Friday, April 17, 2009

The White Lady:

The space is white – white-
Washed. The wood rubbed smooth,
Skylit, cotton. The helpers move
Efficiently in the work, clad softly also
In white. Breast-high planters, turned wood
Drums, are moved so quietly from sun
To sun, that all’s heard is the wind, softly
Flowing over the ceiling, and the tinkling
Of a distant bird.

In all this quiet expanse of white,
As though the room was transparent,
And a dream was looking through,
Only the loam is saturated black, rich –
Rich the blackness is ascribed, and in
The medallion of each drum
A mandrake crown rosette
Of vivid green, the intensity
Of these buried, living things, arrayed
In wheels correspondent
To the great one, spangled with
half invisible stars, reeling
Above - kept
Misted with dew.
She opens a ledger
And notes their growth on
Progressive lines, with date and time.

What is the point of this work?
What can it possibly mean? The buried
Roots mature in a different world, under
The dark earth, in the density of
Odure and mineral fragrance – one sleeps,
Half human, half animal shank, with hair
Slightly springy to the touch,
Compounding fervor in its veins, or whatever
These hybrid things are called,
That course between what is
And isn’t seen.
And yes, yes, yes, one tires
Of manipulating the long-desired
But unrequited flesh,
Seeking meaning in the shape,
Persuaded by a sure but ever-gentle touch -
To live somehow - to return the love.
But the mandrakes will forget,
As they shriek into the whiteness
Of the void, pulled by the frisky
Little black terrier, who won’t be killed
To hear them – that’s a myth. And to a
Certain selective market they will be sent,
Wrapped in white tissue, like nothing else –
In fact, the finest of their kind, enclosed
In their own white cardboard house, with
A slip of paper in her hand - with weight,
The date, and in lieu of signature, her brand -
A hand-drawn emblem of a flowering sprig - and signed;


Cathy said...

Oh Dan, so lovely/dreamy/spooky! As always, the visual impact of your poems is just breathtaking.

What made you connect mandrake with Sarah Belle's emblem?

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I don't know if I told you about the dream I had about Sarah Belle & her art studio. This poem is a fairly straight forward description. In the dream I thought the plants were honeysuckle sprouts - but in the alternate universe of You'll Always Come Back they're mandrakes. There are many reasons for this, but you'll have to see the whole thing to know why.

Most fun of all, I just planted (real) mandrake seeds, & I'm so thrilled to think of actually growing them myself. I'm planning to use the living plants, along with some humanoid ones, in the performance.

I really feel like I've hit the main vein of YACB with the past several poems. I'm planning to go back and rewrite the beginning ones in light of what I know now.

Cathy said...

I'm so excited for you, dear Dan. This is going to be your best work yet, I just know it.

Will mandrake(s) grow in Kentucky? I'm relieved to know that no harm will come to Alf when you harvest them.

Dan Dutton said...

If you tied Alf to a mandrake, would you ever retrieve it?; that's the question. I THINK I can grow them. We'll see. They are not winter hardy here, so I'll have to move them indoors in the fall. I've always known that they were "real" plants, but never thought of growing them, even though they are in a way the holy grail of magic herbalism.

I read an interesting (but flawed) essay claiming that the fruits in Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights" are mandrake drupes, and that because of their use by the monks of St. Anthony's order in allaying the symptoms of ergot poisoning (except the hallucinations, which they would have added to...) suffered in 1090 - "St Anthony's Fire" - and "St Vitus Dance". There's a connect there, between the ergot and a relative fungus, cordyceps, allegedly used by Cherokee sorcerers. More to come in YACB on that subject.

Mary Beth said...

Youve got me imagining "Humanoid" mandrakes with feet and hands of wispy root and head of leaves.

Are we grown to return the love? I'll be thinking on this one!

Our words make me want to be the White Lady! Thanks for tying in her sketch of the little black dog. Surely it would please her.

Dan Dutton said...

Hi Mary Beth! I'm looking at every avant garde haute couture fashion book I can find, sifting for ideas as to how one might make a root suit. I just love this project!

I've started to get a vision as to how The Battle of Dutton Hill scene will be staged, which I'll post once I have it a little more articulate.

I hope all's going well with you!