As a writer (I still shy away from the title poet at times) I often find myself in a dilemma, one to which the vagaries of my mind tutor the torment. The unravelling of meaning of poems – is it meant to be a test that makes you feel inadequate at the best of times?
I have often sat and read something and then wondered “what the hell have I just read? It makes no sense at all. Why must poets do that, is it some sort of filtering mechanism to determine if I am worthy or intellectual enough?” It’s one of the reasons I prefer more open and engaging texts, I feel they let more people in, and it’s how I try to write myself.
So, to awake this morning to a prompt that says take a poem and respond to it, and to be given four suggested poems to work with and then have one clear the clouds from my troubled sky was quite delightful. The four poems we were given are : “This World is Not Conclusion,” by Peter Gizzi, “In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever,” by Wanda Coleman, “La Chalupa, the Boat,” by Jean Valentine, or “Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm,” by Carl Phillips.
I read them all, but chose to respond directly to Carl Phillips, thank the lord he was last on the list! I’ve also weaved in a couple of other references to other poets, but my heartfelt thanks go to Carl this morning for opening the blinds to a new day – and I now know what an aubade is!
The demolition sign hung behind the eyelids is taken down.
Dust encrusted, caked and baked; eyes are wiped clean.
Incomprehension reigned till your fruit rain flushed doubt to its morning grave.
The doubt which daily attends the funeral pyres of other’s pages, and stokes the fires and brings on rages, I smell the smoke of burning sages. It has been like this for ages.
Would my own flames ever reach so high, if self-immolation I should try, to scorch my earth, blacken my sky – then bathe in a lyrical pool, and ask myself – why?
I, that is ungifted of theurgic description, intertextual elaboration, and purple prose perception – let alone existential introspection.
I, the landlord of my tenement.
Standing on the doorstep refusing beds to strangers and visitors, denying my own guests’ departure.
In an ink sea, I drift with Gizzi, feeling flummoxed and dizzy – why won’t he rhyme or row in time with me – maybe I should not mind?
Why am I left with nothing to touch or taste or smell, nothing to love or link with?
I have simultaneously drowned and waved, waved then drowned.
In April I was drowning – then from your schooner you saw me.
You threw me a life belt named meaning; it had my name on it.
And you sang out – SWIM!
AND I SWAM.
Between you, me, and the kitchen sink, I’m tired of this mixed metaphorical brink – all I want is to drink.
Rotting peaches taste so sweet today.
With thanks to Stevie Smith and Philip Larkin
Please do leave me your thoughts and comments, I appreciate them all and will reply.