Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Month of poetry #14: At the museum

There's one skeleton I'm haunted by the
freakish size of. Nancy Reagan's head
shoved on top of a dinosaur spine
would be less disturbing. It makes me
feel like prey and I hurry under its ribs.
More than you, more than me
is needed to fill that xylophone space.

Electron microscope images
make me nauseous.The smoothest
surface of a pin or hair shaft thus gets
fluffy and greasy, reminds me of all the
skin flakes I cannot shake off. I have
lived a filthy lie of becoming clean,
after which microbes had existed all along.

Animals frozen in their skins fail
to unnerve: hard eyes and stiff paint
fluff them up into toyland plushies
there is nothing frightening in a tiger
that will stand casually next to a pangolin.
Any minute now they'll start up on
a Monty Python routine, with the parrot.

Towards the end there's a room that
drops me into the paperback covers
of furious childhood reading. Learning
Welsh poems and how to say the
double L, the double D: the sounds
fluttering ice in my mouth like a small fish.
Seeking a new religion in every page.

Something about that room of old stones
still makes me into a sign-seeker
skidding on moss and completing a circle:
pursuing the mountains in their singing
with a pure heart, full of goodness and iron.
Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae'r arglwyddes yn don.

Includes suggestions from:

@lalscotton: Calon lân yn llawn daioni (pure heart full of goodness)
@xutraa: ice in my mouth like a small fish
@attentive: after which microbes had existed all along
@timsterne: I'm haunted by the freakish size of Nancy Reagan's head (Mission of Burma, Nancy Reagan's Head)
@GretaPunch: more than you, more than me
@ernmalleyscat: thus gets fluffy and greasy

If you've read Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising sequence, the end will make a bit more sense. But suffice to say my best friend and I were besotted with those wonderful books in early high school, and (never to do anything by halves) I looked up all the Welsh pronunciations and attempted to do my own literal translation of the poem that runs through the books. The last Welsh lines translate as "The mountains are singing/and the lady comes" (although apparently there's a grammatical error in the use of "maent" there).

And if you haven't read the series: do yourself a favour. But skip the (DREADFUL) movie.

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