|POEM of the SEA|
Manhattan, 1962. My father is an accountant, my mother is a secretary.
They work for firms with names like Batton, Barton, Scarfenbarfer and
Wooflestein. I have no idea what these companies do. My parents send me to a
psychiatrist. They don't go: they're normal. They can't figure out why they
have this crazy kid.
In high school, French literature is being inflicted upon us. One spring morning, three-quarters of the way through the 19th century:
As I came floating down impassive rivers |
I felt myself no longer guided by the bargemen's hands
Howling natives hauled them up for targets
Nailed them naked onto painted poles.
What did I care I for any crew?
Out on the angry splash of winter tides
...And since then, I've been bathing in the Poem of the Sea,
I know the sky split wide by lightning, tides,
The guy who wrote that was sixteen! My school is all girls. I don't know how to talk to boys. Here is this boy my own age, speaking to me from a century ago.
I find his two little books, "Illuminations and "A Season in Hell." "Illuminations" has his picture on the cover: wild hair, weird eyes. The left side of his face full of light; the right, drawn and dark.
I've seen the setting sun light up the shiv'ring purple waves |
Like actors in some ancient tragedy
I've dreamed the evening green with dazzled snow and singing phosphor
And kisses rising slowly on the eyelids of the sea.
I've touched the shores of Floridas where flowers mingle
With the eyes of panthers in the skins of men
And monstrous serpents eaten up with lice
Drop down from trees entwined with black perfume.
|"Pacific Dawn" © John Birchard 2000|
Mistress of Folklore|
Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on
contemporary magic at U.C. Berkeley and at Yale University. Her recordings
include "Invocation", "Between the Worlds", and "Rime of the Ancient
All text, translations, and songs copyright © 2001-2004 by Holly Tannen