Wednesday, May 06, 2009


(From the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

cook the unpleasant past
into a tea of night
pour it over
my eyelid embroidery
your face is better
when you step back
step back
leave my dawn
to its pedigree


Little Girl Lost said...

i wonder why nobody else is commenting :)
i was holding out till you got a comment or two from other people, because i was worried that i hadn't understood the poem and would end up with a really dumb comment that i didn't want to show at the very top. but i guess the others are holding out too. :)
oh well, i have broken the status quo.
now please let the discussion start, so that i can get what jason is talking about.

the walking man said...

In sleep we sometimes do drink the past steeped in dreams. I like the imagery of the embroidered eyelids because therein lies the detail that filters the tea from leaves.

The question comes though is the dawns pedigree coming from the dawns which came before or the dreams (nightmares) just seen. And in dreams stepping back or not does it affect that pedigree?

Question on technicality though...I, more than once have been roundly abused for lack of punctuation. Now I use it all the time...your thoughts on little dots and the like Jason.

Aniket said...

LGL is right on one point that I don't know who the shadow man is.

But the words are very powerful and have a lot of depth in them.

"your face is better
when you step back
step back"

They resonate the pain from past and seeking refuge in solitude.

Catvibe said...

As an artist, I can say that stepping back is very very good for getting the proper perspective on the painting you are working on.

This is a challenging poem to access as Aniket and LGL have pointed out. I am also wondering who this man is, but I am pretty sure if it was important you would have told us. I think of faces and how they are contorted as we age, into the characters we have made them with our mental attitudes. When we step back from our issues, our faces relax and we are not all caught up in worry. Pouring the tea shadow concoction over our eyes, so we do not dwell on the pains of the past, we are able to come into the future, and allow you to unfold in all the beauty you are endowed with.

Or so it seems to want to be deciphered to me.... :-)

Catvibe said...

Sorry, I only partially edited that last sentence and now it's grammatically sucking. Ooops. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Let me give a general comment first. I often turn to poetry to vent visceral feelings and painful things. Because I don't want to address them in the cold light of prose, I often do cloak them just beyond reach. Nevertheless, many of you are penetrating directly through to my message. The words are evoking what I felt when writing the poem. The only thing you're lacking is the hard reality to hang it on. And that raises as interesting question. I like making readers work and making them reach. The overall experience is more intense when some of it is fueled by your own efforts. Because blogging is more personal, however, and being just beyond reach can be frustrating, I'll reveal the shadow man, as Aniket aptly puts it, a bit later.

Sarah Hina said...

It reads to me like a rebuke of closeness, and a return to the folds of a pure and immobilized isolation.

His face does strike me as haunted and pained, yet there is still something soft and appealing about those shadowed eyes. He's also looking straight at us, and isn't that veiled.

I guess I'm sensing some contradiction between the face and the very powerful words. If just a sliver.

Maybe our interpretations ultimately say something about ourselves.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm not sure what it says but it says it interestingly.

Meghan said...

leave my dawn
to its pedigree

Love that.

Anonymous said...

The words certainly invoke great imagery.

Karen said...

The "step back, step back" reminds me of a crime scene or scene of an accident. The eyelid embroidery? Eyes sewn shut? Well, apparently I read too much crime fiction or I've spent too much time with severed fingers! lol

I like the way you've cloaked your pain in poetry.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Feelings steep and brew here in that tea of night - allowing the past to be purposely obscured in darkness. Or..perhaps, by cooking the unpleasant past into a tea, it becomes diffused, thereby making the past less intense.

By pouring the tea over the embroidered eyelids - could the stitches closing the eyes be softened and even dissolved - allowing for a clearer vision - or a healing?

Does dawn mean an awakening here? Or does it mean, to leave what I have discovered alone, hanging in the family tree.


Anonymous said...

Little Girl Lost, since you were the first to ask, I'll give you the glimmer of reality to hang the poem on. It's about the intrusion of past problems and pain with my father into the present. "Pedigree" is being used in the literal sense of lineage. I come from those before me, but I am not them.

Walking Man, I like your delving into dreams. And then wakefulness. I can sense the emotions getting across. As for punctuation, I tend to find full punctuation in poetry extremely distracting. Things like commas and periods take away from the visceral nature. I usually do capitalize, though. This time, I liked it better without.

Aniket, you are parsing the "step back" element of the poem very well. It's a defensiveness. A pushing away.

Catvibe, in your words, I also see many of the thoughts and ideas and emotions that I poured into this poem. That's why I view it as a success, even though the exact nature of the poem was hidden.

Sarah, the face is part of message of the poem. A face you'd rather not see or talk to. One you wish were retreat to the shadows where it belongs. Thank you for letting it have its own meaning for you. :)

Charles, that's something, at least. ;)

Meghan, cool. :)

Aggie, thanks!

Karen, it does evoke trauma, and soothing, or is it more violation? Sewn eyes seem claustrophobic. But what if it's forcing you to dream things you don't want to dream? I think you're right to sense crime and violation.

Kaye, this is a black, insidious tea. The pouring over the person restrained is like waterboarding. Only it's a deluge of unwanted images and memory rather than a tortured confession.

Vesper said...

It's fascinating to read all the comments, including yours, Jason.
Regardless of what each reader sees in it - and maybe especially because each reader can have their own interpretation of it - the images and feelings it evokes are haunting...

Karen said...

This is a fascinating discussion, Jason, and as I said before, that you can write your pain is amazing to me. As Vesper said, whatever interpretation people put on this poem, it is haunting...

Anonymous said...

Vesper, I'm totally with you. Poetry should be a personal experience.

Karen, thank you. I'm glad that you all let me do it. :) It helps to pull it out of me and exorcise it on the page. (BTW, you won the Book Roast contest!! Drop me an email for your prize.)

Shadow said...

i love the imagery of the face, i can visualise it! outstanding!!