Guest poem submitted by Paul E. Collins:
(Poem #1859) A Singular Metamorphosis
We all were watching the quiz on television Last night, combining leisure with pleasure, When Uncle Harry's antique escritoire, Where he used to sit making up his accounts, Began to shudder and rock like a crying woman, Then burst into flower from every cubbyhole (For all the world like a seventy-four of the line Riding the swell and firing off Finisterre). Extraordinary sight! Its delicate legs Thickened and gnarled, writhing, they started to root The feet deep in a carpet of briony Star-pointed with primula. Small animals Began to mooch around and climb up this Reversionary desk and dustable heirloom Left in the gloomiest corner of the room Far from the television. I alone, To my belief, remarked the remarkable Transaction above remarked. The flowers were blue, The fiery blue of iris, and there was A smell of warm, wet grass and new horse-dung. The screen, meanwhile, communicated to us With some fidelity the image and voice Of Narcisse, the cultivated policewoman From San Francisco, who had already Taken the sponsors for ten thousand greens By knowing her Montalets from Capegues, Cordilleras from Gonorrheas, in The plays of Shapesmoke Swoon of Avalon, A tygers hart in a players painted hide If ever you saw one. When all this was over, And everyone went home to bed, not one Mentioned the escritoire, which was by now Bowed over with a weight of fruit and nuts And birds and squirrels in its upper limbs. Stars tangled with its mistletoe and ivy.
(1920-1991) Here's a fun American poem that deserves a little recognition. The theme is agreeably whimsical: an old escritoire (or writing-desk) spontaneously bursts into bloom and wildlife, and nobody notices because they are watching the television. The language, for the most part, is equally absurd. Small animals "mooch around", the escritoire is dubiously likened to a battleship, and - in a delightful piece of verbosity - we are told that only the narrator "remarked the remarkable transaction above remarked". Of course, there are some compelling phrases, too: we can imagine the legs of the escritoire becoming "thickened and gnarled, writhing" among the "fiery blue of iris", and the vividness of that image mocks the scornful "some fidelity" that is all the television can achieve. Beneath the silliness we note a clear revulsion towards the stereotype of Narcisse on the TV gameshow, who is amassing unearned dollars by regurgitating factoids. Here is somebody who "[knows] her Montalets from Capegues, Cordilleras from Gonorrheas" (garbled references to Shakespearean characters); Shakespeare himself and his home town of Avon are likewise churned into garbage. There is a nod to Greene's criticism of his contemporary (whom he styled "an upstart crow ... with his tyger's heart wrapt in a player's hide"), but here it seems to refer to the contestant, aggressive and greedy under a veneer of sophistication, and by extension to all the viewers who "[combine] leisure with pleasure" - a marketing catchphrase for empty materialism. What of the antique escritoire? It is a striking metaphor for manual, thoughtful work ("where he used to sit making up his accounts") and so the antithesis of passively watching television. Ignored for too long, the wooden escritoire shrugs off its workmanship, reverts to its natural state, that of a tree, and turns the "gloomiest corner of the room" into a blaze of genuine beauty. This is the heart of Nemerov's message: that we too, by letting ourselves sink into a swamp of style over content, risk losing our roots. Eq. Poet Bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Nemerov