Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Child As A Postcard

 
 
 
 
The Child As A Postcard
 
 
To the passing postcard written in
the massing uncolored sky, posed
in the medium of ice and flesh surely
my child-self seemed the response,
scribbled head high to the bare lilacs,
a winter blackbird lost in a fragrance
dancing to cold.
 
While the wind was witching, while it was
twitching my skirts, and its white book
came clattering down with the frost on every
page, while the sky snowed down with the pomp
and swagger of a drunken policeman, did the
heft then of my grandfather's arms know me
for myself as I determined,

as everything I determined 
thereafter came to be? Song or catastrophe,
the wide smile of the chimera, or its
diamond mask, the bright white light
of a lilac breaking bare in the snow while
I watched time plow its path
across my life;

not a moon-fair there, not a star to be seen
dropped from the basket of a lover's dream, 
only a stillness of snow haunting the hour
of papier-mache in a maundering dazzle.
 
 
 
 
January 2022
 
 
 
 
 




posted for
Shay's Word List # 10
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Note: I have not tried to emulate Stevens' style. That is far above my pay grade. But I have tried to infuse the poem with some of his moods and fancies as I interpret them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Image:Snow Effect: Winter In The Suburbs, © George Seurat
Public Domain. I have manipulated this image.

15 comments:

  1. When you write about childhood, Joy, it just tugs at my heart and makes me want to time travel back there and mother you. I know that loneliness, and its wound never really heals. To write about it, especially with such phrases as "diamond mask" and time plowing across one's life (!), is victory, I think, and helps us close certain books, or at least make them fall back and coil somewhere where they can't wound us again.

    ((((((((((young you)))))))))))) <3

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    1. Thank you Shay. Just want to note that the"heft" in my grandfather's arm was merely him picking me up out of the snow, not abuse.

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    2. No, I just read it as a normal, if forceful, pull. ;-)

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  2. I had to read through this a couple of times and then again, line by line, to try to get to what is going on. I feel deep sorrow for the small child in that bottom image. Reading your afterword, where you say the poem is about some of Wallace's moods and fancies, it's time to get acquainted with Mr. Stevens. Very potent word-weaving, Joy.

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    1. Thank you, Li. Stevens will reward your time well, I think.

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  3. This is poignant and touches the heart deeply Joy! I love how you painted the story truly before us with imagery that is both lovely and powerful. I especially love the line, "I watched time plow it's path across my life" and the whole stanza in closing afterwards. Sometimes it seems that pain and loss create such beautiful poets.

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    1. Thank you, Carrie. I also like to think that negative things are at least good for something when we can use them.

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    2. Very true Joy. It is the positive side of the negative. Sometimes they fuel purpose and strength.

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  4. Sigh. Such utterly lovely writing. I adore the second stanza especially. And your closing stanza made me swoon.

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  5. The starting frame of reference here for me was Stevens’ Snow Man, a mind of winter "posed in the medium of ice and flesh" and cobbled with "scribbled head high to the bare lilacs, / a winter blackbird lost in a fragrance / dancing to cold.” Back in my childhood a few blocks over from you I was building rude snow-men in the back yard of our Evanston home, creatures too barren and stiff for the commercial dreams of childhood relayed inside on Disney sountrack albums and the color TV. A rough cold truth in that “white book,” with a script yet decipherable as “song or catastrophe, / the wide smile of the chimera, or its / diamond mask.” Not much of a vantage for a fragile child, but what choices are there really once the cold has invaded that far? No fairy tales from that coal eye stare, no “star to be seen / dropped from the basket of a lover's dream,” but a “stillness of snow haunting the hour of papier-mache in a maundering dazzle” -– what an interesting word choice to finish with, the dazzle of a winter’s day a fleeting postcard imprinting itself in a lonely child’s eye.” A nothing beholding itself in the space of a poem. Ahem and amen sister. As a look back on beginnings and influence, ‘tis a fine moment with Stevens and an adult response as a mature poet.

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    1. Thanks, B. Yes, there's definitely a touch of the Snow Man here, that oddly empty yet intimidating creation. I was never good at making them--mine always seemed to have pieces of dirt and grass disfiguring them. I was also thinking of some of the ideas in Order in Key West. Is reality what we sing it into, can it be? If it isn't, it's certainly not for want of trying. Thanks as always for your insight, and your generous words.

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  6. good use of rhyme and alliteration

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  7. this is my second or third read of this, last time i read it, it was snowing here in denver, and snowing again today as i read it. this poem is a snow maker. love the images of you up in your grandfather's arms, and love the image of lilacs in snow. a friend did a painting recently of lilacs and snow, i'm wondering if she would be willing to share them with you, i think you would like them. this has a lot of that "pastel colored world" that i see in some of stevens' work. personally, i think you and stevens, when it comes to american surrealism, run pretty much neck and neck. you could get this, and probably all your work published anywhere. i'm not being nice, i'm being honest. very well written

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    1. Thanks, phillip. I really appreciate your words. I have never chased publication--way too lazy. Maybe after I die someone will compile anything they liked from my volumes of scribbling. ;_) I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and my grandmother had huge old fashioned lilacs planted on both sides of the porch. There is no fragrance like them. I was about three years old in this memory, my grandfather pulling me up out of a snowdrift as the snow plow came down the sidewalk. I will never forget the lilacs, or the amazement of that first snow.

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  8. I was stopped by the title. There's a whole lot packed in that entry point. You were able to break open a diamond mask with your words, "Song or catastrophe" - hard to say which. "only a stillness of snow haunting the hour / of papier-mache in a maundering dazzle." - Brilliant.

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