I never tire of poems. A book of good poems lives on for new days and the reading experience can be fresh at every reading. The verse, language, new meanings triggered in the moment, all moments following since the last reading have taken on new life, new metaphor, can never be old. Poetry must be an expression of our connection to the universe in its movement and mystery, and its sadness.
Here is a poem for lovers of poetry, true lovers of poetry will not mind the distinction which is founded in love. In this poem is a true metaphor for love. The story of Orpheus, the poet musician, and Eurydice. In Joan’s poem there is a personalization to bring the metaphor closer, the magic of dream / myth origins are still closer as the voice could be our voice, our inner voice, the heart that experiences separation. I don’t really like describing a poem but am moved to express how poetry reaches out, moves into me, and branches into memories and art forms.
From: Hyacinth for the Soul by Joan Siegel
Eurydice in the Underworld
The night before our wedding
I dreamed I woke in a forest of cypress:
all the oak were gone
beech and hazel
all the linden
all the silver fir
as if you’d called them away
leaving only the cypress
the tree that mourns.
Far off I heard you singing.
The cypress prayed.
You sang my name
and I walked to the edge of the dream,
a meadow sunny with asphodel and phlox
and a snake sank its poison in my heel.
The cypress moaned.
The meadow went soft like a sea
and I drowned.
They say you’re coming back for me.
grow flesh on my bones
cell by cell
rethread my veins my nerves my brain
make ears and lips
open my eyes again
and walk into light with you.
I must be pieced together
a quilt of memories
stitched with words we used to speak.
It is all so new
this white flesh
the weight of breasts
how fingers bend.
I’ve lain beneath the roots of trees so long
the roots groan through my hair.
I try to remember
green that spreads above loam
what grows upward to the sky
the smell of the sky.
I try to hear your singing
that stills rocks trees wild beasts
my heart wild
to feel again the weight of you
Instead I hear the sound
of mould spreading in the hollow
mouths of the dead.
My eyes are dry as bark.
Why make me desire
what I have lost forever
in this place where there is nothing
worse than anything you know
who can hear your own breathing
and the hum of poems about love & death.
I followed you through pitch and
limping from that old wound
up steep rocks slippery with lichen
dripping on hollow eyes below.
But even before we passed Avernus,
even before you looked back,
I saw the shaft of blue light
from the world I lost:
I had forgotten blue
how it smells of rain
how it colors wild lupine and
bellflowers of the field
the breast feathers of birds
the veins in my wrist
the sweet air where our life had been.
The light scorched my eyes.
It burned the new skin of my face.
All the while the dead
shrill in my ears.
I tried to speak.
Some thoughts came up.
There is a statue in Providence Rhode Island across the street from the RISD Museum of Art called Orpheus Ascending that comes to me reading this poem. It is a statue of three figures, Orpheus, Eurydice, and Charon, I suppose, I don’t really know, but I knew the sculptor, and I remember seeing the huge white plasters that went into this magnificent bronze by Gil Franklin. It sits in a little park opposite the school where people often go to sit and eat lunch or read or sketch or to just enjoy the day. I did this many times over the years when I lived in Providence, it being my home town. Bronze sculpture like this life-size fountain, it happens to also be a fountain, is very spiritual and creates a poetic atmosphere, and in this way through its color and temperature and scale, its rounded forms, its energy fills Frazier Terrace, and if the reader has ever been there, you will know what I am trying to get at. The voice of a poem is spirit, too, and so there is a correlation which is compounded for me by the experience of knowing the sculptor and the process, and which in my memory is most like a dream.
So this has now become a tribute to the art of Gil Franklin, and to Joan Siegel’s poetry. There is a similarity of process, of strength in meditation and with nature, as an artist explores the idea of a myth and how it lives on through time and in our current imagination or even our current experience. In these ways it teaches us.
Furthermore, the importance of art and poetry together must be an ancient partnership. This was reinforced in me when I received the manuscript for Brushstrokes and glances from Djelloul Marbrook a little over a year ago. There was a shared passion between myself and Djelloul around this almost indescribable macrocosm of the human experience, and as I know for him, is related to the deep exploration into meaning of the work in his book.
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