Sunday, December 18, 2011

Poem: Beating flames


Beating flames

Rain falls
in the rhythm
of a bird’s heartbeat;

but when the crow cries,
his raucous call
does not pierce
this thrumming trance.

like the cast iron
of the wood stove—black body,
rising up—he carries
the beating flame, hungry
and consuming, crackling
the language of the heart.

Illustration by Ива́н Я́ковлевич Били́бин, aka Ivan Bilibin (thanks, Montag!), for Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin's poem "Two Crow." Unrelated to my poem, but interesting anyway, from wiki on "Twa corbies" (or "The Three Ravens): " . . . a 1828 partial translation of the French translation of Sir Walter Scott's Border Poems. It includes the poem entitled 'Шотландская песня' (Scottish Song), which has become known to almost every literate Russian-speaking person. Pushkin's translation contains only the first half of the poem, ending with 'and the mistress awaits for her lover, not the killed one, but the alive one', thus making a dark hint the central point of the story. Many composers of the time wrote musical interpretations of the poem."



Maureen said...

The crow or raven has such a rich background in mythology. Love the illustration.

Each of your three stanzas pulses with such well-chosen verbs and adjectives. It's easy to "hear" the rapid heartbeat, and so the rain falling; that "raucous call"; and the wonderful "consuming, crackling/language of the heart".

George said...

Wonderful imagery, Ruth, and I am won over by the first and last lines of the poem alone, which standing together, have their own meaning, "Rain falls . . . the language of the heart."

Montag said...

What a wonderful woodcut by Bilibin! If you found it before the poem was written, it obviously inspired your words.
If you found it after the poem was written, it inspired your resolve for beauty... both backwards and forwards in time.

hedgewitch said...

Watching crows is a pastime of mine out here in the sticks, also--they do seem to have force as a symbol--often relentlessly chased off by our mockingbirds, their presence is almost always fierce-seeming, assertive, noisy, and provocative. Your poem invests this bird(whose cousins canbe taught to literally speak the language of humans) with all that black certainty and elegance, and also, I think, hints at something bigger and different at work within us as rain falls and we preserve an inner fire.

Louise Gallagher said...

Rich in words and texture, your crows crackle in the soft morning light of winter.

Nice. Very very nice.

Cait O'Connor said...

I have been catching up here and what a calming place it is to visit.
I love your poems so much and the piece on George Whitman was a delight.

Marcie said...

'The language of the heart'. It says it all. Beautiful!

The Solitary Walker said...

The rich mythology of the crow, and all the literary reverberations (do you know Ted Hughes's 'Crow'?) 'The beating flame'. 'The language of the heart'. Yes. I really like these micro-poems of yours, Ruth — small in word-space, but huge in heart-space.

Gwen Buchanan said...

So absolutely strong... so full of intense emotion.. I love it!!!

missing moments said...

Such beautiful words my friend!

Suman said...

Lovely imagery, Ruth. The first three lines tug at my heart, more so with the infamous Seattle rains making there presence felt with a vengeance!

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

What a language they sometimes crackle.

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

Lovely... All...

I am rather fascinated with ravens/crows........ For whatever reason...

Gentle Christmas hugs,

"Christmas won't be Christmas
without any presents."

~~Opening line of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"

renaye said...

i understand this poem. =)

Friko said...

I'm so sorry to read that you're not well and I hope you'll soon be restored to normal flexibility.

The things we do to keep the reading blogworld happy!

The above poem is a special one for me, you are making me see crows in quite a different light. I see crows as rapacious, raucous, greedy and harsh; to see them as flame filled creatures spreading the language of the heart is is an idea I will try to get used to.

Brendan said...

I think of you writing this out of a necessity that is only made more distinct by physical torture, which is really the way of shamanic initiation -- crazy folk whom the spirits abducted and took down to the bowels of the earth where they were dismembered bone by bone and then reassembled with an extra bone inserted -- bone of the fish, the bear, the crow, become the daemon or genus or totem that channeled healing through song. Our pain is the cast iron so resonant with fire -- the song of the gods -- "crackling," as you say, with "the language of the heart." A language which must have survived Pushkin's translation of Sir Walter Scott's translation of an old Celtic song ...

Make me recall Joseph Campbell saying that Arthur of the Grail Cycle was originally a Celtic god, and before that probably a bear-spirit -- his name is really Artus or "bear" -- and makes me think of that altar at the former entrance to the paleolithic Chauvet Cave where a cave bear's skull was set on a rock facing the entrance. A 30, 50-thousand-year-old mythologem surviving in the durable language of the heart ... Fine, fine poem. - Brendan

ds said...

Oh, that trickster crow. Is he stealing the language of the heart, or sharing it? Whatever, this is a gorgeous gorgeous poem with a gorgeous gorgeous illustration, and I now count it among my favorites.

Hope your pain is abating somewhat...

Ruth said...

Thank you, my good friends. This is killing me, to feel that I am not responding to each of you as I want to. I cannot do justice to your comments: I am a bad English major, and I don't know the mythology of the crow, though I loved "Quoth the Raven . . . nevermore . . ."

What I do know is that I had many moments of bliss after this crow entered my consciousness the other morning while it rained. This was a new way of feeling the crow, which has been a nuisance to me before this autumn. But in my walks lately, he calls and warns the others that I have come. And maybe on this morning he was calling to me too, and he had prepared my heart to listen inside this window.

Stratoz said...

crackling, I like that. Love the crow art too.