Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

2/17/2004

On this weblog, I usually don't go Silliman (which isn't a denigration; just an acknowledgement of a mode of blogging technique). But I'm seeing Jarnot's latest poems wending towards John Clare. Mr. Clare had to deal with Enclosure Acts, the deracination of the English countryside, and the shambles of unfair economic system learning to haunt him. This is a poem written for his son, late in the elder John's stay in the asylum:

To John Clare

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes--
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer's high renown.

___
For Jarnot, the rust belt often lurks around the edges of the pastoral. She notes:

While there have been many occasions during my life when I have been asked to account for, explain, and even apologize for the various phases of my sometimes delusional, sometimes politically incorrect, and sometimes vulgar identity metamorphoses, I have always believed that it has been just such unruly behavior patterns that saved me from an otherwise dull life and possibly an untimely demise in the semi-rural, semi-suburban hell of my childhood. There are few aspects of my identity not formed out of that escape. What I learned from those early heroes was what I had intuited from childhood, that one's identity existed as one's invention, and that as a creative person, one's identification and explanation of the self might always be in flux, like the whole of the universe is in flux, existing as a place of multiple possibilities, dependent only upon one's attentions to the messages arriving from the outside.


In "Indian Hot Wings" (dedicated to George W. Bush), the chickens are (a) nearly phoenixes, (b) the roosters and hens clucking around the edges of our memory from Old McDonald-esque children's books, and (c) the commodities of Tysonian agribusiness at the same time:


The chicken wing factory is lit up in flames
and the flames are the wings of the little hot chickens.

The little hot chickens are the lampshades of the night
glowing inside the burning of dawn.

The dawn light is chicken-light for little white chickens.
The chickens are white like the glowing of coal.

The coal light of chickens are the white light of chickens.
The chickens are burning and bright in the sun.

The sunlight and lampshades are brighter than chickens.
The dreams of the chickens are bright as the sun.

The chickens are filled with the hot coals of lampshades.
The chickens are burning, the chickens are done.

___
Both poets are elegiac on the possibilities of how we fare at home.

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