Sarah Louise Palin
suffers from chagrin
she stalked a high office
but fell on her faux pas’s
I really never liked the Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees. I had to memorize it in 4th grade and recite it without barfing in front of the class. No, I wasn’t suffering from stage fright – even at that tender age I loathed excessive sentimentality. It may be that my brain is turning to mush, or that my life-long struggle to grok and sometimes hit a universal note in my writing is finally paying off (even today people love Trees), but I did feel a rather grudging respect for some of the imagery when I read it again, as if for the first time, in reaction to today’s prompt. The line about the hungry mouth prest (his spelling not mine) to Earth’s sweet flowing breast-though incredibly embarrassing at the time-is really gorgeous and I think brave, considering he wrote it in 1918. Trees made him famous and his words immortal in the way only poetry can survive death. It also made him an easy target for many other poets, most notably Ogden Nash.
So, I admit it’s a cheap shot and I did try this with some of my favorites, but it made me queasy. Nevertheless, I send a deep bow Kilmer’s way, wherever he may be (I pray he’s been digested by a tree); we should all be so lucky as to write a poem as famous as his.
I pulled the High priestess from my Ryder Waite tarot deck. It’s the deck I learned to tell the cards with and its still my favorite because it incorporates so many plain, simple and universal symbols. However, I have a problem with the tendency, imposed by our culture, to rank everything in stereotypical orders of hierarchy. My priestess is not about that, she would not allow the designation “High” with all it implies to be attached to her title.
After I wrote my initial paragraph-timing the writing, never taking pen from page, extracting the phrases which held the most juice, and writing the poem-I went looking for an image of the card I pulled, hoping to insert it in this post. Having found her, naturally I scrolled down to look at the rest. This one immediately caught my eye. I can’t tell you her provenance. I wish I knew, but she comes from a Pinterest page with no attribution. It’s such a beautiful card and exemplifies the priestess in my poem – complete with dogs!! Synchronicity comforts me with its implication that magic is indeed afoot. So here’s to the Living Goddess and the priestesses who serve Her!
Texas skies make grand canvases for Gaia.
She stirs the clouds into tornadoes,
rumbles warnings, lights her work with strobes
no angst defined avant-garde artist
will ever best. Gotterdammerung
defines her work on days like these-
moody grey and overcast with portent…
No matter that in half an hour the sun
will shine from cloudless heavens
washed crystal clear and limpid blue,
that mercury will rise
and bloom-filled flower beds,
brave petals ripped by hailstones
still sparkling on the ground,
will wave brave leaves in greeting
paying homage to their planet.
As should we.
…And you could not help but be convinced of the truth of it all, so
cleverly was it done. There was a background of houses and a very
red-looking sky. “Too red!” some people said, but were immediately
quashed by the dictum of the wise, that the sky represented a sunset,
as anyone who looked could see. Then there were a number of little
figures, no taller than your hand, but with little wooden faces and
arms and legs, just beautifully made little dolls, and these were
dressed in kirtles and breeches –all rags mostly–and little coats and
wooden shoes. They were massed together in groups with their arms
all turned upwards.
And in the center of this little stage on an elevated platform there
were miniature wooden posts close together, and with a long flat
board at right angles at the foot of the posts, and all painted a bright
red. At the further end of the boards was a miniature basket, and
between the two posts, at the top, was a miniature knife which ran up
and down in a groove and was drawn by a miniature pulley. Folk who
knew said that this was a model of a guillotine.
And lo and behold! when you dropped a penny into a slot just below
the wooden stage, the crowd of little figures started waving their
arms up and down, and another little doll would ascend the elevated
platform and lie down on the red board at the foot of the wooden
posts. Then a figure dressed in brilliant scarlet put out an arm
presumably to touch the pulley, and the tiny knife would rattle down
on to the poor little reclining doll’s neck, and its head would roll off
into the basket beyond.
Then there was a loud whirr of wheels, a buzz of internal mechanism,
and all the little figures would stop dead with arms outstretched,
whilst the beheaded doll rolled off the board and was lost to view, no
doubt preparatory to going through the same gruesome pantomime
It was very thrilling, and very terrible: a certain air of hushed awe
reigned in the booth where this mechanical wonder was displayed…
I hope you all read the article on landays. I’m fascinated on many levels but mostly by how ancient the form is. I am so consistently amazed by how forms, symbols, ideas, customs persist through millennia. In spite of myriad changes taking place in every culture some things persist, sometimes in their original form. It’s enough to make you believe in memes!