Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Poem Eight

After some delay
Here's poem eight
Let me know what you think.


Through grit
of blurred absolutes,

through moonlit soot settled
on certain Western eyes,
barnacled in stucco deities,

the temple-complex towers at Madurai become
Mars’ Notre Dame shaken upside-down and dipped
in impossible paints,

a thousand of the most forgotten, flat Earth
dropped-off Catholic saints, heads
sucked through their own stigmata, emerging

movie monster-hued in gargoyle asanas.
A scimitar for each new arm,
their eyes cross in that trembling, petrified

gratitude usually reserved for
just-seduced fourteen year old boys,
or resurrected lard rolling in mud.

Tonight their tongues blister asterisks, throb
insomnia, still blue
wary of the food, and wary

of the moonlight’s intentions
for the Golden Lotus Tank
where actual gods

once tossed to judge
by a simple floating test the poems
of the Tamil Sangam.

And where the sunken,
failed verses still disintegrate rejection
molecular, eternal.

Lotus-shaped on the map, this town
attaches smoke roots to the sagging sky’s
bottom swirl

of bats, the saints’
newly Hindu ears hearing even
sonar as mantra.

The bats’ low swooping taunts a patchy mutt
into an ever-constricting-circles
limping of her own hunger

that eventually twinges
dark-distressed ripples
every angle and alley of Madurai.

No dropped chapatti, not one thrown chapatti, no handful of rice.

By morning the town’s invisible
white jeweled heart
will have diffused in a murky sputter’s mud-shot mist,

a new obscurity
slurring up the intersections
in charred hair tangles.

Even the traffic wardens
softened and torn, black
straw, food for bulls.


At 1:37 PM, Blogger Slick said...

Pete, I like it quite a bit. Why did you decide to use three line stanzas throughout, except for the first and that long one-line stanza near the end? Is it significant that the the total line count remains divisible by three despite these aberrations? Relationship to saints? To trinity? A formal stabilization of the narrator's sense of displacement?

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous momster said...

Hi, Pete!
That temple sure is "barnacled in stucco deities" ! I love that description. It reminds me of the architect, Gaudi's work. Not coincidentally, that's where the word 'gaudy' comes from. I believe he was Spanish.
Bye, Pete!

6:49 PM

At 10:06 AM, Blogger pete. said...

Thanks, Momster! I just watched an old Jack Nicholson movie where he's hiding out on a Gaudi building.
And, Slick, I don't remember my reasons specifically for choosing the three line stanzas. When I'm writing I'll ususally put in stanza breaks intuitively. Then if I notice that a certain percentage of the stanzas are of a certain length, I might see if the whole poem can follow that scheme. I tinker accordingly, see if it works. As you suggest there is frequently a sense of displacement in my poems; people frequently speak of feeling dizzy or out of breath after reading them. I don't like that about my poems and clean, orderly stanzas have been a way to impose some order, even if it's only visual. But I don't want it to look boring, and don't want to set up a dull rhythm, so sometimes I'll leave a line on its own...if it belongs on its own. Then I'm sure there are other reasons that I'm not aware of. You'll need to ask the poem.

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Slick said...

1. the poem says, "my one line stanza is itself built of three parallel phrases. aren't there three main gods in hinduism? aren't there three facets of identity in freudian psychology?" 2. dizzy and breathless is not a bad way to be. Would you really want to pound out the rich images and metaphors that animate your poems? Do you want your poems to be clear descriptions of some easily explainable event, mood, or experience; or do you want your poems to be events themselves, the reading of them an experience every bit as alive as the experience from which they arose? Is the dizzying quality of the poems a valuable aspect of their existence as experience?

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Chris said...


this poem
leaves me dangling
over the abyss.

the crunch and ring of alliterating syllables transports me into a living space.

god damn pete.

but one (1) question:

"resurrected lard rolling in mud."

--don't know if this is in reference to something in the poem i'm not catching or not, or if it is just suggestive of, well, resurrected lard rolling in mud! doesn't matter.


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