Thursday, March 22, 2007

PT: A Picture, A Picture


'BY GIS AND BY SAINT CHARITY'


In this book
There was a picture
Of fair, mad Ophelia
Floating face up, trailing daisies:
On another page: The Rape
Of Lucretia, startled hand to throat,
Round breasts fallen over her bodice
Like white May pears.
Somewhere dark Othello
And that poor Jew Shylock
Protested in blacker
Pentametered despair.

The pictures drew me.
The words were partly understood,
Underscored by my
Splayed young fingers across the paper.

Now I trail ink-stained daisies
Of my own, sing mad songs,
Demand my pound of flesh,
Stare blindly

Across remoter spaces between years
And wait for whirling obsidian waters
To have me,
To carry this
Ash-white body
And cut it into stars.


Picture: Ernest Hebert, Ophelia, c. 1910. (Actually this poem came from illustrations in a book of Shakespeare that my parents owned. The book itself is long gone, but as a child I was fascinated by the pictures and looked at them often.)
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17 comments:

Tammy said...

Your descriptions of these pictures were vivid and made for a wonderful poem. xxoo

Brian said...

Vivid poem to have as a childhood memory. Strong pictures and words. I like how in the end you contect the past to the the future.

Emily said...

The picture is a little scary...I really like you last stanza, the ink-stained daisies and the ash-white body cutting into the stars

Regina Clare Jane said...

Poor Ophelia...
This was a wonderful poem... I love how you connected everything up in the last paragraph...

desert rat said...

I like the ink-stained daisies, and pentametered despair. And the whole last stanza is just excellent. Great picture too, kind of creepy. It's always fascinating to see how different artists portray such an iconic character.

Kimberley McGill said...

WOnderful poem - the last stanza made me swoon (good poetry does me that way!)

Catherine said...

I love the thought of the ash white body being cut into stars - a wonderful collection of familiar characters in this poem.

chiefbiscuit said...

You didn't need to explain re the book - I got it all from that wonderful poem. It was so well described - without strain. And what a great picture of the mad Ophelia. Gives me the shivers. I just love how you have described that transition from child - a little over-awed, even a little afraid (shivery!) - the the more robust adult ready to be 'cut into stars' - and that last image is such a strong, glorious one. A fantastic poem.

Pam said...

A poem of strong images, stunning. I, too, liked "Alabaster body cut into stars."

Superhero Activist said...

Ophelia has always invigorated my romantic and martyr sensibilities.

My favorite?

"Across remoter spaces between years
And wait for whirling obsidian waters
To have me,
To carry this
Ash-white body
And cut it into stars."

Beautiful.

pepektheassassin said...

The last few lines are in reference to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:

"For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night/ Whiter than new snow upon a raven's back./ Come gentle night, come loving, black-brow'd night./ Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die/ Take him and cut him out in little stars/ And he will make the face of heaven so fine/ That all the world will be in love with night/ And pay no worship to the garish sun."

Isn't THAT beautiful? And don't you just wish you had written it?

pepektheassassin said...

And all in iambaic pentameter, too!

gautami tripathy said...

This has various layers and moves from past to present. Very strong images too. Great picture and poem.

Pris said...

I love to see different renderings of Orphelia. It would be interesting to see a compilation of them all in one huge art book. And thanks for the wonderful poem, too!

Jone said...

I think I would be scared as a child to look at that photo. Loved the poem, the images are strong.

whitney said...

beautiful poem that produces very vivid images in my mind. The ending was wonderful.

Marcia said...

Strong images you wove from obviously strong memories, a poem I would read again.