The Rhythm Leads to Shadows
Exploring Formal Poetry and Incantations
Yesterday, we ran to the lake while the electric lights were still on. It felt good to be out early again. It feels like a kind of homecoming. The morning runs provide a rhythm and a soundscape for the weekdays. It is grounding. Literally, each step thudding softly on the orange needles. The syncopation of dodging the occasional frog. Or slug.
E. wondered out loud what bird we were hearing screech over the chattering blackbirds. I assumed it was a lone crow. The crows usually congregate for a 5 am meeting in the grove before setting off for the day, but I thought perhaps a single crow was lingering. E. thought it was a magpie. But if we can trust the app, it was a gray heron. From that spot on the trail, one can’t see the tributary for the trees, so we had no way of verifying her existence. It’s a matter of faith.
And inclination. The Greeks believed herons were messengers from the gods. Herons, egrets, and cranes (which belong to a different family)… these birds have always caught my attention at pivotal moments in my life. In Buddhist traditions herons represent transformation and the Buddha’s wisdom. In some Christian iconology, they represent Christ.
However, they are also mentioned twice in the bible as unclean birds, and in one ancient Indian parable the heron is a sly and hungry creature that teaches what can’t be achieved by strength may be achieved by deceit.
If you follow any trail far enough, you will find the shadows.
I’ve been reading about Norse mythology. The first primordial being was born of frost and venom. He was nourished by a cow, who licked away at the ice until she released the father of all gods.
The primordial being was male and gave birth to giants from the sweat of his armpits.
Now all I want to write about are Norwegian cows. And about Greece’s Demeter and her cranes. About poppies among the barley. About the sin eaters, and other shadow beings who absolve us of our guilt, who take on our “should”s.
Does anyone else ever begin a new collection with an epigraph?
Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD? - Leviticus 10:17
I’m considering a framework that will suit the subject matter of my new W.I.P. – not that I plan on slavishly holding myself to anything. But maybe because I am coming away from working with pentameter and Alexandrines, it’s possible that working with those forms led me (back) to this subject matter. The time I spent looking at bat books and prophecies reminded me of a discarded project about sin eaters.
I think I need to spend some time looking at scansion again. At charms and spells again. Time to pull out Annie Finch’s books again. Three is a magic number. So is seven. I like the idea of a monosyllabic beat. But I also like the idea of complex things crumbling into their simple components. Deconstructing poems, charms, or recipes.
There are Italian cookies called Ossi di Morti. Bones of the dead. They are shaped a bit like bones: slim with knobby ends. They’re made with almonds. When I think of almond cookies, I always think of the movie with the very young Jodie Foster. The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane. The 13-year-old Rynn laced tea with arsenic and offered up the cookies as an explanation for the almond taste when her victims commented on it.
So many paths to follow.
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