mother of exiles

Mother of Exiles

Eight-hundred. Their open mouths
Similarly sing songs we all know
Though know not: their tongues — they show
No face cards. Nimble, demure, go ghosts
Of the Mind of God, mad sod made sad,
Triangle eyelids, squares and trundle sides,
But they’re still eyes, you know. Stopping together
They see as one. Smell as one though
Misshapen besides, share the same tastes,
Touching race to race. Liberty Regal —
My crimes are crude forms of your name!
Languages languish, lampposts made fenceposts,
Made into metal pikes masked by barbs
And whatever the shipyard itemizes
For cordoning cows. Killing clouds and
Roosting with pigeons unrich and sundry,
Your overture oxidized, olive and sickened
Remembering tyrant, Napoleon moneyed
Whose citizens ceded céleste to us
In the form of a figure with flair for the gracious
His Frenchmen entrusted freedom to U.S.
As a strike at his reign, as a slap on his chin.
And the chauvanists of Chauvin? They chaffed cause they ruled.

Perhaps it is time we handed the torch
To some budding statehood of freedom?
To places now warming, their playboys deserted
To United States, knighted for evils
Done in her name. Dead are the ways
Hospitable Yanks hosted each other
In the wake of the voyage.  We opened borders
At the start so we’d found this state of migrant
Pilgrims who had dreams. Pilfered dreams
Of mixed-race babies and the peace they imply.
We did it at the start. Will we do it again?
Can we become a nation on pilgrimage
And leave our little bit of land?

:: 58 poems written at 29 years ::

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter such as in the guantanamera poem above. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead leaves as radical as the radish itself: radical because it is the living root of the thing.

READ NEXT:  Yoke of the Mother — from 58 poems written at 29

lancelot tobias mearcstapa schaubert monogram

cover image by Roger W

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