Mal

January 14, 2010

by Dick Jones

Strange word, ‘stroke’ — a gentle sleep
and then you wake up,
changed. Caressed by infirmity
on the brown hill, kissed
by disability as you climb
the long drive. The farmhouse tips
and, heart in crescendo,
you embrace the grass.

Indifferent sheep manoeuvre,
crowding out your sky.
You lie in a lump, adrift
at the field’s edge, floating
on the dead raft
of your limbs.
The sun nails light
into your one good eye.

Near dusk her scarecrow voice
scatters your crowding dreams:
she calls you from the house,
the sound of your name
curling out of the past,
a gull-cry, fierce, impatient,
tearing at the membrane
that has dimmed your world.

Root-still, potato-eyed,
you are another species now.
Your medium is clay and saturation.
Mummified, like the bog-man
trapped by time, you lie dumbfounded,
mud-bound and uncomprehending
as the sun slips down
behind the hill.

The urgent fingers
scavenging for a heartbeat,
fluttering like bird-wings
at your throat,
are busy in the dark.
You feel nothing
of their loving panic,
their distress.

All love, all optimism, pain,
all memory, desire coarsen,
thicken into vegetable silence.
A dim siren wobbles in the dark.
And then rough hands manhandle
your clod-heavy bulk.
Night swallows the spinning light
and closes in like smoke.


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Dick Jones writes, “Initially wooed by the First World War poets and then seduced by the Beats, I have been exploring the vast territories in between since the age of 15. Fitfully published in a variety of magazines throughout the years of rambling — Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Ireland Review, Qarrtsiluni, Westwords, Mipoesias, Three Candles, Other Poetry and others. Grand plans for the meisterwerk have been undermined constantly either by a Much Better Idea or a sort of Chekhovian inertia.

Categories: Words of Power Tags:
  1. January 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Oh, my word. Or I should say, ‘oh, YOUR word.’ So powerful and so transporting, I feel as if I were on that brown hill, too, dumb as a potato, uprooted to survive. Your reading is perfect.

  2. January 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    How did I last year miss this fine poem?

    Mal so nicely illustrates the power of rhyme to weld one artifact from words: stroke/smoke, brown/farmhouse/crowding, tip/indifferent/adrift, sleep/sheep, hands/manhandle. Rhyme here too sounds lovely dissonant chords, with pairings such as kissed/disability.

    “Indifferent sheep manoeuvre,/crowding out your sky” is fabulous. “Sheep” suggest aimless clouds, but then “manoeuvre” hints at battle strategems, an assault. The sheep then double into obscurities to consciousness, as the sky is denominated “your sky” rather “the”.

    Every word counts as we become more distanced from thought and life, “adrift/at the field’s edge, floating/on the dead raft/of your limbs.” Another fine choice is “fingers/scavenging for a heartbeat”.

    I also loved the assured use of monosyllables to pierce the cognitive fog: “[t]he sun nails light/into your one good eye” and “she calls you from the house,/the sound of your name/curling out of the past”.

    Dick’s reading itself is, of course, also a marvel. “Changed” is elongated just enough to suggest transformation. The wonderful internal rhymes satisfy simply as the right words, nary a hint of See Saw Margery Dawism. Loved the slight umbrage registered with “crowding out your sky”! Immensely satisfying, soup to nuts.

  3. January 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    A comment well worth waiting for! Many thanks, JMartin (Julia? Julian?), for so fulsome an appreciation. It’s always very flattering to have praise substantiated by careful and detailed textual reference and thoughtful commentary. I wrote ‘Mal’ a long time ago and have now only a patchy recollection of the compositional process so I’m more than happy to absorb and adopt the data here as an accurate account of planning and design! Once again, my thanks, JM. A very gratifying response.

  4. January 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Yikes: strayed into fulsome, did I? Perhaps I had better go by Julian! (Julie)

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