Monday, April 30, 2012

Month to Month


April  hath thirty days, and here we are in the eleventh hour, literally, of the last day of National Poetry Month, the sun having set at 7:42 p.m.—ah, ever so later it falls. April, from aperire, "to open." The time of year that the clenched fist of a bud loosens to reveal its soft, burgeoning soul. Peony as poultice. Sunflowers as big as parasols. 

And so, to close the month, I'm leaving here a poem written by the young and brilliant and beautiful poet, Darcie Dennigan, with whom I had the pleasure to sit—along with less than a dozen others—about a round table for three days, three hours each day, at last year's Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Talking and writing poetry. Poultice and parasols, indeed. Sun and rain and pungent catalpas, and lots and lots of writing. 

The title of Dennigan's poem, below, is, I hear, derived from a mishearinga mondegreen (something with which we had almost too much fun 'round the table)—of Ludwig Wittgenstein's famous dicta (likely from Tractatus, or is it Philosophical Investigations?— I don't have time to investigate, and if anyone knows which dicta, please don't hesitate to shout it out!).

From Dennigan's Corrina A-Maying the Apocalypse:

The Feeling of the World As a Bounded Whale Is the Mystical [The child affixes]

The child affixes one of her little pictures to my refrigerator. 
She asks, Can you detect the radiation? 

There is a house, one tree, and grass in dark slashes. A sun
shining. Beneath, in her child letters, she has written Chernobyl. 

At kindergarten they must be having nuclear energy week. 

One could look at the picture and say everything is in order. 
No, I say, I cannot see the radiation. 

The radiation poison, she says, sits 
inside the apple and the apple looks pretty. Then singsongs, 

Bury the apple and bury the shovel that buried the apple 
and put the apple-burier person in a closet forever. 

We are both thinking Then bury the burier.
Both thinking of her picture with no people. 

The poison sits inside the people and the people 
still look pretty, she says. Still, she says, sweetly, Away with them. 

The child is not a Hincher, which is why I love to tell her stories: 

Of the poisonous man who tumbled into the cold sea 
and turned the sea poignant. 
His bones glowed in the cold deep like dying coral. 
His ribcage was a cave for small, lost fish. 
Flecks of his glowing skin joined with green algae 
on the sea surface, where, on a boat, his widow choked 
as she looked down the sun shaft for her husband's greening body.

What is sunlight through seawater most like 
but the strange green fire 
that burnt the man? 
—Who had worked atop a steel hill until a whale—
a great green whale—bumped into the continental shelf 
and the steel hill cracked and its poison leaked out. 
And the man began to melt...

What I am jealous of in the child, what I really detest in her 
is how she nods 

with kindergarten grace and finality. Primly, into her pinafore, 
she tucks what I've told of the story. 

On the refrigerator her picture looks so pretty. 
There is no end to the green or pollen or the feeling of the bees coming.
Or of a hill and sky of poison. 

On fire, the man working on the reactor must have looked wavy— 
like a man trying to ride a humpback through the fast green sea. 

Her picture on the refrigerator looks so pretty. 

When I wake her from her nap I will ask 
if the dark green slashes are meant to be 
radiance, not plain grass. 
See you in May. Maia: Roman earth goddess...


  1. Jayne: I so enjoyed your mention of "Kindergarten grace". How true this rings! Made me smile. :)

    1. I love that line, too, Michael. Love the whole darn thing. And Darcie, too. :)

  2. Dear Jayne,
    that is an amazing poem. Apples as bearer of evil have been a very old theme, and here it gets an interesting twist.
    I have no inclination to look Wittgenstein up today :-) - outside the first of May is beautiful sunny.

    1. Ha! I still don't have the inclination, either! If Ms. Dennigan were going to the OS Writer's Conference this summer, and I were going also, I'd ask her myself. Her poetry book is full of interesting twists--you might want to look it up (linked it to Amazon in the post). :)

  3. so, jayne, here we are in may (can it really be?), and on this rainy may day i once again awake to something by you which makes my day. after all these years i finally know what mishearings are called—mondegreens. (but spellchecker doesn't like that or mishearing—ha). what a lot of them we sometimes have.

    also the poem. wonderful. and wonderful that you got to work with the poet herself. hmmm....radiance, not plain grass. so much in four words. thanks for this.

    1. Oh, so glad you found your answer to the great mishearing question! We had so much working out mishearing's in Darcie's class. Mishearing and all kinds of other things. I'd never before taken a poetry workshop, and it was one of the best writing workshops I've ever taken. I was also probably more productive (writing-wise) than I've been in any three days out of any year. Of course, that doesn't mean I can actually write poetry.

      May. Rainy day. Really? I'll take it anyway. The whole month. Black flies and all.

  4. That writing conference sounds like such a neat experience. Goodbye poetry month. See you next year.

    1. It was a fantastic experience, Elizabeth. We had some songwriters in it, too. I'll miss poetry month, but I'll still be reading poetry. :)

  5. the peonies are so gorgeous. alas, they don't do here. april is my month, ya know.

    1. Don't I wish I had peonies like those in my yard. They do round here, just not by me. Six years and still not too healthy, while the neighbor's blushes with pride. Not fair.

  6. Remarkable poem. (May I just keep repeating that?) Thank you for the introduction.

    1. Yes, yes, repeat Susan! Her book, too, Remarkable. Glad to be of service. ;)

  7. Jayne, I love the peonies and the poetry. Some day I hope to take some time to explore poetry as a writer rather than a reader.
    This poem was lovely, with surprises and images that carried me away. My favorite line is:
    What is sunlight through seawater most like
    but the strange green fire
    that burnt the man?

    I've seen the Gulf on fire from beneath, when the sun's beams ignite the deep, and the wavy flames beckon me to the surface. I could never put a word to it before but green fire best describes it.

    Happy May Jayne!

    1. Seeing the fire from beneath--wow! Love that image, Leah. And are you kidding? Seems you're a pro at putting words to it! Well, you are a word pro, after all. I'm just beginning to look up summer writing conferences--hoping I can find one that will work for me. I'd like to sit in on another poetry workshop, too. Definitely try a poetry class, Leah, I know you'd really enjoy it. :)

      Happy MAY to you!

  8. The house I grew up in had peonies lining the yard. Sigh.
    Beautiful pic, wonderful poetry. Thanks!

    1. I hear you, Elizabeth. Peonies. I want mine back--it just wouldn't do for me! So lucky you had then growing up. We had a lot mountain laurel, azaleas and dogwoods--but that was nice, too. ;)

  9. April is my favorite month. Days are getting longer (sunset at 9 pm), still snow and sun is warming, but not too much; garden is still sleeping, no grass to cut. That's perfect >:)

    Cold As Heaven

    1. 9 pm!! Wow, we barely get that mid-summer! Enjoy your downtime. :)