Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Songs and Dances of Death

Songs and Dances of Death

What they did not know
was that the curious fertility of the soil
came about because they stood
on an ancient battlefield.
Sometimes, they would turn up old bones
and once, a skull. They took it to the priest
for burial and returned to their ploughing.
At night they told the old stories.
If you had asked "Can't you hear
the dead crying out?" they would say
"It's only the wind in the wheat."


All summer I read of these things.
In my garden the weeds grew lank.
It rained often. On the path
I could barely make out a small bundle
of feathers and bones.


In the museum there is a dark blue
velvet cloth. It has covered many at their burials.
As well seek them in the night sky as here,
their trace as faint.


It is because of their deaths that we have come.


This poem is not a sarcophagus.
This poem is not a mausoleum.
This poem is a brown cardboard box
sufficient to bury one dead blackbird
found on my garden path.


I had decided not to post a Tuesday Poem this week, and then at the last moment I thought of this poem and changed my mind. Not an earthquake poem, but its mood seemed appropriate. The event is huge, a "brown cardboard box" is all that I feel able to offer. It is another poem that results from my genealogy researches, and was published in our anthology, "The Chook Book" in 2004.

For more Tuesday Poems go to the main Tuesday Poem hub.


Unknown said...

Such a beautiful meaningful cardboard box.

Mary McCallum said...

Terrific poem, Catherine. Thank you for deciding to post it. Trying to find those words - those right words - to 'say' the quake is so necessary right now. That final stanza - brilliant, thank you.

Joseph Harker said...

All of it is good, but that last stanza, as Mary said, is downright splendid. I've been reading your stories from the quake, and they are just as full of life as your poetry; whatever form your words take, if they help express what needs to be expressed, they are worth reading.

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Catherine - how challenging it must be to try and give shape to what you're going through. The word 'sufficient' in the last stanza brings everything together for me. 'This poem is a brown cardboard box/sufficient. . ."
I am relieved to know that you and your family are doing alright - although to say 'alright' seems so inadequate. Sending strong thoughts in your direction. Take best care.

Jennifer Compton said...

I've been reading down from the top of your blog, reading with interest and sadness - fascinated by all the minutiae of how you are getting by - so good to have news and to read of such courage