Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Music of Birds and Lions

The Music of Birds and Lions

If I had to say something about it
I would just mention
the way your eyes
moved through me
like fever through a lion,
like the brown-soled boots
of a Victorian explorer
walking lightly
with ownership, a dominion
powered by steam

careful to always
keep an echo
map of the outback
in beige buckram binding
firmly gripped in your mind,
referencing page dogeared,
recording the reasons
not to fall behind on
a dangerous journey;

or that your hands
were always sliding in
a slipstream of tasks, were
water, embracing stones smooth
in their blue satin beds,
leaving behind a geologic
Alexandrian library
of lithic messages, codes;
languages of a few extinct
species of birds, envoys and diplomats;

that your long fingers on the stops
were your flight feathers,
playing a recital of calling macaws
that come at nightfall to color
shadow-fronds of sunset palms
with their rest;
but there's no need to
talk about what you stored
under my skin, or tattoos in birdsong
that can't be forgotten

so I only strum the music of it
where the lions rise
in the mauve gauze of
the jungle dark.

~December 2014

posted for    real toads

The last Get Listed for 2014
Process note: I wrote this earlier in the month, when I was undrugged, and it already had several of Michael's words embedded in it. I put a few more in today as I tweaked it, using
 in one form or another music, few, grip, feather, steam, embrace, rise, fall, water, shadow, bed. 

Images: The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, Henri Rousseau
The Moment of Truth, 1892, Paul Gauguin
Public domain via


  1. The images you paint with the voice of a jungle is simply stunning. I think of "Heart of Darkness" when reading this. I understand the way it can be deeply personal I still get the ominous Mr Kurtz in my head... and just maybe there was an intention in that... Hope the new year bring great things for you

  2. I love the Rousseau; that's one of my favorite paintings. And i love "dances with macaws" in your labels, which I always glance at first, to give me a hint about the poem.

    I love your description of his eyes, and their effect, which lingers and resonates through the entirety of the poem. Lions, tropical birds, echoes of love that can't be shaken off...what's not to like?

  3. Hey Joy--a very interesting poem, where the metaphors are so vivid and developed as to almost (but not quite) take one away from the central subject--I have to say that this Victorian explorer is really incredibly well rendered from the steam to the dogeared buckram reference page--I should say that maybe I am the only one almost lost in this because it really is a captivating trope, as are the macaws and the lion-- A lot of wonderful wordplay I thought--the slipstream and the satin beds--I especially like Lithic, which I kept thinking of as relating to the river Lethe so that it seemed a code of something to forget (which works quite well) actually--but the idea of being marked quite deeply despite the almost casualness of the marker/fever/explorer/ etc is very clear and resonant.

    I also really liked the use of tattoo, which felt like the music of the birds, but of course, works so well with the markings under the skin, etc. Anyway, the lines are very loaded but not dense--glad you are feeling better. k. (I'm going to try my wordpress name.) ( HNY--(happy new year) k.

    ps - it won't let me--manicddaily

    1. Thanks, k. No matter what blogger does to your WP ID we all know who you are by your intelligent and insightful comments. Thanks for all your support over the years, and may your new year be bright.

  4. There is a lot of wonderful representations of imagery in her, but one of my favorites is your usage of feathers with macaw because it depicted the colors of the painting that you attached with this poem perfectly. It also helps to convey the message of a beautiful song because a little known fact to most is that macaws have really beautiful voices. In unison they sound like a choir of angels. Really amazing poem! :)

  5. I get a reverse or upside-down Baedeker in this third reading, a tour guide for the African who experiences the marauding spleen of the colonialist. A middle ground here between those worlds, damaging and delighting, dominant and submissive, where there is music and magic from both sides of the equation. If the paramour (I'm guessing that is the figure here) is internal, then how separate from oneself can he be, not so much an opposite as a tandem, the other face of the same entity? There's a violence here, a penetration, but it resolves into "tattoos in birdsong / that can't be forgotten." (O my.) A strange, peculiar music, like Ariel's perhaps, though masking a brutality that is now familiar as landscape. I keep going back to Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" (Kerry's "Aftertaste of Humbugs" got me started there) where the Germans all but annihilated a tribe in Africa (taking after them with the vengeance of the Dutch settlers who blunderbussed the Dodo into extinction); one of them, a boy given the German name of Enzian (after Rilke's enzian flower, plucked on the mountain of yearning in Rilke's Elegies), is brought back to Europe by the man who would become the rocket-battery commander Blicero ("whitened," as the white of death). Africa and the West some mythological pairing, like Zeus and Europa, an old violence whose killing erotic singing stain we are ... Anyhoo, so great to see you back in the fray. Who knows what perculated under the wings of your oxy swoons. Looking forward to finding out.

    1. That's a really intriguing interpretation, B--certainly not what I thought I was writing, but yet, I do see it there--when you use the Victorian explorer you are implying all the evils he dragged along in his baggage cart. And isn't there a kind of love that is exactly like Colonialism? Brutal, patronizing, exploitative and rooted in self-aggrandizement? (This poem spins around a lover who once told me ' I want to kill you and eat you.' Metaphorically, of course.) Still, even this sort of love in the retrospective rose-colored glasses of non-feeling which age brings, has a life and a tenderness to it which I was trying to go for--that is, being explored, but unmastered, being the dangerous country that keeps its secrets, that maps can only echo and never define. Laffin at the oxy swoon--thankfully I don't have to take anything quite that overbearing, just a lot of Aleve and flexaril. Speaking of chronic physical eff-ups, hope your migraines have abated--you haven't mentioned them of late.

  6. This is an amazing realization of visions or thoughts. They have the surreal feel of being dream induced but also contain a startling lucidity. Perhaps, dear Joy, you have the ability to visit a parallel world and return to write about it with uncanny detail.

    All the best to you for a happy new year in 2015.

    1. Thank you Kerry, for the kind words, and for all you do to keep our muses happy--best of new years to you.

  7. I've read this quite a few times and I've finally decided it's as mysterious and exotic as the painting, although it's more dangerous, definitely has more bite. I think they called this painter some sort of innocent or "primitive"--there's no innocence here. Wish I could say the type of man she is dreaming of (haunted by?) is entirely from a former era.

  8. Your poem propelled me into worlds of my own where lovers blazed their marks. Eyes, hands, fingers move hot like that fever through a lion, like a lion through a jungle, like bird calls and streams setting motifs in the library of me. A gorgeous and transcendent poem.

  9. Quite the trip you took me on, loved it!

  10. I have been back a couple of times to read this piece, Joy. It is an amazement, so much so I cant comment intelligently......other than to say I love the title, the macaws and - especially - your four BEAUTIFUL closing lines!

  11. Oh, how I wish blogger weren't acting up, with an entire brilliant comment lost. :)

    Layered; each reading brings forth a new sense. You've blended sensuousness with a sort of clarified and unsentimental, yet intimate, acceptance, as it were.

    I'm grateful for your visits. You know as well as I that this date change is a convention more than anything native to time, but happy new year nonetheless, and brightness despite the dark. ~

    1. Yes, we need to mark and name things, to have our little rituals, and they do mean some sort of psychic thing, but time sanitizes the shaman into Santa Claus, and money drives the sun's chariot now...thanks for tussling with blogger, M. These were really rich words to work with, and helped this poem into being, for which, along with all your other gifts, many thanks.

      PS--I always copy my longer comments to the clipboard before I post any more--it has saved many an agonized rewrite groping for the lost turn of phrase.

    2. I foolishly tried to use my wordpress account, and should have known better, to copy and paste. google/blogger has really hated WP for a few months now. I actually got a reply back from OpenID that basically said, not our problem. oy. Anyways, hope the pain meds are less needed. Been working like a fool the last 9 days, with 1 to go. ~

    3. google and WP have been at war as long as I've been blogging. I remember times when I couldn't leave a comment at all on WP blogs with *any* ID, and vice versa--I'm sorry it's been giving you hell--I don't understand the point of emphasizing the incompatible all the time, myself. I'm sure it's intentional. Rest up after the parade, M--I hear it was unnaturally frigid in Rose Bowl land--sign of the End Times? (I heard some imbecile from the Heritage Foundation say it was proof there was no global warming --/facepalm--so why not that?)

    4. facepalm into a wall. it was 84 today. ended up with one more day after the last one more day. no more driving, at least, just paperwork for now. ~


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

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