A box, made of some dark wood
with no scent, no discernible grain.
Inlaid into the lid, a scene of welcome
made from scales that shone
like pearls in shallow water.
A man and his daughter
and a tree with arching limbs.
Shall I tell you about angels?
There was no latch, no lock,
no prohibition. Just a lid
for me to open. And I opened it.
Inside, a worm was curling.
No – a grub, a maggot even,
pale, and sickly
like a shoot, a plant
kept from the sun. So
I set the open box down
on the windowsill.
Stigmata pulsed along its sides
when sunlight brushed its body.
Blink by blink it grew until
it filled the box – a still cocoon,
a strange papoose, swaddled
in its own milky skin.
I leaned in, barely breathing.
But a sigh was breath enough.
The membrane split and shriveled back,
a rumpled, crinkled mass between
its shoulderblades – a manikin,
It stirred, and blundered
to the box’s lip and clung there,
a moth against a lampshade,
a drowning man to rocks.
I watched the wrinkled wings
hang and swell.
And how it grew, as it raised its
empty face. Stepped lightly
from the box into the room.
Tabula rasa, it was beautiful
the way sleeping children are.
White rosebuds in a glass vase.
The barely risen moon.
Perfection is so cold!
Without self, without hope.
I didn’t – do not – know
what it was I caused,
but pity brought me to its lips,
a simple, human thing.
A single kiss.
I regret nothing.
Child, when you correct their tale
know of whom you speak:
Pandora. Mother of angels.
Triggered by Poemeleon’s “Mystery Box contest” and the first line I thought of for Read Write Poem’s Day 30 prompt – “a handful of feathers”.
I had the fanciful notion that the inlay on the boxes was from something other than mother-of-pearl. Somehow or other the idea of angels having scaley wings (like butterflies) rather than being feathered (like birds) seemed right. From there came the idea of angels starting their existence as something ugly, like a grub or a maggot. (Angels are frightening things – they have no compassion, and an absolutist view of wrong and right. And no free will.) And it’s hard to write anything mythical about boxes without summoning Pandora. What if she didn’t loose misery onto the world? What if what she did was the last part of the myth only – released hope? Released an Angel?
There’s still plenty of editing to be done here, but I’m actually really happy with the way the poem has shaped itself. The ending will take some work to get right, but I have the shape and most of the sound palette. The basic poem.
A good way to finish NaPoWriMo.
For the complete experience, read this poem while listening to Lisa Gerrard’s “Sanvean (I Am Your Shadow)”, from The Mirror Pool.
9 Replies to “NaPoWriMo 09 – day 30 (and end!)”
Oh wow! That’s a fantastic way to end the month
Have to admit, it does feel like a good one in the making.
It’s going to take a while before the must …. write … poem rictus leaves me.
Hopefully it won’t take too long to recharge the batteries to the point where I can settle into normality again, and start doing some editing. (I’ve missed it so!)
Congratulations on surviving your month of poetry writing! Will read poem at home when I can listen to Sanvean (I Am Your Shadow) – which was my walking-down-the-aisle music when I got married. Now wondering if poems+soundtrack might be the next new thing.
Such good taste!
Amazing. A fine way to close the challenge.
Thank you. It certainly surprised me, which is usually a good sign. And it’s a great relief to finish on what feels like a high note. Even the roughness of the ending – truer to the experience of the month.
What an intriguing perspective on angels. I don’t know much about them but I like the grub and metamorphoses imagery you use here to find a new slant. This definitely seems like one to keep working one. By the way, I used your “handful of feathers’ line on my poem : “Thanks for the Feathers.”
Thanks Liz. And I love what you’ve done with the line – “For now, I’ve wrung all the words
I can/ from your tender neck” is so absolutely right! Thanks for sharing the insanity.
i have enjoyed reading your words