Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paean: Mussels

Here's a poem from a terrific book, torch song tango choir by Julie Sophia Paegle, soon to be published by the University of Arizona Press. I love (no surprise!) the descriptive richness of this poem, with its very exact attention to the look and shape and behavior of mussels. But I'm also delighted by the poem's daring in ventriquizing these creatures: of course they'd speak, if they could, in the first person plural. I like Paegle's formal acuity, too; somehow these syllabic stanzas feel themselves like bunched tight mussels. And it's a delight the way the last stanza's surprising image takes us to the winglike form of a hinged mollusc shell -- wings made blue-black, here, by their distance from the heat of the divine, or by the darkening smoke of hellfire.


PAEAN: MUSSELS


Blue inside
obsidian, blue of compression,
blue of the fleck

and of flash-
cooled glass. We anchor
volcanic, and fast.

We embrace
and make changeful our
beach. We bury.

Between, we
breach -- our numbers our
read -- but do

not be fooled
by the forfeit of blue,
that sad shadow mim-

icry shift-
ing on waves, or within.
Not slate, nor

azure, we
are devotion to tidal
recession,

we turn to the
backing away of the ocean
as cicadas

turn to their
seventeenth year, as delphinia
gravely follow

the sun, not
unlike some seraphim long
after faltering.

6 comments:

Paul Lisicky said...

What a brilliant poem. And what a thrill to see Julie turning out such beautiful, authoritative work.

Joelle Biele said...

Thanks so much for this--lovely--

Lakin said...

Lovely, indeed! Kind of a lapping rhythm to it, too. I'll be sharing this with the marine biologists at work; they'll love it.

Dan Wyke said...

Terrific poem, thanks for posting.

sophie klahr said...

Thank you. That third stanza's especially stunning.

Poietes said...

The fifth and sixth stanzas are remarkable in their rhythm. Thank you for posting.