Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Exercise in Metaphor

Exercise in Metaphor

Under the trashcan my rosemary lies, concealed to
endure bleeding hell in this intractable garden,
so far removed from your wild conception as a weed
for Aphrodite’s aromatic cloak, spun of the sky god’s seed,
living dew of that Attic sea from which the goddess rose
before Athens, white limbed and cold as fear.

You were her mantle of living warmth, austere.
You lived on sea spray and sun in the maritime dunes,
wild and free as the piping of Pan.
Your  needles mimic tongues philosophers ran
standing where grey pillars capped words of gold
now debased and traded from your native land.

You eke out your life a  commodity of man
in each fold of this foreign world that seeks your savor,
still giving your pale shy flowers to each rutting bee.
Here you’re made to stand against the burning dree
of American days, feet bound in clay unaccounted,
damped with calcareous tepid water shorn of salt.

When hard times come, I cage and darken you in a vault,
make you winter a cold that wracks your bluegreen bones.
Wind sucks them dry and bleeds you like a blade.
Still in death you give what’s asked from what you’ve made,
that undying and remembrance laden scent
that releases mnemonic prisoners from their cells.

But all’s forgotten now of what your fragrance tells;
how once you were the herb of bygone alchemists
boiled to bouillion in precise alembic wells;
for sweet union men once begged those body-spells.
Your arms were crowns in countless high endeavors.
Even crushed in death your juniper lingers.

Tonight the front freights down with frozen fingers.
Blue express of oblivion, dark wailing wind.
Across millenniums still the sky god gives and takes.
I bind you in  burlap, secure the shroud it makes,
cover you with a  plastic catafalque
meant for the dregs and detritus I buy,

and your last freedom, daughter of the sky,
is to choose if it’s better to live like this or die.

January 2011 

This is my entry for OneShotWednesday, at the inimitable OneStopPoetry

Image 1: West Front of the Parthenon, Edward Dodwell, 1821, Views from Greece
Image 2: Rosemarinus officianalis


  1. WOW! What a poem from a wintering clump of rosemary! So many wonderful images and lines, I was rivetted all the way through. And the last two lines speak, Sister-Woman: whether it's better to live like this or die.

    This poem packs a wallop. It is brilliant, and wonderful. I love it! SO MUCH!

  2. hedgewitch,
    I am speechless, this is a fabulous poem.
    The images created here are breathtaking.

  3. I'll have you know that I paused Warren Zevon singing "Ain't That Pretty At All" in order to read this. Uh huh, that should swell your head right there. ;-)

    You took what would seem to be a very small subject and made it sing, true and deep, woman. All of it is first rate, but the third stanza and the final 8 lines just blew me out of my chair. You should be proud of this. Me, I think the Goddess tossed me a bone, letting me be lucky enough to read such a talented poetess's work.

  4. I like the way you've personified and personalized your rosemary bush. You celebrate its life with your words - it's a rare gift to feel so close to another life form, to be so empathic towards its struggle. A very nice piece!

  5. what a thunderstorm of imagery - loved the alchemists boiled to bouillon and living on sea spray..hmmm...nice

  6. Bravo! When you begin to address through you and your in 2nd stanza, the poem kicks into high gear. This wasn't the typical "exercise in metaphor"; more like the cross-training P90X version! The use of mythical allusion resonates throughout, albeit more subtle after the beginning. Write on, hedgewitch!

  7. I will have to comment when I have proper time to do your poem justice...

  8. Pretty darn good. Your ability to work with metaphor, if you needed to show it, is excellent (just watch those mixed metaphors hehe).

    Are you on Facebook? I run a Group/discussion board specifically for poets to post and give/receive constructive crit/honest feedback in a collaborative environment of kindred spirits. The Facebook Groups platform serves us pretty well. That is were I learn how to write poetry; my blog is just where I showcase my most polished work. If I had t ditch one, the blog would go every time. I only invite people theses days who I think might benefit/fit in/be of a level of proficiency where they wouldn't feel in over their head. The link to the Group is on my blogroll, you're welcome.

    Warm regards


  9. ps some people get a FB account (under a pseudonym, no info, no real pics up) purely for the poetry scene on there. It is immense- hundreds of groups, all shapes and sizes, thousands upon thousands of poets, all abilities. Can't remember what I used to use FB for before I discovered it all...

  10. @Luke Not too sure how great I'm doing with metaphor, since no one seems to be getting the understory I had in mind on this one. ;-) I'll respond to the FB stuff elsewhere--thank you for the invitation.

  11. Well it's about aging, is it not? About being less than one was, reduced from what one started out to be, whether it's talking aboout a woman or a society. Do I move on to the bonus round or do i get "thank you for playing" and a boot in the ass?

  12. @FB You get a cookie or cigar, whichever you prefer--or both.(an oreo for aging and a Montecristo Cuban for society.) Hopefully others may have got it too and just not mentioned it.

  13. Many amazing images in this poem! I feel just stupid not having enough vocabulary to praise your 'exercise' in metaphor.

    You reminded me of famous selfish people who, losing power and status decided to put an end in their lives. It's all about choices.

    Kiss you sweetheart!

  14. live like this or die... difficult choice-
    great metaphor

  15. This is a beautiful heart wrenching story. We are in the middle of putting my husband's grandmother in a home. She has led this amazing life and now she is small and at the mercy of others. This poem summed all those emotions up. Exquisite

  16. Your style always blows me away. Such rich and deep imagery; you manage to sum up half a novel's worth of description in each elegant stanza.

  17. Very nicely done; great ambivalent musings on oppression and captivity.

  18. i humbly bow...beautiful descriptions and too many great lines to settle on one to praise you for...this is top notch...

  19. You brought the story full circle. It works extremely well on all three levels. Literal: the plant & its history; civilization and it's run possibly to ruin; and the individual from being packed into the garbage can (read nursing home) to choosing to live degraded alone or die. I think this is heavy duty poetry friend of mine. Mr. Stevens would be proud to know you! Thanks for this. I like Shay am overjoyed just to be able to read it. Gay

  20. To me this is the perfect description of beauty ageing and the despair over its leaving. Really powerful.

  21. Ah, the Greeks. I should have had "Throat of Winter" playing instead of this "Whom The Moon a Nightsong Sings" (highly recommended by the way) to fit the tone.

    Great work here, the wonderful tapestry above (the plant) and then the real meat and potatoes underneath (open to interpretation I see!), as it should be. Another fantastic job with this one, but then I would expect nothing less.

  22. lady that was an awesome lace of words... fabulous imagery! Loved it

  23. A lovely filigree of imagery

  24. Amazing to take something so commonplace and turn it into an epic poem.

  25. Rutting bees~! I'll never look at bees in the same way again...LOL~

    This poem is heavy with layers....the classical, the culinary, the ordinary (in the best sense)....a marvelous poem, a pagan (is that the word?) to something so 'ordinary' but in the same sense...extraordinary. Perhaps it's just the poet.

    Marvelous poem, and again, and again. The classical strain is wonderful...lifts it in a super sense.

    The projection of the lines is full steam ahead, there is no stumble in your rhythm.

    Wonderful....and did you know a distillation of rosemary poured on the rinsed hair is a rinse that makes it stronger and shine like the sun?

    Lady Nyo...looking at her gigantic plant at the gate with new eyes....

  26. Not only an exercise in metaphors, but full of lessons, too.

    The last two lines...how they hurt and cut and bind the entire poem - but not in burlap, something much much finer.

  27. "wild and free as the piping of Pan.
    Your needles mimic tongues philosophers ran"

    Love this metaphor - you give new meaning to the Rosemary bush...the whole piece is wonderful...the last line - one to remember....bkm

  28. Once a young life, rich and useful and full of wonder and appreciation. Now rememberance grows old and frail and life isn't what is used to be. Shall she linger in maturity or let go?

    Filled with so many fine images. I had to read it three times to breath it all in and make it mine. Simply beautiful. Job well done. A gift. Thank you! I was totally enthralled.

  29. I am sore and tired from all that excercise. I read it aloud with an english accent. A rosemary called by any other name is still a rosemary...but embelished with metaphorical
    endurance it is one heck of a rosemary! Well done.

  30. Gripping imagery in this metaphor, great descriptions and, extra points with the greeks as a backdrop. A potent tale of life, from beautiful roots to embattled end...

    Particularly hard-hitting ending. Powerful, and true.

  31. Thanks for fishing the seas of metaphor, all, and coming up with so many great catches. I appreciate all the kind comments, and your time and thoughtful input. It means a lot.

  32. I, who think I could snag words from snowflakes, am at a loss here to express how awed I am with this poem: how you bring down Olympus' gods and goddesses to help us know a weed, how you give it life invoking not only its name but its fragrance, how you follow her through that life because she lives through your hands, how in hard times, you "cage and vault her to winter a cold...", how you lovingly bind her "in burlap, secure the shroud it makes"...and make her choose her freedom. Wow, Joy, I love it! Thank you!

  33. What to say after all have been said! It is just MIND BLOWING, how you weaved the words into a magnificent pattern of perfection!
    So into it!

  34. first of all what a brilliantly written poem...after i read it the first time i then like to read the comments..then read it a second and comment and so forth..you however set me a challenge with your reference to the underlying metaphor...i have seen so many things in this..politics.. disillusion in your current government, mother earth and its betrayal, the ozone layer, man and his weakness, war and its destruction...the poem was a wonder of webs that has had me exploring...well done coz thats what a great poem does..its stays with you and wont let you go...well done...pete

  35. This was music. I especially liked, "When hard times come, I cage and darken you in a vault," Well done.

  36. I had to Google up Rosemary and see what it is/was used for. I wanted to know what the references it had to mythology and practical uses it contains as a herb.

    Once I had read that base information much of the metaphor was stripped away. One use (first verse the reference to bleeding) is to ease the pain associated with menstruation.

    But I also see where you almost curse your metaphorical symbol for becoming a commodity for buying and selling and how that it rebels in America. (not enough salt in the water)

    You say the rosemary is metaphorical for society and aging. I have to go with that because you wrote it but I see it as a more than that. I see the metaphor of the rosemary trying to survive the winter contained in objects meant for trash and I think I see a VERY strong statement of environmental quality here.

    Very Very Nicely done.

  37. Once again you amaze me with your stories within a poem. So many things come to mind, Paul Simon's 'parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme..." and specifically how your poem took me to that earlier time when life was (supposedly) simpler.

    The circle of life from seedling to protection
    from the elements (world) to inevitable death...or is it? Seedlings spring from that life which remains.

    I await the sequel...Romemary's Baby (Sorry, bad joke)...

    So many special phrases but this is one of many I enjoyed.

    "when hard times come, I cage and darken you in a vault,
    make you winter a cold that wracks your bluegreen bones."

    As always, I enjoy your work and thank you for visiting my site as well...

  38. Everything I want to say about this, someone else beat me to it, it seems. This is so amazing. I feel like typing my comments in upper case. I'm always amazed at that beautiful herb, how she survives the most bitter winters and the wonderous scents and flavors she shares with us. I think this needs to be published. I also enjoyed the mythological references. I wish I'd written this.

  39. I have to tell you that I initially misread the first line as "under the trashcan my ROSARY lies." Talk about not getting it the first time!

  40. All I can say is, outstanding.

  41. This is amazing and precisely the kind of writing I need to be reading. Am not sure how you do it - but am glad that you do.

    Thank you

  42. Good God, Joy.. this was marvelous! The metaphorical use of Rosemary here is absolutely fantastic! You have touched upon so many delicate "issues" of life here... and have blended them so well into this ONE poem.. really, quite an awe-inspiring feat! Loved it loads!!!
    Sometimes, it really becomes tough to choose between life and no-life (or maybe it is not so tough after all)

  43. Absolutely wonderful. Loved it.

  44. That was about your Rosemary bush!! Simply amazing metaphors. Hedgewitch, this is a fantastic piece. Thank you for sharing!

  45. STUNNING! I think the "choice" seems far more able to decide somehow....this is so well written, much much enjoyed! ~April

  46. Dear HedgeWitch

    Its so beautiful and conveys the dilemma of choices that we have to make... thanks for sharing..

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    Twitter @VerseEveryDay

  47. This stanza especially, which doesn't mean that the rest of the poem is utterly powerful and unified:

    Now you eke out your life a commodity of man,
    in each fold of this foreign world that seeks your savor,
    and give your pale shy flowers to every rutting bee.
    Here you’re made to stand against the burning lee
    of endless American days, clay at your feet you never wanted,
    hard ungiving tepid water, tasteless and shorn of salt.

    tender, prophetic, graceful, with a reach and pull on the heart. I'd love to see a collection of yours-- all best-- J

  48. Amazing work of art here! Stunning imagery throughout, touching deep the well of thoughts and references. Reading back several times, I catch the levels differently each time. Bravo!!!

  49. Many many thanks to everyone for their generous and insightful comments. It's immeasurably gratifying that so many whose work I admire took the time to really read and discuss the poem. Greatly appreciated.

  50. Love the flow and imagery of this. This is the kind of poem I can't write - writing certain structured poems elude my patience - so I admire the fact that you can nail the form.

    And thanks for reading my poem, even though it wasn't your genre ilk - I completely understand the feeling: I have to fight the urge to hit the corner x/'delete window' button when I see certain buzz words that have been politicized.

    Later, gator-san. :)


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats