JW6 – A World of Poems

I grew up among heaps of dusty books, and poems read to me every day. After lunch every afternoon my mother would have us sit around her on the couch. She read Bible stories to us and then we could choose from her massive old book selection, what poems we would like to hear. I would spend the afternoons curled up against her while she read. Almost every day my siblings and I would request “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. To spite the horror of the actual tale, we would request it again and again. It was beautifully written, and the imagery, drama, and lively meter enthralled us. She had us memorize various poems. The first I remember learning were “When Frost is On the Punkin’” by James Whitcomb Riley and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.

 

At seven she gave me a book of Mother Goose, a few years later “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson. As I grew older I found more poems to my liking. A student artist Eddie White wrote a poem called “The Cat Piano” featured in an award-winning short film. It has become my favorite of all poems.

 

Long ago my city’s luminous heart, beat with the song of four thousand cats.
Crooners who shone in the moonlight mimicry of the spotlight.
Jazz singers. Hip cats that went ‘Scat!’
Buskers with open-mouthed hats hungry for a feed.
Parlours paraded purring glamorous songstresses.
Smoky hookahs and 
smoking hookers.
Strays strummed string and sung a cocktail of cat’s tails.
A decadent party of meowing sound.
A bohemian behemoth, post-midnight soiree.

Amongst the chorale ‘o tuneful ones was one fair queen who drew me from o’er the way.
Her fur, an amorous white and a voice that made all the angels of eternity sound tone deaf.
Blind with love at first sight, touched by the taste of her sound,
I longed to be the microphone she cradled near her breast.

‘Twas our Shang-ri-la of sound,
A paradise found where nothin’ could stop us.
Or so it seemed.

Singers began to vanish like sailors lost at sea.
Snatched from stage alley way
Shanghai’d from behind scarlet curtain.
Into thin air they disappeared without a single cry.
Police study the clues.
Foot-prints from human shoes.

So you’ve heard of every instrument but?
Torn from your history books is this pianola,
This harpsichord of harm.
The cruelest instrument to spawn from man’s grey cerebral soup.
The Cat Piano.

Confined were the cats in a row of cages.
With each note struck upon it’s ivory tusks,
A sharpened nail would pierce each cat’s tail,
Forcing a note from each pitch on the scale.

I ran my cursed writer’s run to tell her beware.
She wasn’t there.
My soul capsized.
Like a fish, paralyzed.
On a chopping board, its spinal cord ripped forth from its body,
Her vocals the last the thief had needed,
A rare celestial pitch that would complete his collection.

The city in unrest.
Fights broke out in its sleep.
I couldn’t dream anymore.
There was a hole in my heart and everything fell out of it.
All music forbidden.
Keep your lullabies hidden.
And your A and E minors off the street after dark.

My town grew cold and bitter.
In icy hibernation was the once thumping heart.
Now seizing up.
Freezing up.

Katzenklavier.
The torturous worm of sound burrowed deep into my ears.
Le Piano du chat
I thought of Van Gogh.
Neko Piano.
I’d put an end to this incessant, inescapable drone.
Mao Gang Qin

I enlisted an army of the brave and I their general declared war.
Poised with tooth and fire in paw.
We would finally settle this musical score.
Eyes with fierce intent that glowed.
Through tempestuous waters we rowed.
Storming the shores,
Swarming in scores,
Scaling its walls with well-sharpened claws,
We invaded the tower through all its doors.

Up the winding stairs,
To meet him with blinding stares.
There he sat.
The organ grinder.

He turned, we pounced, we scratched and bit.
He stumbled.
Fell through the window.
Screaming into the indigo waters below.

We freed the chain gang from their jail.
Cremated the piano.
And for home we set sail.

The city had reclaimed its vestal muse.
It would live again.
Beat again.
Cats would sing in the street again.
And I in anonymity as I had been long before this soliloquy,
Could sit and listen from afar.
The Cat Piano, now a healed over wound.
And this ode its fading scar.

 

 

Every time I read this poem I am struck by something new. I love the imagery in the section “In icy hibernation was the once thumping heart.Now seizing up.Freezing up.” It sounds like a beating heart. The alliteration, internal rhymes, and the pattern enchant me every time.

 

The actual film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj4RBmU-PIo

The official film website: http://catpianofilm.com/

 

CW6 – The Ballad of The Dying Swan

A young princess danced beside a lake

Many years ago

Her graceful form was mirrored

In the water’s gentle flow

But as she danced unaware

A shadow crossed the lake

A sorcerer masque as an owl

Her gentle shape to cruelly take

A swan by day, a maid by night

He cursed her and her maids

Her human form is now only seen

By the light of the moon, or as the twilight fades

* * *

Opulent visitors from far and wide

Came to celebrate the day

The prince had come of age

To take the throne today

Laughter of company and clinking of goblets

Echoed through the air

Dancers frolicked through the courtyard

With grace beyond compare

Prince Siegfried greeted every guest

Honored that they had come

And thanked them for the praise they gave

Of the king he would become

Trumpets called the Queen’s entry

A hush washed over the crowd

She entered with her vast attendance

Siegfried knelt and bowed.

“You seem at easer among your friends

But let me tell you this:

Now that you make take the throne

I wish to cause you bliss!

“Tomorrow at your birthday ball

Of ladies far and wide

I wish and command that you choose

From among them a lovely bride.”

Glances passed among the girls

Who had come to celebrate.

Some stepped forward boldly,

Others blushed in debate.

Waving her hand

The queen turned away.

“But there is no one I love!”

Siegfried cried out in dismay.

She wavered and said,

“Would your kingship you lose

On the fancy of love?

No, my son, you must choose!”

Dismay clouded his countenance

As whispers passed through the girls

Descriptions of dresses and the color of shoes

To make up, and how to fix curls

Eager to cheer him, his friends gathered round

But his closest friend drew him aside

“Perhaps your majesty would favor a hunt

And not worry over choosing a bride?”

Absently taking his leave

Siegfried gathered his hunting gear

Hoping that hunting for swans

Would help his snarled mind clear

He fought to untangle the mire of his thoughts

As he followed the swans’ flight

So distracted that he paid no heed

To the dying of the light

Till before him was a mirror of silver

A lake bathed in the light of the moon

The swans were descending upon its glass

A gentle spray by their feet was strewn.

He stood transfixed

In wonder at the sight

“If only I could find a bride

As lovely as this night!”

What mystery is this?

A white swan with a crown?

He gazed after their leader

As she arched her head down

Her silver tiara shimmered

Upon her graceful form

She gently stepped ashore

And she began to transform

A maiden garbed in white feathers

Stood before him on the shore

Her tears glinting in the moonlight

And glancing off the feathers she wore

Rushing forth to comfort

Siegfried forgot his place

She started back with terror

Shock covering her exquisite face

“I meant no harm,”

He cried at once ashamed

“I only meant to comfort,

My rashness alone is to blame.”

“No, I was merely startled,

I thought you were my foe.”

She hung her head,

“Twas he who cursed me so.”

Her tears again dripped down,

Which she attemped to hide

Against his better will

He found himself at her side

“Maiden, you are brave,

To live as cursed as this.

Is there a way for me

To this enchantment dismiss?”

“Von Rothbart, the sorcerer

Cast this evil spell

That true loves pledge

Would free me from this hell.

“But if he is unfaithful

The spell will never break

And Von Rothbart has promised

That very day my life to take.”

So touched with grief, he embraced her

And confiding his own plight,

He begged for her to come

To be his choice the following night.

So enraptured in each other’s love

They talked the night away

And noticed not the growing light

Or the coming of the day

Till her form was suddenly altered

And as a swan she soon returned

Now eager for the night to come

Siegfried towards his castle turned.

Paying no heed to the party

Siegfried hardly noticed the guests

He hardly noticed the pretty girls

Or his mother’s frequent requests

Only when thunder crashed through the hall

Did he awaken from his dreaming

As a Count appeared with his daughter

In a gown of black feathers gleaming.

So caught up in rapture

He disregarded the feathers of inky hue

Taken in by Von Rothbarts plot

His daughter could effortlessly woo

Odile, Rothbart’s daughter

Had taken on a disguise

Distracting the prince with her beauty

From a nearby swan’s pleading cries

She whirled him over the ballroom floor

In a rapturous, vivacious dance

Pressing him to declare his love

While she held him beneath her trance

Pulling him close just before the sunset

She whispered her love in his ear

So full of romance he shouted aloud

His love so that all might hear

A piercing cry rent the hall

As it tore from the lips of Oddette

Alarmed Siegfried looked up

To see his love’s silhouette

Oh that she had the wings of a swan

So that she could fly away

But even wings would not help her escape

The death that would follow that day

His heart capsized within his chest

Guilt overwhelming him with regret

But this treacherous trick would not stop him

From rescuing his beloved Oddette

The thundering laughter of Rothbart

Resonated through the room

He rejoiced in the unhappy fate

Of Oddette’s coming doom

Unheeding of this evil

Siegfried dashed away

His companion giving him a sword

Should the rescue cause a fray

Dumb-founded that the prince would fight

Van Rothbart took to owl form

And beating his heavy wings

Called for with magic a storm

Oddette ran into the night

Drowning in the flood of her tears

Her dread was finally realized

After waiting all of these years

Siegfried found her

Crumpled on the lake’s shore.

He implored for her forgiveness

“I will defend you!” he swore.

Drawing his noble blade

He faced the on coming tempest

With only love to fight magic

Fear pounded up in his chest

Rothbart flew down at him

In a furry of vehement rage

But Seigfried passionate love

Gave him all the strength to assuage

Raising his blade, he struck the owl

Casting him into the lake

Using the storm against him

Rothbart’s magic became his mistake

The waters swarmed around him

And his fowl form consumed

To this day he lies

In those dark waters entombed

Freed from her curse

Oddette embraced the dawn

Never again would she meet the day

In the cursed form of a swan

Carrying her back to the castle

Seigfried proclaimed the choice of his bride

And for the rest of their happy lives

They ruled side by side

 

Aside

CW4 – Why Brer Hound Dog T’ain’t get ‘long wif Brer Squirrel

“Uncle Remus, why does Brother Dog always rush off after Brother Squirrel?” the little boy asked, cocking his head as he watched the dog race off to bark up a tree.

 

“Well, das one long tale,” Uncle Remus replied, thoughtfully stroking his chin. “Brer Hound Dog ain’t get along wit Brer Squirrel since de day dat dey was bawn.” Uncle Remus sat down and picked up an unfinished basket, which he resumed work on.

 

“Did Brother Hound Dog have any luck at catching Brother Squirrel?” the little boy asked, hoping for a story.”

 

“Well now, Brer Hound Dog wuz de mightiest ‘o dogs. De Massa put ‘im above all de udder dogs. He e’en let ‘im in da house. Dat made Brer Hound Dog a mighty proud dog. Now Brer Squirrel always like to play tricks on Brer Hound Dog. When Brer Hound Dog wuz gwine threw de forest Brer Squirrel throw nuts down at ‘em.

 

“This made Brer Hound Dog mighty angry. He puffed hisse’f up and sez to Brer Squirrel, sezee, ‘You mind how you treat ‘spectubble folks!’

 

“But Brer Squirrel, he jus’ laugh and scamper’d to anudda tree.

 

“ ‘Now Imma larn you how to spect me!’ Brer Hound Dog ran to de nex’ tree.

 

“But Brer Squirrel jus’ laugh agin’ an run away.

 

“Now this went on fo’ sum time. Brer Hound Dog jus’ got madda and madda. He told Brer Squirrel he’d larn ‘im, but he n’er did. Dat made Brer Hound Dog mighty upset with hisse’f. So he devised ter make a plan. Brer Squirrel was allas jumpin one tree to de nex’ tree. Brer Hound Dog new o’ one tree in de middle o’ de yard. Ef he could git Brer Squirrel up dat tree, he ain’t have no where to go! So Brer Hound Dog, he thought, and thought. How wuld he git ‘im over der?

 

“Brer Squirrel wer mighty fond o’ acerns. Sposen Brer Hound Dog culd get a bunch er nuts and get im gwine to de tree? So das jes wut Brer Hound Dog decided to do. He gatha’d a bunch o’ acerns around de tree, leadin’ from de woods, to de middle o’ de yard.

Den he went to de house and he lay low.

 

“Befo’ long Brer Squirrel come along. He sez to hisse’f ‘These a mighty fine nuts,’ sezee. ‘I shud git these and bring ‘im ‘ome to my chilluns. So Brer Squirrel set about gatherin’ the acerns.

 

“All this while Brer Hound Dog, he lay low a watchin from de shadows by de house. He smiled to hisse’f, as it seemed his plan wuz a goin well.

 

“Brer Squirrel gather’d and gather’d till his paws wuz full o’ nuts. Then he scamper’d off to de forest, jes a chatterin happy to hisse’f.

 

“Brer Hound Dog lay low. Brer Squirrel hadn’t got all de nuts yet, and he wuld show return befo’ long. And bimeby here come Brer Squirrel fer anudda load o’ nuts. He jes chitter-chatta to hisse’f all happy like, and Brer Hound Dog, he lay low. Brer Squirrel came a closa, and closa to de tree. Den Brer Hound Dog jes a sa’ntered fort, a keepin’ to de shadows of de house. Den he let out and run fer Brer Squirrel, jes a barkin’ up a storm. Brer Squirrel jump up an ran fer de tree.

 

“ ‘Jes how you doin this mawnin’, Brer Hound Dog?’ he ask, all cheerful like from safe inna branches.

 

“Brer Hound Dog stood proudly under de tree. ‘I’s mighty fine this mawnin’!’ he sez, ‘What ‘bout you, Brer Squirrel?’ sezee. He trew back his head an laugh a little.

 

“ ‘I’s mighty fine mese’f! I got a mighty good load o’ nuts fer my chilluns’ Brer Squirrel chattered away, pretendin not to notice his fix. ‘What ‘ave you dun fer yer family dis mawnin’ Brer Hound Dog?’

 

“ ‘Oh, dis an dat, y’know.’ Brer Hound Dog replied. ‘You got yese’f in a fix you haz.’

 

“ ‘Oh I ain’t in no trouble, Brer Hound Dog! I ain’t in no trouble!’ Brer Squirrel jes laugh.

 

“ ‘I knew I’d larn you a lessin you wuldn’t ferget!’ Brer Hound Dog continu’d.

 

“ ‘Jes you wait,’ Brer Squirrel laugh’ agin. He scamper’d hitha and thitha about de branches o’ de tree.

 

“ ‘I speck you ain’t gwine to yer family agin wi’ dose nuts today.’ Brer Hound Dog pranced beneath de tree all high in mighty.

 

“ ‘Now don’t say nothin’ cruel like, Brer Hound Dog! Don’t be a trouble! Dey needs food jes like me!” Brer Squirrel begin to run back and forth on one old tree branch.

 

“Brer Hound Dog sat beneath de tree branch and waited. ‘You gots to come down some day!’

 

“ ‘An I’ll be a down, befo’ you can blink yo’ eyeballs!” Brer Squirrel said as de tree gave a loud crack. De branch he’d a been runnin’ on wuz as rotten az culd be and it gave way and hit Brer Hound Dog smack inne head wif Brer Squirrel on top o’ it. Wif Brer Hound Dog out cold onna ground, Brer Squirrel ran off into de woods, jus chitter-chatterin away, wif his arms chuck full o’ nuts.”

 

 

JW5 – Overcoming Petty Faults

 

As I consider the prompt for this journal, I cannot help but find a degree of disagreement with it. Somewhat related to this week’s writing topic, a “Brer Rabbit” story which is comprised of a humorous out smarting of a villain, the prompt is to write about a difficult situation I struggled to get out of. If I think in terms of a situation I “got out of” I think about cheekily avoiding an awkward guy who seemed extremely interested in me, or various small things to that degree. Once problems become larger, I don’t usually get out of them. Difficult situations are not often to be avoided; they are instead to be overcome. I have decided therefore to write about a relationship full of painful remarks that I worked through.

 

From the first days that I delved into the dress-up basket full of my older sisters’ dance costumes, I have wanted to go into ballet as a profession. I would spend hours in an ancient stained tutu dancing to the Nutcracker to the point that my family couldn’t stand the CD any longer. Eventually I attended classes with my little sister. Because I am more out-going of the two of us, my parents decided to keep us in the same class for a while. I loved being the oldest in the class, and therefore often the best. I talked a lot, and loved to lead the group, especially if we had a sub-teacher. I knew the choreography the best. But eventually I moved to a class in my age level and even attended classes beyond my age level, just for the sake of advancing my technique.

 

That was when I met someone who was just like the little me. She was tall and she talked up a storm. I don’t know what all of the reasons were for it initially, but I disliked her from the start. She was younger by a few years, but she didn’t act younger. At least to every one of my sisters, we thought she acted like she was the oldest and the best in class. However, I shortly moved out of her class and into the level.

 

Then she moved upward too and suddenly she began competing to reach the top of a class I’d been in for three years. Being several inches taller than me, she was a hard obstacle to just erase from the back of my mind, especially when we were put in the same section of the dance. If that had been the only thing, I probably would have noticed her little, but then there were those myriads of cheap comments. My friend would complement me and she would jump in to claim it herself.

 

I knew that much of the problem was caused by my own immaturities, but how could I just pinpoint the issues in me and not feel as if she was attacking me? In desperation I tried as many approaches as I could think of. I talked to my teacher, but the most she would do was listen to me. I would tell her how this girl was constantly critiquing my dancing, telling me when I was supposed to go on stage, or telling me “that’s enough now” when I acted goofy. But my teacher chose to not say anything.

 

Encouraged by a close friend, I finally did what I should have done from the very start, I prayed. For several weeks I hardly prayed about anything else. But the problem didn’t just vanish. I then decided to talk to my Bible study teacher, who also teaches dance. After drawing her aside I explained the situation to her and asked her advice. She told me that this girl often came across in a way she didn’t mean at all, and that she wasn’t trying to attack me at all. Though I hated the idea, she advised me to talk to her about the issue and tell her that she was coming across badly.

 

I stalled for weeks. I didn’t want to talk to her. What on earth was I going to say? I knew I could so easily just cut into her and let out all the wrath I’d been suppressing for years. So I simply prayed and a few weeks later everything changed. She complimented me out of the blue, and we were suddenly friends. There was so much more to her than the little things she said that made me take offense.

 

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

JW 4 – “Be ye kind, one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another. . .” Ephesians 4:32

“For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.”

I have been asked to write about my most important life lesson. I cannot help but begin with the fact that all knowledge on this earth is partial. We can know nothing absolutely except for the Word of God. So when I am asked to tell the greatest lesson I have learned in life I must ask myself, what do I truly know? I know only the Word of God. Therefore, all that I really know is of the Bible, and my greatest life lesson is something that is contained in the Bible.

Growing up I remember adults brushing me off. Around age nine I wanted to have in depth conversations with people who were older. They wouldn’t listen though. I remember older friends going off and closing the door for a private conversation about “important things” when I was 12. I was just too young for grown up things. But I can remember thinking, “If they would only talk to me, maybe they would know a fraction of the thoughts in my head and not think of me as so young and stupid.”

The older I have grown, the more I realize that everyone should be treated with honor and respect whether we think they deserve it or not. Those who treat others without respect deserve none, but God calls us not to repay evil for evil. (1 Peter 3:9)  Matthew 7:12 also states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus is telling us that the greatest lesson He teaches us is to treat each other with kindness.

So many times I find myself at odds with the opinions of others. With some people that I know if I make a statement that they disagree with I meet immediately with their harsh condescension. In conversation they never hesitate to sharply cut me off and beat me over the head with their religious answer refuting my statement. They don’t even stop to realize that nine out of ten times they misunderstood what I said completely.  From all of this I have learned how important it is to be gentle with others. Sometimes we meet people who say things we disagree with, but just as often, we misunderstand what people are saying. “A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15: 1 KJV)

From all these experiences and infinitely more that I cannot even remember, I have learned that kindness is the only way. If I were to die today I would hope that people would remember me as gentle, someone who didn’t return evil for evil, someone soft-spoken, and someone who treated others as I would wish to be treated. For the legacy that I will leave, for the children I hope to have, I want to show that Matthew 7:12 is the true and only way to live a righteous and Godly life.

Fireplace Musings

“You can never find a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  C. S. Lewis

I find myself beside a fire sipping a cup of tea on this dismal afternoon. It has finally turned cold and I enjoy the feel of sweaters and the smell of wood smoke. I have interchangeably enjoyed coffee, tea, and hot chocolate today, while studying upon the hearth. Sir Walter Scott’s The Antiquary and a chemistry book have taken up the majority of my doings, as well as a large dictionary and reading journal containing several lists of vocabulary words. They seem to never end. I have finally given up on the dictionary in favor of the broader ranging one online that I access by my mother’s Ipad. Unfortunately the iPad is proving horrendously difficult for writing, incorrectly spelling the words I had so precisely typed, and not letting my highlight those I wish to correct. It continuously sticks on one line and obstinately refuses to let me highlight any other line. I obviously am not much used to writing on iPads. After my initial post of this I will have to go to a desktop and correct “unfortunately” which I is obstinately misspelled.

Aha! I have at last reached a desktop and found the editing button.

 

Anchors of the Earth

Psalm 18:2 says that Christ is the one foundation of our faith. Christ calls us to be his body, his hands and his feet. (1st Corinthians 12) As his hands and feet we carry out his mission on earth. Like a rock, we are to anchor the world. As Christ-bearers we must hold the world to a firm foundation, the rock itself. Anchors keep ships steady, even in a raging sea. They also hold a ship where it is supposed to be, even if  it is trying to sail in the wrong direction. Like anchors we are to keep the world in the right place. We are to help the lost and keep them from being tossed like a lost boat in the raging seas of life. Like an anchor, we must be their assurance of the hope we have in the rock of Christ.