Friday, February 24, 2012
slow-motion poetry reading
And in the clouded green of jades.
The top was smooth, yellow ivory,
And a tassel of tarnished gold
Hung by a faded cord from a hole
Pierced in the hard wood,
Circled with silver.
For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane.
His wealth had gone to enrich it,
His experiences to pattern it,
His labour to fashion and burnish it.
To him it was perfect,
A work of art and a weapon,
A delight and a defence.
The Poet took his walking-stick
And walked abroad.
Peace be with you, Brother.
The Poet came to a meadow.
Sifted through the grass were daisies,
Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun.
The Poet struck them with his cane.
The little heads flew off, and they lay
Dying, open-mouthed and wondering,
On the hard ground.
"They are useless. They are not roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother. Go your ways.
The Poet came to a stream.
Purple and blue flags waded in the water;
In among them hopped the speckled frogs;
The wind slid through them, rustling.
The Poet lifted his cane,
And the iris heads fell into the water.
They floated away, torn and drowning.
"Wretched flowers," said the Poet,
"They are not roses."
Peace be with you, Brother. It is your affair.
The Poet came to a garden.
Dahlias ripened against a wall,
Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature,
And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour
With the red and gold of its blossoms.
Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets.
The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias,
And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground.
Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems.
Red and gold they lay scattered,
Red and gold, as on a battle field;
Red and gold, prone and dying.
"They were not roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother.
But behind you is destruction, and waste places.
The Poet came home at evening,
And in the candle-light
He wiped and polished his cane.
The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers,
And made the jades undulate like green pools.
It played along the bright ebony,
And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory.
But these things were dead,
Only the candle-light made them seem to move.
"It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother. You have chosen your part.
Now, I know next to nothing of Ezra Pound or Amy herself, nor their relationship of "Friendship, Admiration and Some Differences of Opinion," but for once I am not off Googling to see what I can find out, because this poem tells it all and more, and I don't want to spoil it with Facts. I am very happy with this critique/fable/song of wisdom just as it is.
The title leads me one way, and the dedication informs and inflects the title. "Oh," I think, "did Ezra suffer vision problems that made his poet's work difficult, and did Amy console and encourage him although the world was pitiably distorted?" But then the story starts and all that astigmatism talk fades as I widen my mind to picture that cane, to imagine "quaint devices;/Patterns in ambers,/And in the clouded green of jades" as richly as they are described. And off he goes, the Poet, with his cane of delight and defence.
But now the story is paused. The Poet is not just friend but "Brother," and there is some reason to wish him peace. What is to come of "a work of art and a weapon"?