts. Anyway, thanks as always for the in-depth reading, and you are no more incoherent than I am, ;_) Sorry about the openid blogger issues.

      Delete
  9. If you haven't seen these paintings in the flesh, I wish I could transport you there, for they are... well, they might be Monet's best. And they're very large, and they fill the whole room they are exhibited in. They take your breath away. But whether you've seen them this way or no, your poem certainly does them justice. It's so beautiful. And I deeply value your conversation with Brendan. Both of you help sustain me artistically and I would even say spiritually in a very bad season in America.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mark. AFA seeing these two paintings, I don't believe so, though I have seen the Monet collection at the Chicago Art Institute and there are two very similar ones--as you know he painted dozens of takes of this subject--and they are indeed paintings to take your breath away--and to remember, as it's been forty years at least since I saw them. Real art is like that--unforgettable, alive in the mind, and goes with you on your journey. Thanks again, and I too value this conversation we all have, as well as the words and support of you both, which mean more to me than I can ever convey.

      Delete
  10. The entire thing is one of your best, a precisely written, coherent whole that just leaves a reader impressed and satisfied, but those first 8 lines in particular are spectacular.

    ReplyDelete

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