Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Letter to

Letter to ______


There's always the rope, which can be a belt, the strings
of a lyre, a snake holding at bay the tired shoelaces,
a solid twine that holds the car together, the nape of a noose.
No need to mention what else rope can do, flexible vertebrae
like cats, snakes, crocodiles, biting their own tails, loping, curving,
knotted, holding together or ripping apart, whatever.
Rope of guts on a messy sylvan altar; take that for
your puerile Romantic visions. Growing up means tying knots
of the kind that bind us together, lovers, slaves, servants,
majestic belayers of spirit and stone. Everything comes out
all at the same time. Bouncing between pens seems normal,
one pen presses the blank-eyed notebook, another making dots on lines
that someday maybe someone will turn into music. Ropes
of scrawled poem lines, ropes of tangled dots,
knots in a net, caught up with flotsam and pearls.
It gives us something to talk about. is talking better
than silence? Not often, almost never in fact. Even tied
to the railing, you often reach the edge of words.
Below you nothing but air, cold steam, hidden spires.
There's the rope that keeps you from falling too.
The monkey-god snake-charmer plays his nasal shawm
until the rope stands stiff and tall and he climbs up
towards clouded heaven. Consider heaven, how easier
it is to fall than to climb up. Even tied to balloons
it's easy to miss the mark. Do angels use hot air
balloons? Probably not. Their wings rope them to particular
pathways, trails of the known, well-mapped accepted routes.
Rope sandals never touching down in the catacombs.
Feeling roped back now into the usual rodeo, those classic postcards
of angelic cowboys wrestling steer, and we're back to
the pile of steaming entrails on the altar, only this time
the altars of feed-lot and rendering-plant profits.
Stink of self-pity, its offal stench. How did we end up
back here anyway? Oh yeah, climbing that thin white rope
towards god. Umbrella ties and bits of string.
Every time you feel like knotting the rope, make a lariat
not a noose, and rope yourself some of the sun god's golden cattle.
Hang on the tree, not from it. Hang out over the clouded edge,
tethered to the railing, washing god's iced-over windows.
Steel bridge cables hold you gently rocking over the blank void.
The cable of the necklace you put on every morning.
The lover's red shirt hung casually from the bathroom doorknob,
saying "Stop."

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4 Comments:

Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

A haunting meditation on what it means to be bound to something or someone, presumably the “______” of the title. Most evocative. The best thing I’ve read from you in a while. But, please, change “lyre” to “guitar” or “violin” or something; “lyre” is one of those words that I think all poets should be banned from using.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

LOL But surely "lye" evokes Orpheus, god of poets, or Rilke citing Orpheus. Hard to give that up. "Guitar" evokes Lorca for me, though, which changes the tone.

Mostly I'm kidding. I'll think about it. I do see your point, but I may need to let it sit for awhile before I can finalize it.

I've had to think about the title. I'm not sure who the Letter is to, so I left it blank for now. I wonder if this might be an Elegy, or an Aubade, or an Ode to Rope. But each of those title choices seems to change the tone a lot, and at the moment I'm liking the ambiguity, the indeterminacy. What do you think? I don't want to pull this into a box or straightjacket of a fixed meaning.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Exactly! You need to think of something that isn’t clichéd. There isn’t a word on the planet that won’t evoke something different. I don’t now Lorca other than the name. I bought Carrie a book of his poetry once because she wanted it but I’ve never read it and so “guitar” . . . actually “guitar” only evokes “guitar” for me. Well, that’s not true but in the context of the poem I weed out things like the guitar solo at the end of Another Brick in the Wall Part 3; it doesn’t go.

As for a title? I’d tend to go with ‘Bound’ or ‘Unbound’ of ‘The Tie that Binds’ or something that evokes a feeling of two things wrapped up in each other.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks for the title suggestions. I probably won't use them, though, because that would "lock in" the poem's interpretation into one instead of several possible meanings. As you know, I have no problem with there being multiple interpretations of a poem—in fact, I rather like it when it happens—because it means the poem has layered meanings, and resonance, and therefore hopefully readers will find several things going on it it.

Your interpretation of the poem is a really good one, a very valid one—and not even remotely the one I had in my own mind when writing. So you found something new in the poem that the writer didn't know was there—which the writer thinks is great, and terrific. Again, though, I don't care to make one interpretation "right" and another (or all others) "wrong." I like the possibility of multiples.

11:46 PM  

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