Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Erechtheum caryatids athens 01


Voodoo can’t protect the lonely
shrunken head, swinging from
the rearview,
dangling  in my memory.
The downward nightened face

the stitched up eye,
the way your cheeks and lips
have lost your tongue
so you can
no longer equivocate.

Still, back then, you couldn’t speak
without singing; it was just
how to bear the song,
how to take the words,
then take your worst.

It was in the oldtime, schooltime,
walking handfast in the dark by 
the Temple of  Bahá'í; what you called,
Episcopalian dry,
god’s giant Juicer in the sky,

when you told me looking up,
Lilith-lashes over chartreuse eye,
that I was a caryatid.
Then you had to explain
to the beggar’s child,

towering her bones Viking brash
above your fretted
Celtic knots,
exactly what that was.
I wasn’t flattered.

But still, you couldn’t sing
without speaking. You read me
Stevens' rage for order, went to heaven 
in a splitpea shell, sang with blue guitar
in your voice of coffeehouse smoke

to the serpent’s hiss of espresso machines.
Till I woke up with burning eyes  
and began, forever outside,
to balance the tilting building
on my head.

June 2011


Posted for   OneShotWednesday  at the inimitable OneStopPoetry 

Possibly pertinent references, feel free to skip:

Bahai Quasi Framed
Bahai Temple, Wilmette, Illinois

“…For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew

that we should ask this often as she sang…

...Oh! Blessed rage for order...
The maker's rage to order words of sea
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds
from The Idea of Order at Key West, Wallace Stevens

"I've got a secret/ that none can tell.
I'm goin to heaven/ in a splitpea shell.
O lordy me, didn't we/ shake Sugaree?
Everything I had/done and gone..."
~Elizabeth Cotton

Images: Right Caryatid Chimney of the Chimney-Piece at Dorchester House, 
by Alfred Stevens,circa 1908, and  
The caryatids of the Erechtheum near dusk; Acropolis, Athens, Greece
by Takeaway both courtesy wikimedia commons.
footer image:
Bahá'í  Temple, Wilmette, Illinois, by lalunablanca on flick'r


  1. She was muted but had to sing, sounds like a woman after my own heart Joy. Beautifully poised in voodoo, ancient history and flowing poetry. A joy to read. Thank you

  2. gods giant juicer in he sky, ha...some great touches throughout with the references...i kinda think its cool having a shrunken head hanging from the rear view, ha, and even the two together make a great metaphor maybe...you have worn that building before too, right?

  3. singing with a blue guitar in your voice of coffehouse smoke..that's exactly after my own heart..the shrunken head is kind of ugly but just the perfect powerful image to grab the reader...voodoo i say..smiles...oh and i much love the being forever outside..great capture of a certain emotional condition

  4. This poem ventures from so many places,....it's complex, gritty and beautiful in the same space.

    This poem defines your search for the feral and elusive word....and we are all made the richer for it!


    Lady Nyo

  5. You are a pillar of the community.

  6. @Timeteo I am shrinking your head as we speak.

  7. Hedge...
    This brings back a phase in my life that I'd almost(But should never have)forgotten.
    Richard Alpert..Baba Ram Das
    The Urantia Book...Be Here Now!
    Were we twins in another life?

  8. @G-man: Be Here Now! I remember that one. Also, "Free your mind and your ass will follow."

  9. Someone put a spell on you, babe? Screamin Jay Hawkins knows all about it...

  10. As ever, you grace us with some truly unique visuals...god's giant juicer huh? Curious piece, it covers a great deal of ground with your characteristic intricacy...thank you for continuing to show what poetic depth really means...

  11. Excellent writing. Thank you for caryatid. It's a new edition to my lexicon. And oh, what I'd give for the serpent's hiss of an espresso machine about now. lol

  12. What a way to be immortalized balancing a building on your head - think I would pass

    Nice one shot

  13. I was scouring the 93 posts to find yours, and I finally found it. You never cease to impress me, but me blowing smoke is beside the point. That said, this is a gorgeous take on an object in the rearview mirror, and the inevitable life hangover, closing out strong and reflective, yet uncertain of the future, in retrospect.


  14. Thanks, Bryan. Much appreciate the level and perceptive comment.

  15. this made me smile at the end, so filled with a range of emotion the in the end boils down to that, balance.

  16. Great play on voodoo and then harking back to the pic at the end, sometimes we all feel like we have a building on our head or at least shoulders..haha...nice one!

  17. Spell-binding, hedgewitch. Is it okay to say that I burst out laughing at the last two lines - they took me out of a faraway place and right back to reality and I loved it.

  18. Joy, as always your language is lush while invoking incredible images. I am glad to be back at One Stop. I've been away for a while. I've got a new blog at wordpress. I had loads of problems with blogger.



  19. Thanks all. It's an early night for me, the heat is oppressive and another storm is rolling in, so the pc is getting shut off, along with my brain. Appreciate all who came by to read and leave their thoughts.

    @Talon: It's always okay to say how you feel here. That's not the way I had those lines in mind, actually, but I can see how they would take you that way. Always better to laugh than cry. ;-)

    @Pamela--thanks for reminding me about your new place, nd for coming by and taking the time to read and comment.

  20. Your a well gifted person. I like that I could read more after the first poem. Hello.

  21. "coffeehouse smoke" ... "you couldn't speak without singing" So many beautiful lines.

  22. 'the serpent's head of expresso machines.' Rich imagery here...

  23. As ever a joyful interplay of language and image

  24. Lots of marrow-deep exorcism going on here; as it's said, all we can do is name and claim our history -- then let it go. Ergo the bucket work of poems. The head swinging on the rear-view mirror is shrunken because its so old, right,? old-school. Forgive my slight knowledge of your history and the placement of the Baha'i Temple ("the Juicer" was a nickname most of us knew in Chicago) to get the primal placement as foundational. (Oops, you did ID it.) The caryatid holds up a temple but it isn't yours, is it? And you never accepted that, ever, even though there was a deep sort of education. The blue-boned jazzman crops up again here, versed in Stevens and Chicago blues, dumping the entire edifice on your head, forcing you to pour your own foundations, make of the temple roof a candle-harrow. Those ghoulies do make nice ornaments to swing from the rear-view mirror. Great work, insanely well-combed language, and a lysis that makes me believe again in writing poems. 99 degrees here yesterday and still no rain, but today clouds gather. - Brendan

  25. Balancing a tilted building...strange how people can leave us with burdens like that. Your imagery is provoking in many ways too. Very much enjoyed this.

  26. Many thanks all, for coming by and reading. Your input and comments are appreciated.

    @FB I lean more toward Dr Hook, or maybe Doctor John the Night Tripper. (Or maybe Dr Tarr and Professor Fether.)

    @Brendan: yes, a lot of the past, a very far back past indeed, in this one. The figure in question predates the jazzman by some years(who never read a poem in his life except for maybe Langston Hughes, and would never have had the chops to play in the coffeehouse where my scene is set--besides, he was a horn man) but he was, in many ways, a proto-jazzman and what we girls refer to gooily as my first love--unfortunately he was also my best girlfriend's first love. Do we see a pattern here? Anyway, you've nailed the whole process and the truth of the piece with great insight. Thanks for reading and understanding. Still hot and getting hotter--the storm last night missed us but sent two-inch hail and wind to the south, knocking out power to 3600. And another dustbowl day begins.

  27. You are one of the greats. No doubt whatsoever in my mind, and your work should be on book shelves around the world.

    Unbelievable, this is!

  28. Thank you Kerry. The vote of confidence is much appreciated.

  29. Admire what you did with voodoo, caryatid and the shrunken head image/symbol and memories. Seems like these days one gets a daily headache from the weight of current states of affairs as well as those of the past. Always learn something here and wherever I read your comments on the work of others. Stay cool.

  30. I have been to the temple in Wilemette, my sister is a Baha'i..love your reference here...love the Baha'i writings so very beautiful....love the way to weave the old thinking with new into a beautiful piece...bkm

  31. What a fabulous write, this one, call it jazz..
    I'm with Claudia on this, "sang with blue guitar/in your voice of coffehouse smoke.." pure poetry. Actually, I dig the intro for I've a fascination with shrunken heads (saw once at Chi Art Inst) The whole piece is a marvel, esp. the music/tone, "forever outside" you make it not so bad; wonderful ~
    (PS thanks for kind comments at OSP)

  32. Ooohh.. that sounded like some sorta cult music to me, Joy... wow!!
    I really LOVED the opening lines... they held that wistfulness that is otherwise very tough to express in words.. very nicely done!

    And I simply ADORE the language you use in your poetry..it's sooooo rich and classy! It adds so much texture to the already excellent imagery!

    Brillianto, girl...

  33. Truly magnificent wordplay...ONE::


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

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