Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Don't Look Back

Don't Look Back

Out of the carnage
from the wriggling wreck
what is left
a snatch of song
a smile of peace
gone before the singing  stops.

Impossible to see
what comes next, looking back
as you kill
what pain you can
yet feel it still
in each step on.

Sanity's made from buzz and busy,
a cubical sanctuary;
you can't look back
if you want to sleep
you can't look back
but you, eyes wide, you do

to see just why
there's no forgiveness
no respite, no sacramental
wafer, wishing wine,
heart cupped dry
in the long walk on;

only the thirst,
the broken things,
only the knowledge
dropped from the tree
and the snake who nods
and sings.

~July 2014

Image: Haywain Triptych, circa 1500, by Heironomous Bosch
Public Domain via wikiart.org:
"Although similar to the Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, the Haywain Triptych is a less fantastical and nightmarish depiction of the same tale. From the left to the right, the panels depict God creating Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, earthly humans engaging in all types of sins, and a portrayal of the journey into hell. This journey through good and evil is a much less terrifying tale, as it details the many sins of humans, yet does not detail the frightfully lurid and shocking horrors under the watchful eye of the prince of hell. The outer panels of the triptych, when closed, detail a character called the wayfarer, who makes his way through the panels and through the journey from good to evil, allowing the viewer to place himself inside the world of the triptych, and take the journey along with him."  Ibid.


  1. i have seen these pictures...where the panels tell a story...was also in Monuments Men, which is an interesting flick if you have not seen it...

    i like the focus on looking ahead and looking back...unable to see what is coming, we know we should not but we do look back...

    intentional or not, the part that grabbed me was the wrap around on the singing from the first stanza to the last....the song among the carnage, my first thought was of us, what little hope may come at the end of all things...but in the end of the verse it is the snake that is singing...and a thought that jumped in my head is what happens when the snake (or the tempter) no longer feels the need to sing...how far gone are we at that point?

  2. This is a very striking piece which seems to me to be about the impossibility of even trying for redemption, or justification--making just--may be a better word. I kept feeling like the song that had stopped being sung, was "we shall overcome," at least what echoed in my mind--and I couldn't help thinking of Boehner and McConnell not singing along recently--though truly the poem seems much more personal than that.

    For me the pivotal lines had to do with Sanity being made from buzz and busy and one's own admonition's not to look back, and yet doing it, and it is hard for me to tell if the forgiveness is supposed to come from without or from one's self, actually--but it felt like one of those situations that one would think, from all of one's archetypes, would have some ritual lightening and then does not. Very striking that the writhing wreck seems to become the snake by the end. Sanity is pretty hard to come by--the cubical sanctuary sounds like something one can control--a computer or even the "box" we'd just as soon not always thinking outside of. Striking poem, great cadence and rhythms and repetition--k. (I may come back but am afraid to lose comment--on a different computer--k.)

    1. Sorry- for incoherence--"the box we'd just as soon not think outside of." You can understand my typonese, I know--but sorry. k.

    2. Thanks, as always, k, for your in depth and perceptive read. Looking back is a luxury I can't afford, but for which I always seem wiling to get deeper in debt.

  3. The snake who nods and sings...
    I'm always struck how evil was depicted in human nakedness, and suggestions of sexual activity, yet despite the church's best efforts the world population attests to the fact that one of the most basic of instincts has still not been stamped out.

    Your second stanza really captures something of a journey - destination unknown and point of origin lost. This is a most affecting piece, Hedge.

  4. My goodness but this is bleak. The Serpent wins out, and everybody else is just a squirming figure in a medieval artwork, skewered on the end of a pitchfork.

    1. Some days you eat the serpent, others the serpent eats you.

  5. Fireblossom's comment made me laugh out loud, but the poem is dark, indeed, where we can't seem to win...

  6. But it's not just the snake who's still singing. In that sense it's a bit like a Ted Hughes poem -- a dark music. "Knowledge dropped from the tree" is a nice twist on the idea that we gained something from eating of that tree. Maybe we did, but sometimes feelings (and pain) are so much stronger than knowledge.

    1. Thanks Mark.The song does go on, even if some days one feels deaf.

  7. This is a powerful piece of writing. The looking back, "heart cupped dry" and then the amazing closing stanza - brilliant, Hedge. Wowzers!

  8. This is brilliant in about a dozen different ways, but what really makes if for me is the tone you've achieved. I can almost hear a kind, grandmotherly voice: "And that, child, is how we're all screwed."

  9. On the second reading of this piece it opened up to me with an uneasy clarity. I recognise this journey, this place, it's written all over my face. Always aiming to maintain equilibrium is the fight for the middle panel but somehow number three is calling me. But then if we push the doors backwards and make a prism we can look forward to the beginning again.

    Such a strong write Hedge. superb punch and pace makes for a really pleasurable reading experience


  10. somehow singing and sinning are rampant and true. as noted earlier, quite the mood - the summertime blues, as you said to me. ~

  11. I'll amen Mark's comment about the "knowledge dropped from the tree" that keeps the serpent singing on our tongues, which have been cloven by history's unsweet and unwrapt mysteries. I think this poem is well above much of your recent work, settling into that sweet low league between loss of innocence and the hive of constructed adulthood ("sanity is made from buzz and busy, / "a cubicle sanctuary." (And is its own dividing madness.) Sometimes we eat the Bosch, and sometimes the Bosch eats us -- maybe that's the difference between the Haywain Triptych and "The Garden of Earthly Delights." My "Shamanic Letters" of some years ago tried to figure if all the damaging events of personal history were on a deeper level initiations by the Savage Shaman, forms of deep psychic healing where we are given an incessant sting to balm with something -- faith, love, poetry. If any of our medicines truly worked, what would we have to write about? We remain thirsty. So reiterations down the primrose path are necessary and become a rich tapestry themselves. Allowing the poem to eat both versions of the painting, perhaps leading to a wholly third panel of the tryptich. Nice to think so as we go about this dire business ... Great inspiration, Hedge. Glad you're back.

    1. Thanks, B-and I totally do think every damaging event offers a chance to heal, shines a light on the lesson, at least, however hard we want to keep eyes shut and dream a different, more pleasant impossible thing. I don't believe much art comes from happiness--I don;t think that's its function, though of course, it can celebrate as well as angstily piss and moan. Thanks for the laff on your Bosch observation. ;_)


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

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