Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Child/ Woman Eating Snow

Did Wevill read this in November?

CHILD EATING SNOW

In the wilderness she
imagined she grew up in
there was this photograph
of a child eating snow.
Handfuls of years
back behind memory now
and not her face at all
the eyes different
like a bird's eyes
eaten out by the wind.

II.
In the winter sun that year
her father was all bone. Slowly
he was turning white
like her shadow on the snow.
In her dreams she never saw the sun
but sometimes a vivid suffusing light
like a torch shone through water
reminding her
of the first cry
of her birth.

III.
On the tenth of March
a door opened somewhere along the horizon.
Her father left her. His dark eyes
return at night, beyond the stars
behind the snowflake.
The birds cry again
Cry I can't imitate
No eyes it has


IV.
The blue static of lights along the freeway
grows colder, turns warmer
turns to flame. Snow
is how mirrors looked
before I was born
the old woman remembers.
The sun squats in the grass
like a dam-bear. It is brown like her father's eyes.
Silent, as a mouth stopped with snow
her memory of this picture.

V.
She sits in her mother's shadow.
She is eating the snow from his face.
Winter whispered her name, summer will
sing it now. The
single bird's cry
is a forest of music of leaves.
But it is still winter she said.
It is still February in my hands.

VI.
The day is at breakfast.
Things, things to do.
Will the clouds leave the windowpane?
She's skating on last year's ice.
Wings hover above her, soft
hunter's wings. Falcon, soul
exiled among ravens, Father, your shadow.

It is summer.
The sky is mother blue
in the winter she imagines
she will live in forever.

VII.
The child is eating snow.
Her hunger is her thirst
her thirst her hunger. Her
father dies, her mother is alive.
Between seasons she draws breath
like a creature in hiding, to survive
what might watch her too long
too intently for love. So
she whispers her own name
Bird, how old am I
How old
is the rain in the summer grass
beyond mercy beyond memory
Bring it to me. Bring it now.

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It's not a very good poem. It has the bland trappings of one outside trying to understand a woman's psyche ("She's skating on last year's ice" -- please), and it never gets it exactly. It's psychologically dull -- mouthing the correct words, but indistinct, meandering, never quite clear.

Here's a good poem on the same theme, by Plath and sans the bullshit, from her POEM FOR A BIRTHDAY:

Once I was ordinary:
Sat by my father's bean tree
Eating the fingers of wisdom.
The birds made milk.
When it thundered I hid under a flat stone.

The mother of mouths didn't love me.
The old man shrank to a doll.
O I am too big to go backward:
Birdmilk is feathers,
The bean leaves are dumb as hands.

This month is fit for little.
The dead ripen in the grapeleaves.
A red tongue is among us.
Mother, keep out of my barnyard,
I am becoming another.

Dog-head, devourer:
Feed me the berries of dark.
The lids won't shut. Time
unwinds from the great umbilicus of the sun
Its endless glitter.

I must swallow it all.

Lady, who are these others in the moon's vat --
Sleepdrunk, their limbs at odds?
In this light the blood is black.
Tell me my name.

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And here's another non-bullshit poem on the theme:

Paint water balloons as fruit and balls.
Remember him giving you "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
or "The Sun Also Rises." Look up the message.

Remember when you sang "Onward Christian Soldiers" with your daughters. And all your heart. And your mother.

And remember answering your door with a butcher knife in your hand.
And six children in the kitchen playing.

And remember talking to her and every word came out backwards.
And instead of dying you were laughing.

This time you will join in and be counted.

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Given the perception of the last two, I'm almost angry at the Wevill poem for existing. (And angry at the woman he was with at the time for telling him, "Yes, yes, exactly" when almost certainly it wasn't anywhere near "exactly.")

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