Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Rising Sun (Month of Poetry #10)

He had brought it back from Japan, starched with tourism,
hung it from a post at back of the hen house
to scare away foxes. Harsh weather seasoned the fabric,
now the Rising Sun standard hung limp against the flagpole.
Like the toga of a Roman senator, we would sometimes find
a hysterical chicken rolled up in the red striped swathe.
‘Your mother thought the Japanese would stink of fish.’
He rarely spoke of travels. Confusion blushed my face.
‘Always kept a bit of her country racism. When the
Italians moved in up town, I bet she imagined their fingers
would smell of garlic and their hair of tomatoes.’

They were never meant to fly, but his chickens hassled
themselves up into the orchard trees, singles to companies.
At ripening, fruit caught their beady eyes
they peppered the fuzzy globes with sharp beaks.
‘Is it the shape of the peaches?’ I was all parts book-learned
and naïve. His caterpillar eyebrows drew together like lovers.
I blathered: ‘Chickens have, by nature, cannibalistic tendencies.
Maybe the peaches look like, little…heads…’
The eyebrows arched. ‘Reckon the chooks just like peaches.’

Weary whiskey and evening loosened his throat.
Leather-voiced confessions: he thought each summer
was his last, he prepared for a season from the back of the head
to the affront of his death. Perhaps each daybreak was final,
the sun would never rise again hot and fierce against his eyelids.
‘I feel relief every time I see another.’ Round, burning through the sky.
‘Each one, I imgaine, ups the odds of surviving another day.’
He pointed to the hen house, the tattered fabric.
‘Reckon that flag draws up the dawn to match it, red-hot for red-hot.’

Superstition was fleeting strange; he hardly ever spoke of magic
and when he did it was like a history lesson in obscure imagery.
‘I can’t shake that red circle from my chest, it is strange.
How this goes on: the struggle to get started. Terrible.’
‘It always happens.’ My voice was soft, afraid for him:
‘The sun comes up, the chickens need their breakfast.’
He placed his glass neatly back in its wet table circle.
‘It’s such a weight, such a big red weight on my heart.
Your mother understood, she kept an eye on the dawn.’
Last light pinked at the top of the hill; the flag on the
hen-house stirred in the wind. I turned to see his face
at that salute: his brief unshuttered dread.


Today's poem is based on suggestions from eight people:

@eglantinescake: “Chickens have, by nature, cannibalistic tendencies” (no author, Keeping Chickens)
@BespokeShespoke: “It is strange how this goes on. The struggle to get started. Terrible. It always happens.” (John Steinbeck, journals)
@ernmalleyscat: “Singles to companies at ripening fruit” (Graham Pizzey, Field Guide to the Birds of Australia – Wompoo Fruit Dove)
@liamvhogan: “I feel relief every time I see another round burning through the sky. Each one, I imagine, ups the odds of surviving” (Evan Wright, Generation Kill)
@lalscotton: “He hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson” (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell)
@timsterne: “a season from the back of the head” (Steve Aylett, Lint)
@ChanletB: “the Rising Sun standard hung limp against the flagpole like the toga of a Roman senator” (Murakami, Norwegian Wood)
@marklawrence: “she imagined their fingers would smell of garlic” (Catherine Bateson, The Vigilant Heart)

Today's poem was really hard - I struggled for a lot longer than usual to fit the lines in, and as I wrote along, it became quite a strange poem. When I finished, I scanned back over my stanzas and thought: "Yep. That's weird." But chickens are pretty damn weird, aren't they? All that brooding.

1 comment:

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Looking forward to reading more of this poetry project. Got some to catch up on from being away too!