Thursday, December 08, 2011

Celebrating one of our own

Many congratulations to Catherine (Foster) for winning 1st Prize in a competition run by First Time magazine with her powerful poem, The Prodigal Son. And thank-you, Catherine, for sharing it with AppleHouse:

The Prodigal Son

It’s the hogshit stink rising with the sun
that’s done for me.
My hands webbed, gloved with the stuff.

And the cornhusks: dry as old harlots I’ve had
when shekels ran low.

One shindig after another. Sex
like shooting stars. My belly a wineskin,
now scooped out, shrivelled as the last fig of summer.
Birds could perch on each rib.

A cowl of shame.
Dare I shadow my father’s house?
The utterance of my name- 
each letter an ulcer on his tongue?
Will I be but a mote of dust
shooed out by his hirelings?

I set off, sandals flap like dying fish.
Vultures fidget in my path.

My Father-     
arms outstretched in folds of the wind.
I stagger, kneel.
The forgiveness of a fatted calf,
purple robes to cover skin pleated over bones.
Words of silver to quench my thirst.
My son who was lost is now found.

And my brother?
He vomits envy.   

I thought it would be a good idea to set a poetry prompt in response to Catherine's poem. Choose a biblical character and write a poem in their voice. 'Persona' poems, as they're called can be written in a number of ways:

1. You stay true to that character's experience and re-tell their story.
2. You use that character as a mask to talk about your own concerns (e.g. using the voice of Eve to talk about feminist issues)
3. You update the character and their story and give it a contemporary 21st century spin.

There's no shortage of characters to choose from and given the season you might even like to choose one from the nativity story.

Looking forward to reading your work.
Write well.


Keith Wallis said...

Whose child is this
(Mary’s thoughts)

Whose child is this,
a cuckoo all warm and suckling ?
If I say you are mine
Your eyes tell me that you make me a mother
giving me no right to call you mine.
If I claim to have given you life
you disarm me with a smile that says
you will give me mine.
Your father has only spoken to me through messengers,
I cannot picture his face
although I know his love.
You were not conceived in passion
nor touched into life by intimate caresses.
Can I call you my child ?
You were mine for forty lengthening weeks
and, in your life,
you will not know such intimacy again.

Will you answer my questions when you grow ?
Will you let me be your mother
when darker clouds arrive
and I need to grieve
for you,
for me, for the child I kept,
a loan from God.

Lynne Rees said...

Keith, this is beautiful and touching. The voice is consistent and the tone convincing and sincere. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Facing Toward Jerusalem

I was called Daniel in BC606,
and while still young I enjoyed
the privileged life of Jewish nobility,
until another war brought foreign soldiers
into our midst, and many of us were captured
and roughly dragged off to Bablylon;
myself and my three companions,
Shadrach, Meshash, and Abeduago.

But being the best, the most handsome
and educated in our captive horde,
we were spared slavery, were trained
to be advisors to the court, and were
made into eunuchs to stifle any act
of immorality or civil disobedience.

I was the one with prophetic dreams
and the ability to interpret them. Soon
my fame began to spread, and kings
summoned me to reveal the dark meanings
within their own dreams.

One night I dreamed of four beasts who
rose up out of the turbulent sea,
a lion with eagle’s wings,
a bear with three tusks,
a leopard with four heads and four wings,
a beast with iron teeth, ten horns
and human eyes--and from this I fathomed
the future, becoming third ruler in the realm,
and was called Belteshazzar in Babylon.

My enemies grew bold one summer,
and convinced the king to create a new penal law
stating that “no man could ask a petition of any god,
save King Darius, more than once every 30 days.”
Because it was common knowledge that I always
left the windows in my chambers open, facing
toward Jerusalem, and that on my knees I would
pray there three times every day; and that is where
the soldiers found me on the morning of my arrest.

Midday I found myself led into a den of ten lions,
starved for a week so as to make a hasty meal
of my lean insolence, hubris, and blasphemy.
I made my way to the barred windows, and knelt,
opening a dialogue with those who hovered
just beyond the veil, hearing the growling close
behind me, as the oder of carnivorous saliva
smote my senses, and I prepared for my own
devouring like a chaste priestess quivering
delicately in the dirty straw; but none of them
attacked, even their roaring ceased. I opened
my clenched lids and saw all ten of them lying
like huge house cats just watching me; some
of them purring, tails twitching, tongues panting.

I soon believed that I was the inhabitant of a miracle,
and when Habakkuk appeared with my evening meal,
transported by angels to provide me sustenance,
I heard a chorus of holy chanters serenading me
as I ate. The night came, but not the lions. I sat
with my back to bricks, eyes wide open in the
stygian darkness. With the morning came rays
of angelic light and Jeremiah with my breakfast.

Walking out into my own legend I lived to be
a hundred; considered a saint now by the
Catholics and Protestants, and a prophet
by the Muslims, I travelled on to a land where
tomorrows never reside, where time does
not exist, and I often think of those lions
with their foul smelling breath, and great
love in their yellow cat’s eyes.

Glenn Buttkus

December 2011

Martin Cordrey said...

(well done CF)


So, Matthew, Luke of Galilee,
I can see you waiting for me to fall asleep
to slit my throat, go on deny it thrice,
why not strike a shephered to see
if his flock scatters. Perhaps I

should’ve built my house at the gates of Hades,
denied the very existance of faith, of hope, or maybe
I should’ve kissed the sons of Zebedee:
but I am no Judas, I mean I drink from puddles
not cups full of the fruit of vine

neither do I peck at fish suppers, I sing
for ‘amour’ not those thirty silver coins. I weep
so bitterly for those servent girls. My body is weak
but my Spirit remains ever willing.
I have no soul! Says Peter so how can I sin

or betray any innocent blood.
Death looks more glamourous on a cross.
I have no fear of him upstairs just mankinds lies.
I am not a treacherous beast of Satin, I crow
for love, about love, the greatest gift from God.

Catherine said...

The Good Samaritan

I lay discarded like an eggshell.
Thieves had all but emptied life from me.
Unwilling guest on this malicious road.

A fiery fever, kindled in my lungs,
swooped, seethed. Garments wed
to flesh with gore.
Sight befuddled with flies.
Teeth spat out like olive stones. Lips too crazed,
too raw

to burble pleas to passers by.
The Priest who purred his prayers,
features chiselled out of rock, eyes expressionless as fish,
feet that nibbled ground in mincing steps.
The Levite, fleshy hands
curled round his ram horn staff
to scuttle snakes-in my direction.
The devil held their glare ahead,
his breath upon their tongues.

They left me to birds, who’d pick my body
empty as a cave,
hyenas slobbering over skin and bones.

Sunset smudged the hills behind.
Hope had shaken all its pockets out.

A donkey skittering stones
with plodding feet, lay down,
feet forward like a hound.
A voice, winnowed from the snarling wind,
So here, be well again--
Galilean greeting, a Samaritan that spoke it.
Chin, cupped in rough- hewn
hands, honey-water peeled in ribbons down my throat.
This body, bruised as windfall apricots,
was spread upon the jenny’s back,
then salved with ointments at the inn.

flybynight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne Rees said...

Happy New Year everyone and I hope it's a shiny good one for all of us.

Thank you for your December posts:

Keith - lovely to read again.

Glen - I love 'lean insolence'. Good to be reminded of this story - so many years since I read it.

Martin - great choice of voice and you sustain the tone too. There's a sense of injustice and celebration which I like a lot.

Catherine - some lovely phrases here: 'urred his prayers'(what smugness and self satisfaction that contains!), and @hope had shaken all its pockets out' is masterful. Really like that.

I'll be back soon with a prompt for January.
L x

Lynne Rees said...

p.s. Catherine - some funny formatting entered my comment on your poem. Here it is, in full again:

Some lovely phrases here: 'purred his prayers'(what smugness and self satisfaction that contains!), and 'hope had shaken all its pockets out' is masterful. Really like that.

Lynne Rees said...

Dear flybynight

Thank you for posting your poem 'Sister of Lazarus' and I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and I'm sorry that it's missing from the site now for others to read.

I particularly liked:
'He liked to lean down the well
to see where it went,
hold his breath in the sea.'

It really is a beautiful poem. I am sure you'll publish it, if you haven't already.

flybynight said...

Thanks so much Lynne. I was a bit premature, still working on 'Sister of Lazarus', and not really ready to 'go public' with it so to speak. Somehow I seem to have lost my draft of it though! You wouldn't happen to have a copy still somewhere? This year I resolve to be more organised :)

Lynne Rees said...

Hi flybynight - yes, I still have the notification email with your poem. Email me and I'll send it back to you: lynne at lynnerees dot com