Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Faux Pindaric Ode: Metamorphosis

Back in the Nineties I wrote a faux-Pindaric Ode to Greg Louganis— only recently with the current London Games under way reminded me of the modern take I put on the formula. In January this year it appeared in Assaracus.

Even so, with the recent publication date, rereading it here again, another level of reality emerges from the verse. The circumstances are totally different between the poet who wrote this and the now current reader. It began as an admiration of the athlete and the athletic form. An enviable condition. What is interesting, the connection I built in the fifth stanza relating to my father creates a new translation to my life, due to the existence of my own son. A cyclical pattern of realities which stress a newer theme within the lines. One I was blind to, even though I composed the piece.
•••
Metamorphosis: Ode to an Olympic Diver

There are times when you appear, without warning,
          deus ex machina, your figure as an angel
                    walking along the arches of heaven.
When I do recall you, it’s always before the dive,
          the exact moment of hesitation, the time
                    before the translation, before the actions
                              of folding arms and legs, before wings
          emerge from the angles of bone and flesh,
becoming as origami papers, a Japanese crane
          leaping out towards the moon
or pale egrets flashing wings, wide arcs
          open to the night sky.

I am not a sculptor— I am a poet.
          My body was fashioned to stand motionless,
                    withdrawn, a gray-brown fedora on my head,
my form cloaked in a long, winter coat. Only
          my hands were made to move,
                    puppets, really, marionettes dancing across paper,
                              accenting phrasings when I talk aloud,
          even to myself, in my sleep; my fingers tapping,
knotting themselves in nervous positions.
          Even at this moment, trying to motion myself
into this verse, my hands become agitated with me,
          angry that their only function

is to raise an apple to my lips, serve as figures
          of transportation from plate
                    to mouth. They want more out of life,
to create words flowing, a new text,
          or to recreate your figure in clay,
                    knead life into the earth, raise
                              a motion into your elevated limbs,
          a figure in motion, animated life poised above me.
Sometimes, posing before mirrors, I stand naked,
          worrying about the pale conditions of my body;
it will never know you. But then, in the gymnasiums,
          I push myself to transform my image,

to move towards a higher function,
          to be more than just a word-smith,
                    breathing words into the ears of the public,
syllables across the eyes of librarians. Do you hesitate
          before the falling? Do you dream as a bird?

                    I’ve been told a young swift travels western Europe,
                              through instinct only, never landing, never ceasing
          to be what it is for two years, a vehicle of flight, of wings.
It feeds on insects in the air, sleeping in higher altitudes on drafts,
          currents of high winds. It knows not how to fall.
There were times I wondered of these motions,
          the insistence of gravity’s pull back to earth.

I had nightmares of my father
          dropping my brother into a well, or a bottomless cavern.
                    Dark, unbidden thoughts of children.
If I try, I can recreate the fear inside my chest;
          the same fear when I took the first falling
                    into deep waters, my father behind me,
                              invisible to the trauma. His insistence
          to submerge me I couldn’t understand—but my brother,
I kept trying to make him grow wings, against his falling,
          to raise him back into waiting arms, like I could,
returning back to the folding of security, the warmth,
          my body no longer held by water, but by parental strengths.

Swimming for me now is different.
          There no longer exists a curiosity
                    of the loss in gravity. Actions
are effortless in a sense, merely a means to be alone,
          floating, almost motionless. The old fears,
                    and the memories, return at this time
                              again unbidden, but as an adult I’ve learned
          to shut them off. Close the eyes tighter and
cast them away as stones, into the bottom
          of the tides. I remain, as yourself, poised above,
hands reaching for something unseen, as stolen Greek statues,
          glorious in their fragmentations.

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful writing as ever, G.
    I've been fascinated by this post - have tussled with thoughts of the Makar, delivering into the world little independant states, latterly experiencing his own creations as strangers might experience them. With no preconception. No fore-knowledge directing the path to be taken by the intellect. With no sense of 'this is what I meant when I made this'.
    A bit like parenthood, maybe. When we realise that 'they have a life all of their own'.

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  2. I like your thoughts hre as well. Poems about my boy seem to arrive much easier these days than other works. Since we have moved in to the new location-- a space to grow old in-- I will be posting more words. Tomorrow in fact I plan to develop a short burst of words.

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    Replies
    1. I'm looking forward to it G. When young and not knowing any better, I used to wonder at those child-burdened older folk I heard extolling the transformative wonders of parenthood...they just looked - well, worn-out and done to me... And then I joined them. And was transformed. Transfigured, I often think. It was utterly empowering. And I'm aware that this can be such a clichéd and discredited observation - but it was almost as though I had experienced the numinous. Touched the 'tree of life' - experienced something transcendant. Of course I was also suffering sleep deprivation so that might account for it too!!
      Thing is - having responsibility and caring for another wee person does open a whole new world to you. I'm sincerely and selfishly glad you are able to capture this in words.
      Hope the home move has been successful.

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