Swallowed

A man and woman walk from room to room for art.
Her books stand on their toes to greet him, open
In his thoughtful palms, spark de Beauvoir, Sartre.

So much room. They fill it, take on the shape
Of ceilings curved edgeless into walls,
The vaulted sloping stair. He stops to frame

Her in his gaze before the yellow earth
And red blaze of a large painting. She slips shy
Into dark eyes, the white gap of words.

A bedroom swallows poems and clothes.
Persona finally flesh, he mines her ragged song.
Trembling verbs are always last to go.

Contrast somersaults and dials wanton,
Plunging through itself the vigor
Of a hungry woman turning a giant swan.

Gods make secret salts on a lost, stone beach
And scry. Pleasure crumples faces into crashing brine,
Slides froth on tides of shapeless poetry.

Sucking every sea-crossed tragedy from the other’s lips,
They swallow the waste of history, and the sweetest
Peacock poison fans iridescent from matched hips.

2013

3 Responses to “Swallowed”

  1. eduardo says:

    I do like what you’ve done here–the dream, the promise kept. But alas, a couple of possible nits:”Persona finally gone…Trembling verbs are always last to go.” Wondering whether it’s okay to have gone and go so closely together. And, is it “…a hungry woman turning a giant swan, or turning INTO a giant swan”?

    Again, I like this being consumed by an oceanic infinite-ness. The circles and recursions. The books stretching upward in their greetings. I love your using “scry,” which I had to look up; and was glad to have done so. And I like that I’ve gotten to read two wordweed postings in two days.

    • wordweed says:

      Thanks, Eduardo. I’ve taken your suggestion regarding “gone” and “go.” I originally chose “gone” for its assonance with “song” and “wanton,” but I think it isn’t necessary since the latter two, at least, sing together, and I can use a more concrete image there in “flesh” that carries the same message.

      As for the next line you mention, I’m being intentionally ambiguous by leaving out the preposition in order to lend a contemporary twist on Leda and the swan, especially Yeat’s retelling in which he explores not only the brute eroticism but also the mythic consequences of that coupling (the birth of Helen, the Trojan War, The Odyssey, etc.). While patriarchal tradition portrays it as a rape, here I am giving a contemporary Leda a bit more agency and action, suggesting she is handling that swan, turning him over, so to speak, while at the same time turning into a god herself, and further still, reaching a mystic union with divinity, or “put[ting] on his knowledge with his power,” as Yeats said, suggesting a union on equal footing in which she is not just “indifferent[ly]… drop[ped].” Hopefully the earlier allusion to de Beauvoir and Sartre underscores the idea of a mutual meeting of equal peers and the personal transformation and cultural evolution possible under such circumstances. Should also mention here that “the other…” of the last stanza is an allusion to de Beauvoir’s idea of women being the “other” or “second sex.” I’m offering here an updated revision of that concept, implying the equal otherness of a man and woman (and any other duad.)

      Hope that clarifies! Thanks for your close reading, E.

      • eduardo says:

        So, I went back to my Yeats (and thank you for that, by the way), and now see further still the crafting you’ve done here, the swapping of roles. And your reply to my comments had already humbly awed me for the depth/breadth of this particular poem’s creation story. (I’m suspecting, though, it’s wasn’t all that far from “business as usual.”)

        Yes, indeed, your comments to mine and mine own research have clarified, but oy, how heftily and murkily-substantiallly so. “Clear,” because there’s so much roiled in the mix, hence, NOT crystalline….

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