Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tycho And Skeeter \ Beginning With A Word For Spring

Alan: The little dog – never as much as three pounds in weight – came into our lives unexpectedly and left unexpectedly, a victim of melamine-tainted dog food.  In between, he owned our house and hearts.

Tycho And Skeeter

The old dog
looks for the young dog
in all the best places –
around the corner of the room,
under the desk where we kept his crate,
the half-secret daytime
lying-up places
under the chairs –
so small
he must be somewhere.
Like me
missing something essential –
glasses, car keys –
he goes back
and back again
having no other choice.
Ten days
and he has not forgotten
even as, surely, the scent
fades and we, the strange
ones on two legs, who talk
and talk and sometimes
rub our eyes,
have given up
and have shown ourselves
less masterful
than we all supposed.

Nancy:  What sort of word would: the dumping of contaminated spoil on a coral reef – the opening of a dam to bring life to an estuary – the creation of harbors with atomic explosives – be?  Gender roles may have lost their rigidity, but are there still stone mindsets and green dream mindsets?

Beginning With A Word For Spring

With a great noise the ice broke and turned
and the water flowed.
This had happened before,
and because it had happened before,
it had a word.
Tonight at the fire, Walks With A Limp spoke the word,
and said that when the sun reached here,
on the wall,
we would move.

The women knew the word,
for them it was like a pod, they opened it
and looked in their minds at what it held.
They saw the south facing slopes;
there, green things grew, and the people fed,
it had always been so.
Soon the animals would pass, walking their old trails,
the females heavy with the young of the year.
It had always been so.
The women murmured together, gathering cords and skin bags.
Soon they would move; there was a word for the green place,
and when the time of sweet foods came
there would be a word for that too.
No one alive could remember when it had not been so.

       Walks With A Limp sat by the fire
       and the other men sat with him.
       As they came to know the world, they were frightened
       by its simplicity.
       Although many things had words, the words were not stones,
       the words were not throwing sticks.
       They spoke together of their fears.

       Tonight there was a new word.
       The men said that it was a thing that had come before,
       but we had not looked at it.
       Now it had a word and it would belong to the men;
       it was a stone word, a throwing stick word.
       They said the word, and with their fingers
       and red paint, made a mark on the wall
       where the sun must come.

The moving time came, and the greens eating time,
and the young of the year were dropped.
The fish came and the women splashed and laughed;
the days passed as they had always done.
The fire was only an eye in the night,
not a warming place.  The women spoke a word,
and helped one another to cut meat to lay in the sun,
and tested the milky grains with their teeth.
Slowly the grasses bent as they had always done.

       But the men sat more and more often by the fire,
       apart from the women.  Their word had not healed the fears,
       but had given them new words.  Everywhere they looked,
       they saw that the world needed a stone word.

       Tonight the women must hide.
       They must not touch the throwing sticks or the bone whistles.
       They must not look on the men,
       who shine in the firelight and shake their antlers.
       Tonight the men say the words that will make the bulls fat,
       and the grain swell; they shake rattles
       and say the words that will make the sun obey.

The does come heavy with young, and the kernels ripen
as they have always done.  The sun obeys.

But was there a time when the world in its simplicity
was not ruled by bargains between the men
and the gods they had shaped with their stone words?
Perhaps.  The women speak of such things sometimes, quietly,
when they talk of dreams, and the play of children.

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