Friday, November 13, 2015

Another Country

Another Country

'Thou hast committed
Fornication: but that was in another country
And besides, the wench is dead...'
~Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta

The sickness came that night
the fever, the youth-slayer.
I can't remember much
except he spoke to me
in the sighing language of skins;
the one that I speak best. Then
contagion came to make its harvest home
as he hollowed out my shell

and I knew nothing more.
He is in another country now.
No use to call his name
yet so I fight to do
where this midnight binds me
with its corded silence.
I see his marten's hair
gone grey, his imp's eyes

smoked  by cataracts
though his face I'll never
see, nor feel in my cold grasp
his sunbrown hand again
that played all night and day
with fire--his means
to such a different end
than my desire.

~November 2015 

posted for    real toads

Image: Ophelia, 1852, by John Everett Millais  public domain via


  1. No one does this stuff better than you.

  2. "The sighing language is skins" is such a lovely sibilant line. The poem was a great read!

    1. Thanks, Sharon. Appreciate you always reading and commenting very much.

  3. Hey Joy--I read this as fever as well as lover (similar words) and, of course, fevered love--the language of skins is so great and the hollowed outness after the contagion--all so effective--to be a trophy of love or fever not the best (to say the least), and the ironic use of desire to get that trophy is rather awful here. Very well written --each phrase brings such a very strong visual; one shivers reading it--thanks. k.

    1. It's a bit period-y in language, I think, but maybe that suits the pic--thanks so much, k.

    2. Definitely it suits the pic--but I really don't think one needs the pic to enjoy the poem, or even the inscription, though I really do love the inscription--also I especially love it because it presents the other side and in such a mysogynist vision really--not that Marlowe was a mysogynist--I don't really know, honestly--but the idea that the crime of fornication in the inscription is somehow diminished because "the wench is dead" and the other country feels almost like a sexual term (in your title also)--and so it is great to have the inscription as it is like the fall out of the ages--the woman hollowed out (though usually belled out first), and the man going on in impish manner even to the point of smokey cataracts--I love how that carries out flame theme by the way. In fact, there is a total element of "old flame" --ha. And of course about love making being a performance course, of sorts--agh. k.

  4. the sighing language of skins...

    When I read lines this good, I feel like an amateur. Start to finish this is simply one of the best poems about death, contagion and loss that I have ever read. I was waiting for someone to choose Ophelia, and this was so worth the wait. Brilliant.

  5. "his imp's eyes
    smoked by cataracts"

    Something about that phrase just captures so much of what we all lose. Brilliant work.

  6. "the sighing language of skins" One of my favorite lines. "Then contagion came to make its harvest home
    as he hollowed out my shell" This makes me think of such diseases as Ebola. Your verses bridge the language of another age with the pain of contemporary understanding. Amazing as always. Thanks so much for taking part in the prompt!

  7. The last stanza really got me~ YOU pack a punch of lives dangling in the balance-with the haunt of insight and the brevity of life-I applaud your voice!

  8. Whoa! A fantastic write. Such a tale, culminating in absolutely stellar closing lines. Really great writing, Joy.

  9. Paracelsus knew that sickness was a fire, just like desire--but bad love, properly separated, does show predator and prey ignited by different sulphurics--one to consume, the other to ignite. The loss of soul I think is the disease here, that thing parlayed in "the language of skins" -- yet we wonder who is in which country in the end, the one who came and went or the other who remained. Ophelia singing from her pool, wherefore art thou Hamlet now? Does desire ever share the same end? Dunno, but this poem shows how many worlds apart it can be. Savage stuff, brilliantly done.

    1. Thank you, B, as always, for your interpretation and thoughts. The questions you ask are the questions of the poem, for sure.

  10. The lovers and monsters we remember, don't exist anymore, do they? They have vanished as surely as our own former selves, and yet, it comes as a surprise. Besides, they probably weren't ever exactly as we thought they were. If we knew the full reality, without our own desires and hurts, that would probably be just as surprising as any of the rest of it. No wonder nobody can figure out love, to say nothing of other people in general.

  11. Oh gods, the sensuality of this, with the tiniest thread of madness running through a love affair gone much emotion in this gem!

  12. "...the sighing language of skins..." speaks of so many different things to me: of feeling things in a personal level, of knowing what others might feel like about similar experiences, of how having been touched by "the contagion" its memories will forever linger, even if we're no longer its host.

    Of the flesh and of the mind...

  13. dunno why but this reminds me of the Flannery O'Connor short story Good Country People.

    another fine pen, Joy ~


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