A Bedtime Story: The Pomegranate and the Plum, Cont'd.
". . . Bitterns feasted in the marsh, and frost grew
Over the cupboard, milk white, milk white alway";
The pomegranate dreamed nostalgically;
"But not for you, misshapen blood loaf, not you,"
The squashes hooted; grilled cheese on the back
Stairs and doorknobs on the bone walls sizzled
And stared in pity; the rose posse whistled;
Soon the pomegranate escaped; he broke
The jail rafters; the brave roosters helped him,
For love; and is it not so terrible
That a pomegranate becomes an arm, still
Panting with hushed breath for his Princess Plum,
That it settles with her and is complete,
Like your two hands folded in your lap. . . like that?. . .
Meanwhile, that ever erstwhile high school kid, Monkey Boy, has fallen in love in these pages, committed suicide over his love, and has become an angel, one whose special duty (or penance) is to give comfort to those who have tried to commit sucide. Speaking to an adolescent girl who has tried to cut herself to death, he says the following:
When Penance Comes: Monkey Boy Talks to the Near-Suicide
"It's like Angels made daybreak in my heart;
Like I'm a gift for you, like a wish or something,
And now I'm looking at you, consumed by the part
That blooms music; it's like soaring;
Like now I'm feeling through the front of your nightgown,
And you're all so beautiful; like under
A school desk, someone's carved your initials down
Deep with their own; like at a mirror
Someone is combing their hair for you; like someone,
Alone, fantasizing you real close --
You may want to cut from here but like I've seen it done,
Someone crazy pinning love-starved hope
To brush you by in the halls -- so much you don't know;
Don't die; like, it's alright; I'm here, shh, now. . ."
And of course, we can't forget Moonlight, the partisans' hero in their fight against the Duchess of Moisture. At one time Moonight and the Duchess were in love, but when he left her for someone else, the evil ruler's troops were unleashed upon this world. Hotly pursued by these soldiers, Moonlight left his love in the care of the Woodcutter Tree and escaped far away, to the universe's edge to be exact, from where he has been kind enough to send postcards from time to time. Here are some highlights of these missives (Of course, the "I" in the poem's title is Uncle Caterpillar, the recorder of the events of this world):
Why Memory Grows Fonder the Farther You Go: Where I Find Postcard
Scraps From When Moonlight Escaped to the Universe's Edge
". . .Ground fog curling through the violets. . . ; a mole,
Or something, lives under the barn. . . ; in the flowers --
Beaver trails. . . ; I learn my way by seabird calls. . . ;
Ringing from the village church. . . ; is the water
Leaving secrets? On the porch it taps messages. . . ;
In the dialogue my eyes have with the fragrant
Clouds, I hear of fields stretching towards their edges. . . ;
Did hornets live in the eaves? I forget,
But I'm sure of the fat spiders and the mouse traps. . . ;
Women in bonnets, their strong men drive wagons. . . ;
You see so much at the Universe's end; sunsets
Shift on various ridges of the mountains. . . ;
Shadows pull themselves over brush. . . ; It seems
Nice to be far away. . . ; sunsets, like proms for prisms. . ."
Meanwhile, as a sort of parallel text to Uncle Caterpillar's (the one you are reading now, THE BODY BESTIARY), there stands The Duchess of Moisture's autobiography (No, Kitty Kelly did not help her, thank you very much). Three fragments are presented below: The first tells of her love for Moonlight, the second addresses her future literary critics, and the third is written in her exhausted present, her love long gone and her revenge nearly complete. It goes as follows:
The Tapestry of Leaves: What I Read When I Chance to Find Three Unfinished Journal Entries, Early Drafts From The Duchess of Moisture's Autobiography
"I smell the sea -- it's like a burning passion
In my heart; at the center of my soul's passion?
Moonlight -- at the center of all I am;
I've not absolved any of you from pain. . ."
In prose, . . . writes in the black ink of felt life,'
My critics will say; and then, 'But she loosened blood
On the world';
I say to them now: 'What I left
Is but testimony to how his sin bloomed
In me, to how lost longing bleeds in me alone -- me!'
"Tonight I wish I felt the burly desire
Of prayer, for before his absence ruled my destiny,
Before the fasts of my flesh turned into hunger,
I was innocent as you; now my world swims on fire,
And I've not the heart to fan it on, or blow it out anymore. . ."
And once again, in the next poem, lovelorn, exhausted, The Duchess of Moisture speaks. Uncle Caterpillar records what he hears when he chances upon her all alone one day.
The Tapestry of Images: Where I Find The Duchess of Moisture
Sighing/Singing to Herself as She Looks at Her Reflection in the Pond
"Under the moon we kissed, where the star trails thin, float
Off under the moon, under the moon of sorrow;
Under the full moon, tethered by our hearts' fate,
I crept under the moon, under the moon of sorrow;
Under the full moon you pulled me down upon you;
Under the moon, it was under the moon of sorrow
You entered me, my thighs rose petals moist with dew
Under the moon, under the moon of my sorrow;
Under the full moon my watery bones,
Motionless, shorn of loving you again,
And my anger, like a knife slit in the throat that shone
Blood stained and still in the waning light, sunk in pain;
I didn't care what would come tomorrow,
Under the moon, under the moon of sorrow. . ."
And so we leave the Duchess to her lonliness and move on to a poem centered on Uncle Caterpillar for a change. In this poem, missing his dead father, the worms agree to lead him underground to visit his father's bones.
Notes For A Tapestry of Touching: (1) My Dead Dad's Spirit
All last night, at the birth of the scented, "yes,"
And tonight, as I slept in a spiraled clough of rose,
I followed my dead dad's spirit images
Through the early morning blue before the moon goes,
Or was it Hawk's shadow bleeding as one
With Mouse, as they soared amidst Starlight's fading roots?
Dad,. . .
(11) The Worms Take Me to His Bones
Now the worms lead me from the lifelines of roots. . . ;
Now, through the clotted clouds -- "Beware," whispers Mole. . ."
Elf crying from far. . . ;
worms, teach me small breaths --
The sweet, damp stink of dirt covers my soul. . . ;
Shrive me Stones -- I'm too closed in!. . .
Nears; . . .
I smell the fleshless. . . ;
I touch your ribs; they're like runes, Dad,
Bleached books of you; . . .
help me read them; talk to me, Dad. . .
As I said earlier, The Duchess of Moisture's revenge was not quite complete. Her final act, at least as far as we know, is to kill Uncle Caterpillar. Her troops capture him, and he is put to death by her spider executioner. However, good reporter that he is, Uncle caterpillar takes notes on his execution. Here they are:
My Final Words: Where I Take Notes On My Execution
. . . The thorny spears of the rose rage from all sides;
Toad soldiers rouse me from the dandelion. . .
Now the nightmare mire of the pollywog, the insides
Of the pond bottom. . . mud of centuries my dungeon. . .
When the Duchess of Moisture pronounces my sentence as she floats,
I think, 'this one will stay mine' . . . ; my dead father
Has become a frog I dream; "I know you," he croaks;
The pond mist settles; I need his caress here,
See where I'm hurt?. . . toad breathing near nightfall -- no moon
Will come now. . . parachute throats, colors of helmets. . .
My executioner's hood is a man's mitten,
My executioner is friend to the spiders who will come in moments,
Whose webs shiver. . . a guard's bellow -- now the jaws'
Blackness for me. . . thus I was. . . .
But that is not the final poem in the book. Hawk, the character who gave Uncle Caterpillar a ride on his back in an earlier poem, is the speaker in this poem. He has told Uncle Caterpillar a few things about dying, which our good reporter scrupulously recorded, to be played at his time.
The Final Tapestry: What Hawk Told Me About Dying
(To Be Read After My Death)
Over the pools that make one forgetful,
My life will burn in the goings of seasons;
Forest memories will become things useful,
My life; I will be given robes and crowns,
My life's ending; I will lust for hunger,
My life; I will rise on the wind's back; like a bride,
Evenings rose hush before starlight, before
My memory of childhood and bread,
Will undress me, and my female beauty will stay;
My life, that transient part of a man,
Will end, as the night will tell a story;
It will start: "As it has always begun,
Your ending begins in the thin shell
Of departure with a peck of light; you feel."
On behalf of Uncle Caterpillar and the other inhabitants of The Body Bestiary world: Thank you all for listening. Goodbye.