Monday, March 21, 2011

Ancestry in sepia

Old shoes shine themselves.

Black ties for boys, white ribbon for girls.

Grey bones kept in the closet.

Shoe-brush scrapes a sharpie scrawl

across flesh. Polished expectations.

The pony steps one back leg forwards.

From an angle, three front hooves align.

Tripod of nerves and promises.

Draw the bride churchwards

on coconut shell feet.

Trouser legs up the anti to ankles.

Disestablish the moment – an aria

sung by a country girl. Chauvinism

beats down like sunburn

sings vinyl in the red throats of farmers.

The horse carries his bones past

weddings into anniversaries into

mornings run out of jam

Bluebirds fly over winter children

rainbow hat flaps tied down in the chill.

Black film reels itself into glory

Accentuates the negative

I carry my history at all times

for safekeeping. Scan them into

the brick in my pocket. Let them glow.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from five peeps. All the suggestions are in there somewhere, you just have to find them:

  • @msmisrule: “I am scanning family photos from the 1920s. Can you work that in? (You should see the SHOES!)”
  • @msmisrule: “Or else Judy Garland on vinyl.”
  • @sushipyjamas: “Sunburn and tree roots”
  • @facelikethunder: “The middle voice”
  • @matchtrick: “Skellingtons! Throat singing! Those little skin tags on your fingernail that you can use to flay your hand! Hats with flaps! Antidisestablishmentarianism. And a pony. With three legs. Three legs. On the front.”
  • @GretasTARDIS: “running out of jam. old shoes. ribbon”

Despite all the disparate suggestions to weave in, 'the middle voice' was the hardest part of this. Active and passive voice I understand. When the subject 'does' the action, the verb is active (eg. in the sentence 'The poet kicked your arse', the subject is 'the poet' and verb 'kicked' is active.) When the subject has something 'done to it', the verb is passive (In the sentence 'Your arse was kicked by the poet', the subject is 'your arse' and the verb is passive.)

I looked up what middle voice was and read "This is a set of inflections or constructions which is to some extent different from both the active and passive voices. The middle voice is said to be in the middle between the active and the passive voices because the subject often cannot be categorized as either agent or patient but may have elements of both."

Um, what? My knowledge of grammatical terms is not great, to be honest. So trying to wrap my head around a concept without a back catalogue of ancient greek to refer to was a bit of a brainfry. Still, I came across a sentence that made sense to me: "The subject acts on or for itself, eg: 'The boy washes himself'" Doing the whole poem in middle voice wouldn't have allowed me to tell a story properly, so I have just done the first line of each stanza in it (I think I have, anyway). I want to read more about the grammatical voices of other languages. Apparently Classic Mongolian has five voices: active, passive, causative, reciprocal and cooperative. That is brilliant. I wonder what the reciprocal voice entails? Perhaps it's like call and response at hip hop gigs? "When I say pump that y'all say] shit up], pump that! [shit up] pump that! [shit up]"


Today's poem is written after seeing @msmisrule's old family wedding photographs. How awesome are the black shoes/white shoes, the too-short pants and the Split-Enz hair?

1 comment:

ern malleys cat said...

I love this poem. Lots of great little plays , like 'steps one back leg forwards' and 'trouser legs up the anti to ankles'.
Again, I find it amazing you can come up with something so integral from such random diverse suggestions.