423b2e
423b2e

2.14.2013

red red red


Red Red Red

1.
Sent from the breakfast room on a Sphinx' errand, I became
not childlike, as charged,

but windowseat nestling, small bird roosted in red moreen.

Outside the glass, sea of slick grass and storm-stripped shrubbery,
the lowering November light like a chilblain;

inside, Bewick hatched in my lap. I was feathered and sistered
among the pale fjord-birds, at home

on islands of rock in the midst of shocked ocean, the battery of waves—

the sea teaching the ghostly birds nothing
but how to be more like themselves: each storm-beat bird still bird.

2.
Enter cousin John, gorged, dinge-skinned Caligula
looking for something to smash that would satisfy by staying so

and finding my feather-light frame like a constant cough,
my white face a bull’s-eye midst the scarlet curtains.

These were my choices: to be hit and break,
or to be hit. 

What does the pugilist teach the battered punching bag,
the archer or rifleman the target’s straw-stuffed shadow?

How to snap back to center after the blow. 
How to take the loosed dart like swallowing—

3.
Launch my own kin at me: Bewick's leaves flapping like wings,
the blunt edge of the binding cruel as beak or talons,

cruel as a night closed in the Iron Maiden room, walls grisly
with velvet burnout and the house's terrorizing, spike-bled ghosts.

The next time your hands fall on me, I will bend to brute will,
the next time, I will be obedient

the next time, but not before
you see me felled, bloodied and still Jane,

the next time, know your hands fall not on me
but a whole flock of wildness, a wet-winged avian legion,

my voice like a cold wind screaming around the haunted rocks,
calling what's outside in:

come, rat, mad cat, bad animal,
come unfettered thing, come small bird to fly fly,

reveal the frail gray thing to be red-pinioned,
my blood sprayed indelibly on the page in the shape of a wing.


~ by erinn batykefer
from ".... (a) new book, which is still in the draft phase and tentatively titled "The Book of Monsters," (this book) weaves together two series of poems: one, a lyrical re-imagination of Charlotte Bronte's novel; and the other, a series of epithalamia that focus not on the traditional event of a marriage, but the moment when a person makes an irrevocable choice."
Bewick, Thomas - author and illustrator of "A History of British Birds", 1797 and 1804 respectively
xxx

7 comments:

goatman said...

It's too bad that one must dig through the mire of this horrible "poem" to find the gem-reference of Bewick's work. But such is the experience of discovery, I guess.

I wonder if any of his original woodcuts still exist -- looks like beautiful work.

Lee said...

Metaphor...metaphor...metaphor by the score...love it!

red dirt girl said...

Hmmm .... goatman. You've not stated why the poem is "horrible".

Bewick - interesting in that he carved and published for 'the amateur naturalist'. His books are considered the first 'field guides' published.

A set of first edition's sold for $300,000 last year. You can buy a re-printed set for $250 on Amazon.com.

Upon further research, apparently there have been multiple publications hence that feature Bewick's original woodcuts - these can be had for small sums of money on ebay.

To view the ORIGINAL ORIGINALS on this side of the Atlantic:

University of Chicago,
Cornell University and the
Edmonton Art Gallery, CAN.

An exhaustive link list can be found here at Squidoo:

http://www.squidoo.com/bewick#module29717962

xxx

(ps. watch out for 'The Birds' ...)

red dirt girl said...

Hi Lee!

I suppose one must be fairly familiar with Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Bewick to fully appreciate this poem. And to undertake the re-working of a lengthy novel into a lyrical poem format is .... a large undertaking. Or ambitious, I suppose.

I do so love the metaphors.

xxx

J Cosmo Newbery said...

I must confess it is too complex for me.

goatman said...

"These were my choices: to be hit and break,
or to be hit. " Do I need this image? Are there no other choices?

By "original woodcuts" I meant the actual wood that he carved into. I guess to be accurate I should have said the "original cut wood", sorry.

red dirt girl said...

Okay. I understand your loathing of violence and violent images.

The poet herself was raised in a violent home. Her poetry reflects what she knows.

As for the wood that is cut, can't help you with that one.

But hey - you'll always have Bewick ...

xxx