Yesterday, while sketching rough lines for the poem you’re about to read, I was pondering the strange nature of blogs. Oceantics has been up and running since September 2012. I’ve posted 476 poems, more or less. What began as something like a dare, then a showcase, has settled into my favourite phase yet, a studio. I post poems here. I try stuff out. The most grindingly awful, I have the freedom to delete. Most, though, have stayed. I’m more in love than ever with the craft of poetry, particularly the privilege of the glosa. Someday, in the ethers, wherever we go after this, I want to bear hug the Spanish courtier who developed this awesome form. I kid you not—the glosa transcends time/space and lets you party with any poet who ever lived.
In the following glosa, I have refracted the poet’s lines to create new end words. Hope Mirrlees won’t mind; she was a great rule breaker. Scarcely known now, Hope was the author of Lud o’ the Mist, a book that inspired some of today’s most successful fantasy novelists, including Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett. Fyfield Books has published her collected poems, from which the following quatrain has been borrowed.
…a weight of glory so immense / as to appal and freeze
the mortal sense is true in poetry as well
as true in fact. / It can occur both after
and before / the one unchangeable and strict event.
—from “A Portrait of the Second Eve Painted in Pompeian Red” by Hope Mirrlees
What have you seen today?
The blind man at the caravanserai inquires.
Murder, theft, I say, endless dunes,
monotony. A date pit cracks my tooth.
I wake. It was a dream, though I still feel
the grit behind my lids. My world, by degrees,
creeps in: laptop, tablet, ipod, phone. I can’t
leave well enough alone. Popping time-released
gel caps, my shoulders ache with strange dis-ease,
a weight of glory so immense as to appal and freeze.
He reappears in scrubs, pushing
a mop outside the ICU. What have you
seen today? A kind soul, I say, paid this
forward, a venti low-fat caramel latte…
unexpected funds. Guess I’m sort of shallow.
He shakes his head. There is a smell
to presence that you mask and hold at bay,
a musk enticing as a wedding night you chase
and lose and crave what you could once foretell.
The mortal sense is true in poetry as well.
Where deepest violence now blinds, imagination,
fierce desire rise and skip ahead. They’re carving
beyond tragedy new sites. The never searched,
no precedent or archives, is where those angels
of great scholarship assemble to assist, whispering,
Exchange your weary vehemence for rapture.
We’ll provide the evidence both spendable
and luscious. Let darker realms be as they are.
The ultra-rational cannot abide our laughter
as true in fact. It can occur both after
and the during, as your friend, whose Stage IV
illness took her, came to know in final breaths.
Grief angered and engulfed me, but worse,
I also saw, as if I’d grown a multitude of eyes,
more of rage’s like and weight rush in,
barbaric, howling, overwhelming, hell-sent—
until I heard her voice. Not so. You do not have to
breathe your last to know the only destination’s love.
Everyone is light refracted, pretending death, bent
and before the one unchangeable and strict event.
© Elaine Stirling, 2016
A note about the image: I don’t know which Pompeian red painting captured Hope Mirrlees’s imagination, but I like to think it might have been this one. A caption, borrowed from Mauricio Naya’s “Muralis” on Pinterest, states: A new study by Italy’s National Science Foundation (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche) has determined that the famous “Pompeian red,” the brilliant red coloring many of the famous frescoed walls of Pompeii, was actually ochre/yellow. According to the study, the yellow color was rendered intense red by the hot gasses emitted during the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.