Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fairytale Eyes

Fairytale Eyes

A lie in the light has
a harsh color. It
takes more from you
than the whispered fictions
darkness speaks.

Her doll button eyes so black
and slick as bullets,
dead as Tut without the glitter tomb
dead alive as the man
peeled off the cross sent
spinning into limbo,
are looking at a hundred
pink and purple moons.

Black on black and black again;
a pungent sponge of shadow
fills the killing jar, 
whose thin glass is so
unexpectedly unbreakable
unbearable until it tells itself
the once upon a time
the shimmering glamored lie.

The moon does not
at her moment of fulfillment
dress in lace and belled skirts.
She's not some cinder-urchin
after midnight, so don't say she is--
you with your cracked mirror
and blue iris of ice.
The moon is no drudge
pushed wretched in the ashes
befriended by anthropomorphic mice,
some missing slipper profaned
by Brobdingnagian feet.


Doll button eyes
were turquoise once, 
before she was locked
so firmly in this box
(or before she opened in 
this unaccountable
exploding burlesque.)
Now they're a noisy void,

Kleig lights on a stage
for mincing dreams, productions
of pranking Punchinellos, pageants
of Catherine-wheel princesses
lit by slender flames of wicked
wick'd stepmothers
dancing spots and talking dots,
who grant favors to their own,
sly torments to the rest with
circle-faced smirks
of mime-white and red.

The moon is no sleeping beauty,
more the witch whose mirror
always tells the most
obvious unwelcome truth,
or perhaps it's the apple itself
swollen with the viridian
juice of malice, so round
so beautiful so dead, 
floating its centuplicated replicas
all so wavering bloody pink, 
so saturated purple
that just one lovely bite
can drown the world.

Black on black pours out still
the lie of colors drop by splash
to the last: the changeling's
handsome prince, dashingly
backlit in psychedelic flash, 
the recapture-when-released technique
of the King of Beasts, the Beast Himself
come to lap the tears of weeping Beauty,
a savior wearing gold and green 
and Bluebeard's face,
the key to the sealed room
teasing in his pocket.

~September 2015

posted for    real toads

Process Note: I have chosen to write about Charles Bonnet Syndrome, also called 'visual release hallucinations,' a neurological condition of the blind which produces vivid, often formulaic hallucinations, discussed by Oliver Sacks in his book, Hallucinations.

Images: The Fire Wheel, 1893, by James MacNeil Whistler, public domain, manipulated.
Bluebeard, 1862, by Gustave Dore,  engraving, public domain


  1. S3 sounds sooo good. Will you read & record this one?

    1. I don't think I've ever done one this long, but I did think about it while I was writing, so maybe I will. Thanks, Mary.

  2. First, I just love the pics you've chosen --the Whistler is beautiful and the Dore is hilarious. And now to the poem--I have to say that the process notes are very helpful and I am not sure that I can take them out of my mind to look at the poem, without the note as to the Charles Bonnet syndrome- but I'm trying to think about it on that level, since I'm not sure that if you published separately you would change the title and tell about the syndrome--

    So, what I make of it is the disconnect between the promised fairy taled world and the real world--in the case of the syndrome, it's a disconnect between our idea of some fairy tale hallucination almost a la Disney and the actual fearfulness of a true hallucination-- in a way it could as easily be about post-traumatic stress syndrome and the type of flashback that replaces our hyped up expectation. Before I go on with that, I do want to mention that your dissection of Cinderella is quite marvelous--it took me a minute to follow through it all--I think because it was unexpected--but the anthropomorphic mice and the Brobdinagian--I know I'm not spelling it right--feet are extremely memorable--really just terrific--those words will stay with me for some time--

    But getting back to the rest of the poem--the more I read it, I'm not sure that knowing about the syndrome is necessary at all for understanding the poem (and it may even limit understanding), because it really does feel an awfully lot like a simpler narrative--not exactly of bright lights/big city--but of someone raised as a "doll," forced to deal with non-Disney world--non-Fairy tale world--one with beasts that don't have such kindly hearts-- and so what the clock strikes midnight--in a world of recapture after released--(and bluebeard holding the key)==that part all feels terribly violent I'm afraid--but too true in a world where disillusionment probably comes more bitterly to those with doll eyes than others. Anyway, sorry to be garbled. I am not going to edit this comment as I may lose it-- thanks so much for participating and with this poem. k.

    1. Thank *you* for the challenge k. What suggested all this to me was the description of these hallucinations as 'release' ie, from the terrible monotony of blindness, as they occur primarily in those who once could see--and that they were usually of faces(here, 'moons') and often cartoon like, bright, complex and superficial and obviously hallucinations--not seeming real to the people having them even, but distracting and disturbing. Of course, i then allowed some of my usual themes of self-delusion and mortality's mysteries to creep in--a wonderful challenge, and one that really evoked this poem completely, unlike many where I just plug one in I've already written.

  3. This is such a Jungian's delight! I particularly like the Bluebeard bit at the end. Also, the subtle rhythms move this beautifully. I second the call for a reading.

  4. "centuplicated replicas". *repeats that ten times just to hear the sound of it*

    What amazes me about this poem is how well you've captured the visual, hallucinatory feel of it--not easy to do with words! Everything has that quicksilver, appearing-then-disappearing feel, complete with colors and fairy tale images from their deep pockets in the mind, pockets grown over with later more reasonable processes, but bursting to the surface here, uncontrolled and impossible to dismiss.

  5. This will take some careful reading to fully appreciate, so I'll be back again tomorrow. My first impression is of a multi-layered project, part surreal and packed with archetypes. I have never heard of this condition. It is fascinating.

  6. I am glad of the process note as I was starting to get retina burn from all the images. Ha. Everything was a bit of a swirl with an edge on the surreal.Where you never really know what is really real. Of maybe it just is in the moment. Fluid. Fleeting. The next to last stanza where you layer up the moon, round, dead, beautiful and then dip it in color really sings to me. What an intriguing topic you played with today.

  7. Deeply crafted stuff, Hedge, kudos, and a very enervated and informed response to the prompt. If it's true, as Julian Jaynes asserted, that the auditory hallucinations of schizophrenics are survivals of an earlier consciousness of god -- identifying the voice as Jehovah's, or the like--then why not visual hallucinations where the visual sense has been truncated or maimed--and of the old god-sense. As you suggest here. It's believed that most people have auditory hallucinations, its just that consciousness has evolved far enough to tune them out (the pantheon above become the chattering Committee of superego); perhaps we all have have such visual hallucinations as these, -- why the hoodoo of religion remains steadfast. Here it's bald and boiled down, shrunk to the lil' folk of the folklore rant, god the way a child first encounters the divine, lurid and bewitching. Two sections offer two readings of that function, where the tale is the same but the teller in section two has grown lenses to read with, providing both insight and distance. Same damaged eyes, but a different moon. Well tended and considered stuff. My fave lines: "...dead alive as the man / peeled off the cross sent / spinning into limbo" and the final four lines. Lurid, lovely stuff.

    1. Thanks B. Perhaps in the black monotony of life, we do all need some vivid, if delusional, distraction. .And who knows what symbols and archetypes our mind will choose for that--religion seems to be a pretty powerful one.

  8. It was a journey. Your poem was a journey through the mind of a person not dissimilar to us but with her own peculiarities. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Hi Joy--

    I wanted to come back as I felt a bit distracted yesterday, fresh from trying to get all my habitual lapses out of the prompt.

    I understand the entertainment value of the syndrome--although that it can also be sinister. I wanted to look at the poem this time without the syndrome in my mind so much (unless you were to change the title.) And I think it works super well on the "real" level--that is, the level of experience of a larger group of people and not those suffering from this weird syndrome. The fact is that the poem is so tightly packed, I am sure readers, including myself, miss a lot of the specific imagery--both their humor and their narrative thread--and to me it's works so very well on the disillusionment level--the pink and purple of a moon seen through My Little Pony eyes, and then reality stepping in--I wanted to say that I really also liked all the sleeping beauty stuff, and especially the wicked wick'd stepmothers and the poison apple==the pageantry is such I had a terrible image of that poor little beauty queen girl murdered--Benet? Anyway, we all--and especially those raised as dolls in boxes--have this odd geometry--all in this culture I guess-- and all the TV/Disney fairy tales typically leave out the Grimm part. (Extra kudos for any poem using Catharine-wheel by the way--I know it means something physical--Of course, my weird background is such I just think of the saint--). Thanks again. k.

  10. I read this twice last night and had to read it gain this morning, as it is so full of mood and imagery and so many incredible word choices, it took careful reading, as Kerry noted. Brilliant writing, Joy. Wowzers. I hadnt heard of that syndrome either, so found your process notes really interesting.

  11. I've read this three times. Quietly, aloud, quietly again. My first impression? It was as if someone took a book of fairy tales and nightmares--beautiful and terrifying--and fanned the pages in front of my eyes.

    Goodness, Hedge, how I love this. I know this comment might sound harsh, even naive, for I understand how traumatic an illness like Charles Bonnet Syndrome can actually be. But... the sense of being lost while walking a straight path feels out of this world, and I truly enjoy that. It's a poem that scares and fills the brain with wonder... a poem that makes me with that maybe for a very short period of time, the afflicted can delight in the hallucinatory madness of being ill. I hope that makes sense.


  12. From the words to the imagery - perfection. You have this lovely feeling of icing thin frailty covering a steely darkness that is so engrossing. It suits the condition you are talking about, turning overly familiar visions into a labyrinth of illusions. Loved it.

  13. To me this is a perfect mimic of the effect of hallucination.. a foray into those images, both terrible and beautiful at the same time. The image of a doll with darkened eyes within a box is both scary and beautiful at the same time, and bring fairytales to mind.. the fear of those Brobdingnagian feet is something that brings back memories of being a child...

  14. Great images in this. I had. To re-read it twice. The image of the doll stuck in my head. A complex and interesting piece.

  15. Hedge, this had my synesthesia going bonkers! I have the type that mixes sounds with images, so your verses were both dazzling and, what? Stupefying. What an excellent challenge, to tackle a symptom rather than choosing a title. I applaud your effort. Amy


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