"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
Khalil Gibran

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Untitled (A Praise Song)

Untitled
Felix Gonzales-Torres (1993)
Fair Use Principles


This was goat country; we pilgrims
practised the banal patterns of speech
that count for daily commerce
between mortal sacrifice and sunrise.

When we crossed the border,
there was scorched earth, a policy
of the victors; Pyrrhic, with a taste
of drought on the back of tongues.

Here stood a cracked column
rising from a sink-hole; Corinthian,
with capital over-leafed, it was built
to bear the load of civilization.

The priests suggested an anthem
would be in order, a praise song
of sorts for our deliverance;
we slaughtered them in their sleep.

We learned to tell time according
to bodily function; now we are
resuscitating language by stirring
sticks in the dirt of prehistoric graves.


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A Skyflower Friday in The Imaginary Garden.


52 comments:

  1. I almost chose this picture too. I am impressed with where it took you. I especially admire the "commerce between mortal sacrifice and sunrise", an era we seem to be in at the moment. A wonderful write.

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    1. I wrote the poem first, then chose this picture to accompany it - the lone bird in an empty sky seemed emblematic.

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  2. I suppose it's a reflection of the darker turns my mind has been taking lately, but I really like the second to last verse.

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  3. This goes back to that darker sides for me too... the mortal sacrifice and sunrise is such a great span, how you can span a story between things that are just close to being opposites create such a contrast in your words.

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    1. I like the way you read the poem, Bjorn. Thanks.

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  4. I wonder if anyone who has ever said, " we slaughtered them in their sleep" has then whispered, "Pyrrhic", and cried. I hope so.

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    1. I hope so too, but I wonder how many actually lose sleep or shed a tear over the atrocities they have caused.

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    2. No need to wonder...they don't...!

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  5. Very reflective write. Are our eyes open yet? Which way do we choose?

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    1. I believe the choices will always be made by those whom we can trust the least to act in the best interest of all.

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  6. I often wonder how many conquering soldiers walking over the immediate destruction are hiding their horror - their true feelings from the others... Just watching video footage of the horror in Aleppo - the utter destruction, the piles of people dead... Pyrrhic indeed. 2nd and 3rd stanzas really brings it home for me...

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    1. Certainly Aleppo is the inspiration behind this poem, inasmuch as Aleppo represents the human propensity for razing its own cities and destroying the means by which the next generation can thrive.

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  7. This one gave me goosebumps!! Great write, Kerry

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  8. There's something freighted in the construction of your challenge, titling our works in the manner of Gonzales-Torres, the poem a fulcrum between "untitled" and ( ). So that what here is untitled in a praise song is all the violence behind and around it: arrogance and folly wed with yearning and hope. A primal cloudiness, "pyrrhic" in the attempt to speak cleaner deeper speech. Wonderful write Kerry, and a great challenge.

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    1. Such an insightful comment, Brendan. You've given me a new way to read my own poem.

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  9. I was tempted by this image but I was also tempted to link a poem I posted yesterday, so I didn't! You've explored the image so deeply and chillingly, Kerry. I love the opening lines and the concept of 'daily commerce between mortal sacrifice and sunrise' echoes throughout the rest of the poem. Some phrases I think are wonderfully effective are:

    '...with a taste / of drought on the back of tongues'
    '...it was built / to bear the load of civilization'
    and
    '...now we are / resuscitating language by stirring /
    sticks in the dirt of prehistoric graves.'

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    1. It is a tragedy that violence and corruption have become the subject of daily commerce, when we're not Instagramming pictures of our lunch.

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    2. The world is terrifying in its inanity!

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  10. "The priests suggested an anthem
    would be in order, a praise song
    of sorts for our deliverance;
    we slaughtered them in their sleep."

    sleep can be claimed as reward when our own demons are slaughtered

    really an adventurous write

    much love...

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    1. An interesting reading of that line.
      Thanks, Gillena.

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    2. That's my favorite section too. The line break makes me see hidden things like "and them" and "ant hem." With the former, I think the "priests" are directing the masses to consider/add others ... to our prayer lists, perhaps. In other words, I should stop praying/thinking only of myself. And what do I do? Kill anyone who dares speak truth or wisdom ... or togetherness. It's sick ... and so timely when the new year is about to turn over, like an engine, starting up something new and improved.

      The beautiful thing about the world and its people being sick is that hopefully it means a great healing is coming.

      Oh, and the "ant hem" has to do with hard workers and heavy lifters still putting forth the effort to sew new frocks, put on their best dresses, and look their prettiest for the goodness that's coming around the corner.

      Let's choose to read this as a bad dream, and move forward into something uplifting instead of murderous.

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    3. Thanks for sharing your perspective on these lines.
      My intention in having the priests slaughtered is to suggest there are times in history when there is nothing to give thanks for because the devastation of war is completely unpraiseworthy and asking people to do so is a travesty, especially when deliverance is at huge cost to other lives and ways of life.

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  11. oh yes, our loss of language needs to be resuscitated! perfect

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    1. True...emoji will become our means of communication.

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  12. Wow. This is very powerful. I hope language can be resuscitated.

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    1. Communication is key, but no one speaks the same language.

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  13. I find some kind of an anguish in your words. The imagery is all too real through the binding of words which give a coherent message. There's destruction in it, marred by a sinking hole of melancholy over all things lost. The praise song is a part of ritual and it is so hard to get out of such banalities. I wish that there's still some hope for our salvation.
    Every word is crystal clear like a tear drop in this verse. Beautifully penned.
    -HA

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    1. How can one not grieve at the state of the world?

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  14. Dystopic, and bitter, perhaps, like the taste of some kind of defeat--perhaps the fall and shatter of that pillar that was designed to hold it all up--but unfaltering in its honesty, Kerry, and therefore redemptive. I can't say I disagree with your point, either, unfortunately.

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    1. It is one viewpoint, certainly not definitive. But I have fears for the not so distant future. There are troubled times ahead for countries in the Northern hemisphere. We all wait to see if it will be diplomacy or all out war, and I fear the latter.

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  15. Whoa--a very intense and stark vision, Kerry, but your images are striking and compelling, the last verse particularly strong for me, but only because it follows up on such strong verses. k.

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    1. Hi Karin, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I always appreciate your perspective.

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  16. I understand the concept behind the Tower of Babel but I wonder if their hearts and motives had been pure if it wouldn't have been a boon to have only one language? Probably not. We have this human nature that tends to go bad. Powerful glimpse into a possible future.

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  17. When we crossed the border,
    there was scorched earth, a policy
    of the victors;

    In ancient times the strategy was to create diversions or deprivations to inflict large numbers for a longer time. It was more of self preservation as one avoided being killed in combat but rather caused damage through starvation of enemies! Rightly so Kerry!

    Hank

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  18. Takes me back several hundred years, can hear horses and marauding armies... but also the sound of moral conflict. Very vivid.

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  19. I deeply appreciate your empathy - the state of things around us (concern)

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  20. What a powerful poem to start the year - I wonder if the end (or beginning) will eradicate or elevate.. we can only hope for the latter I suppose.. language and words are a good foundation - happy new year to you

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  21. Happy New Year, Kerry

    The poem is dark and has hints of the past, present and future. It's like a merging of everything.

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  22. stark and dark, that's what we've spun this world into...your poem so well documents our times...

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  23. I read this again with great admiration, Kerry. You are plumbing the depths with your writing these days, and the outlook for humanity is indeed bleak.Though we must hang onto hope. Somehow.

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  24. This is an extremely well written, beautiful poem. The line about columns that bear the load of civilization is very nice.

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  25. What a wonderful write Kerry--I especially like the images in your last stanza--Happy New Year to you!

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  26. Easy to read this as bleak and despairing. Then I looked again and found in that final verse the human resilience which is as real and continual as our destructiveness. (If we do begin again, let us pray we don't just repeat.) Powerful writing!

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  27. I got a feeling of being on a dig and coming across these pilgrim's remains. Stunningly powerful and deep Kerry! Hugs!

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  28. This reflects for me the sense of absolute negation that so colors what is going on around us. Death is everywhere and apocalypse is a commonplace. Sadly, death does give life to so much of our thinking and our language. It is beginning to change our values, as well. Powerful commentary.

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  29. We are entering into another dark age without a doubt.There will be more philosophers poets artists and environmentalists living in caves in the future, outcasts wearing social leper bells about their necks and then when enough apocalyptic situations occur globally...a huge lash back could occur...a revolution,a resurgence of hope...another renaissance.

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  30. Perhaps we are simply paying for the crimes we committed in the beginning.....there is always a price to pay.

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  31. I feel the layers every time I walk anywhere on this earth. What a scorching poem. If it is a praise poem it's in praise of the language of devastation.

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