Striations in the Heart

(for my friend John S.
who breeds salamanders
in his garden pond)

IMG_0299.jpg

There are striations in my heart, so deep, a lizard could lie there, unseen, and wait for tomorrow’s sun. Timeless, the worm at the apple’s core waiting for its world to end. Seculae seculorum: the centuries rushing headlong. Matins: wide-eyed this owl hooting in the face of day. Somewhere, I remember a table spread for two. Breakfast. An open door. “Where are you going, dear?” Something bright has fled the world. The sun unfurls shadows. The blood whirls stars around the body. “It has gone.” she said. “The magic. I no longer tremble at your touch.” The silver birch wades at dawn’s bright edge. Somewhere, tight lips, a blaze of anger, a challenge spat in the wind’s taut face. High-pitched the rabbit’s grief in its silver snare. The midnight moon deep in a trance. If only I could kick away this death’s head, this sow’s bladder, this full moon drifting high in a cloudless sky.

This is the prose version, from Fundy Lines (2002). The prose version was based on an extract from a longer poem that first appeared in Though Lovers Be Lost (2000). I am always fascinated by the ways in which prose and poetry differ in their structure on the page. In particular, I am fascinated by how what seems to be the same, or a similar idea, changes according to format and context. Lagartija (below) is an extract from a longer poem. This became the prose version quoted above.

Lagartija

There are striations
in my heart, so deep,
a lizard could lie there,
unseen, and wait
for tomorrow’s sun.

A knot of
sorrow in daylight’s throat;
the heart a great stone
cast in placid water,
each ripple
knitted to its mate.

Timeless,
the worm at the apple’s core
waiting for its world to end.

Seculae seculorum:
the centuries
rushing headlong.

Matins:
wide-eyed
this owl hooting
in the face of day.

Somewhere,
I remember
a table spread for two.
Breakfast.
An open door.
“Where are you going, dear?”

Something bright has fled the world.
The sun unfurls shadows.
The blood whirls stars
around the body.

“It has gone.” she said. “The magic.
I no longer tremble at your touch.”

You can drown now
in this liquid
silence.

Or you can rage against this slow snow
whitening the dark space
where yesterday
you placed your friend.

The silver birch wades
at dawn’s bright edge.

Somewhere,
sunshine will break
a delphinium
into blossom.

Tight lips.
A blaze of anger.
A challenge spat
in the wind’s face.

High-pitched
the rabbit’s grief
in its silver snare.
The midnight moon
deep in a trance.

If only I could kick away
this death’s head,
this sow’s bladder.

Full moon
drifting
high in a cloudless sky.

 

Here is the original poem. It is the third in sequence from Though Lovers Be Lost. I find that each version has a life of its own and all are slightly different. Beauty does indeed lie in the eye of the beholder: poetry too.

Building on Sand

1
Everywhere the afternoon
gropes steadily to night.
Some people have lit fires;
others read by candlelight.

Geese litter the river bank,
drifts of snow their whiteness,
stained with freshet mud;
or is it the black
of midnight’s swift advance?

They walk on thin ice
at civilization’s edge.
Around them,
the universe’s clock
ticks slowly down.

2
Who forced that scream
through the needle’s eye?

Gathering night,
the moon on the sea bed
magnified by water.

Inverted,
the big dipper,
hanging its question
from the sky’s dark eye lid.

Ghosts of departed
constellations
walk the night.

Pale stars scythed
by moonlight
bob phosphorescent
flowers on the flood.

3
The flesh that bonds;
the bones that walk;
the shoulders and waist
on which I hang
my clothes.

Now they stand alone
beneath the moon
and listen at the water’s edge
to the whispering trees.

They have caught the words
of snowflakes
strung at midnight
between the stars.

Moonlight is a liquor
running raw within them.

4
There are striations
in my heart, so deep,
a lizard could lie there,
unseen, and wait
for tomorrow’s sun.

A knot of
sorrow in daylight’s throat;
the heart a great stone
cast in placid water,
each ripple
knitted to its mate.

Timeless,
the worm at the apple’s core
waiting for its world to end.

Seculae seculorum:
the centuries
rushing headlong.

5
Matins:
wide-eyed
this owl hooting
in the face of day.

Somewhere,
I remember
a table spread for two.
Breakfast.
An open door.
“Where are you going, dear?”

Something bright has fled the world.
The sun unfurls shadows.
The blood whirls stars
around the body.

“It has gone.” she said. “The magic.
I no longer tremble at your touch.”

6
You can drown now
in this liquid
silence.

Or you can rage against this slow snow
whitening the dark space
where yesterday
you placed your friend.

The silver birch wades
at dawn’s bright edge.

Somewhere,
sunshine will break
a delphinium
into blossom.

7
Tight lips.
A blaze of anger.
A challenge spat
in the wind’s face.

High-pitched
the rabbit’s grief
in its silver snare.
The midnight moon
deep in a trance.

If only I could kick away
this death’s head,
this sow’s bladder.

Full moon
drifting
high in a cloudless sky.

8
After heavy rain
the house shrinks.
Its mandibles close.

A crocodile peace
descends from the jaws of heaven.

I no longer fit my skin.
Iguana spots itch.
Walls encircle me,
hemming me in.

The I Ching sloughs my name:
each lottery ticket,
a bullet.

None with my number.

9
Late last night I thought
I had grasped the mystery:
but when I awoke
I clasped only shadows and sand.

6 thoughts on “Striations in the Heart

  1. I have this tattoo. Except the artist did a terrible job. Glad I saw this. I’ll have a better version to show my new artist so he can correct the old tattoo! I love the imagery on your page. It’s very captivating . It’s all about aesthetics & your colors are amazing . So far I have seen consistent beauty in the photos & artwork. Very beautiful !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Dajena. This is one of my favorite sequences from one of my favorite books. I was born and lived in Swansea, Dylan Thomas’s town, and his poetry weaves a thread through my own work.

    Like

  3. The imagery is perfect. Love the metaphors and how you blend all with Though Lovers be Lost in such a fine way.
    Lovely!!
    ~ Dajena

    Like

  4. That’s why I dedicated it to you, John. That was quite the conversation last night: salamanders and all. Hence today’s post. “And we wake up in the duck pond with the newts between our toes.” The Wurzels, I believe.

    Like

  5. Thank you Roger.

    Beautiful. Yes, I encourage Salamanders to breed, and newts and all manner of nighttime-serenading frogs and toads who sing me to sleep each night.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s