Tag Archives: Robert Herrick

Tuesday Poem: “The Settlement” by Zireaux

Title page of "Hesperides" by Robert Herrick (1648)

Title page of “Hesperides” by Robert Herrick (1648)

Continued from previous Res Publica post

‘And this?’ I asked regardless, observing
the burka slowly rise and spread
in flaring folds behind her head
(like dragon’s beard), the softly curving
corbel of her neck, the dawn
of lips, then nose, then eyes, the wan
demeanour of that smooth dark face
and how those lips appeared forever
formed by some surviving trace
of haunting melody. ‘Is she
the one whose love you – ?’

                                            ‘Wise and clever,’
Sayeed affirmed good-humouredly.
‘Your mind – you see? – has not been harmed.
Your senses (as we saw!) were charmed
by Noorya’s touch. I had no doubt
she also caused your brain to spout.’

A week would pass before I stepped
outside that dim-lit metal shed.
The sky was powdery blue. A thread
of high white vapour stalked – but kept
its distance from – a cruising spark
of jet-plane silver. The sea was dark
delphinium jelly, spread evenly
in all directions. Smoke. Some tents
and tarps and stocky men long-sleevenly
attired, with boots and stoat-fur caps
and rubber coveralls. The scent
of roasting meat. The whirring clap
of a generator – diesel, loud,
and spewing out a pale blue cloud,
as if my little island pet
were puffing on a cigarette.

It was, by God, a settlement.
A place where people choose to live
in ways we might call primitive,
with tents and sheets of metal leant
together in awkward angles, adorning
my rocky isle with extra thorning.
And midst this weather-beaten camp
of boxy blues and fish-tail greens,
was laid a lattice-work of ramps
and shelvings, narrow wooden planks
on which a tank of kerosene
could rest, or jug of water, or rank
of barefoot workers could walk, or gravel-
burdened barrows bobbingly travel.
Convenient, perhaps. But, too, I felt,
confining: a strip, or strap, or belt.

Of course – a corset! My virgin girdled!
A grill or grate. A wooden lattice
that made a gangway apparatus
through rocks which once I had to hurdle.
And laces! My darling isle was strung
with lines where clothes and bedspreads hung.
This lonely ground, this mound of mine
with waves all round, this gentle rise
both crotched and contoured, coarse and fine,
amidst the soft pulsating seas,
– if viewed aloft, from seagulls’ eyes,
you’d see a camp of refugees.
But more, a patch of beauty tented,
a cleavage shackled and ornamented.
O damn to hell! Such neutering lace
leaves beauty and her suitor chaste.

Quilts and blankets, carpets rolled
and bagged in plastic covers, incredible
cushions, divans that were bed-able
(though damp and graveolent with mould),
a single, blue-clothed table (a flirt,
with benches peeking up her skirt);
a washing board from which ungainly
suds were launching in the breeze;
and all of it — to put it plainly –
wedged in every gap between
the crowded rocks, the squeezing seas.
A jackhammer, shovels, picks. A scene
of litter-ality. A cramped
encampment. An isle with people stamped;
and cause of my despair (since cured,
now that there’s room to play with words)…

…and play with you, my ample love.
My continent. Your endless shores
are mine. Your mines and mineral ores
are mine. And all the air above.
One moment with a toe of yours,
this finger’s girth, these little furs
upon your rolling knuckles. This lip,
this lash is worth the seven years
of my confined indentureship
upon that tightly tenanted rock.
Compare your overflowing spheres
which sweep aside your flimsy frock
with my lost isle’s constricted crust.
No bum like yours to plunge in. No bust
to extol, as Herrick, the poet, would lay
his lips on Julie’s ‘Milky Way.’

Whole galaxies are in your breast.
This surge, this cleft, this sloped descent,
it brims with life – em>ebooblient!
(My fingers grope; my pen just jests).
With ripeness grows the urge to hug it.
Not so my sour little nugget
of the sea, all hardened flake and brittle
brine. Where once I deeply craved
to hold her, she seemed much less committal
now. The people. Their tools and tents.
A part of her was even paved.
(her South-most point, where came and went
a daily boat, which brought ashore
another stash of goods galore.
My poor, defeated Babylon.
And so much death…but let’s move on).

…tbc

_____
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.

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On J-Lo’s Ass and Julia’s Breasts — Stanzas 92 to 97

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders on board the U.S.S.  Harry S. Truman on December 16, 2000. ‘You rate / your  game a “family show” – while leering / at ads for beer and damsels cheering.’

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders on board the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman on December 16, 2000. ‘You rate / your game a “family show” – while leering / at ads for beer and damsels cheering.’

Res Publica, Book One, Canto the Second

92.

‘A cold?’ I asked, as we ascended
toward some beastly clouds, their fattened,
beat-up faces, swollen, blackened
eyes and puce contusions blended
in each enormous, lumpish head.

‘No. Just allergies,’ she said.

Yes, she.

                     O reader, I’ve always loathed
that B-grade trick, where women clothed
as men in films – and often riding
motorcycles – are really hiding
in helmets, or hooded winter-wear,
great tresses of Rapunzaline hair.

93.

But I’m no Peter Jackson.50 And may
whoever films this docu-poem
be as good as he is – or know him,
at least, to make producers pay.
For you’ll need special effects beyond
what any software yet has spawned
– and not just for the seething sky
I mentioned above, or to supply,
in open sea, the tiny islet
which my helicopter pilot
struggles to find. But wait til you see
the marvels in my Canto Three!

94.

Now back to Megan – for that’s her name,
(though soon I’ll call her Copter Meg;
and once, while rifling through her bag
of nasal sprays, she made the claim
she was a ‘crazy, crack-brained sort’.
So soon I’ll call her ‘Nutmeg’ for short.)
A fleshy, big-boned curio,
Canadian, part Eskimo,
she stole her features from the kind
of shop our regal tourists find
along our city’s queenly strand51
– all polished goods and carved by hand.

95.

Her long smooth hair of Asian teak,
its grain defined in rippling rows;
a curvy Teko-Teko nose;52
a whalebone chin and Patu53 cheeks.
And let me not forget to speak
about her eyes (which strain to seek
out calmer skies) – the brows of jet
like peacock plumes in silhouette,
or clashing fists above two orbs
so dark they managed to absorb
and trap within her heavy lashes
several nearby lightning flashes.

Upper Paleolithic, Venus von Willendorf, estimated to have been carved 24,000–22,000 BCE

Upper Paleolithic, Venus von Willendorf, estimated to have been carved 24,000–22,000 BCE

96.

And let me not forget her breasts!
For just as Tolstoy loved girls’ feet,
divine Nabokov the furry sheathe
of armpits, I’m more common – impressed
by that which every barman knows
can fill a house, and if he chose,
a stadium! Indeed, as Janet
showed before TV could ban it,54
a breast can change a nation’s fate!
O strange America! You rate
your game a ‘family show’ – while leering
at ads for beer and damsels cheering.

97.

O blessed are you, you lecherous lot!
I sing to all the beer-drinking masses,
the ones who don’t care what ‘high class’ is;
the ones who think that J-Lo’s not
a diva – but her ass is.55 Bring me
your footy fans, in hordes or singly;
the sooty men with sports-car tools,
the speedway goers, sports-bar ghouls,
your schools of bikers and monster truckers
for whom the greatest nippers and tuckers
work to perfect the silicon breast
for you to visually molest!

50 Academy award-winning New Zealand film director, born 1961.

51 Queen Street is the central street of Auckland’s central business district. It rises from Queen’s Wharf on the waterfront and extends uphill for almost three kilometers in a mostly straight south-southwesterly direction. The street is filled with shops selling popular souvenir items such as Maori carvings, black pearls, honey and kiwifruit products, paua shells, rugby shirts, greenstone and sheepskins.

52 A Maori figurine commemorating ancestors or used as a protection from evil, usually of a curvaceous shape, with bulging belly, squat legs, outstretched tongue.

53 A wide, usually smooth (but sometimes ornamented), Maori blade, often carved of greenstone, wood or whalebone and used as a weapon.

54 During the halftime show of America’s Superbowl gridiron match in January, 2004, the pop singer Janet Jackson’s right breast was bared on live television.

55 J-Lo, or Jennifer Lopez, is a popular singer and actress in America whose alluring haunches, according to the Sunday Observer of London, have been insured for US$1 million.

Ali G. and Shaggy sing "Me Julie"

Ali G. and Shaggy sing "Me Julie"

Zireaux’s comments on these stanzas
The girl’s feet adored by Tolstoy, the furry axilla described by Nabokov — and what about the breast? Our narrator Arcady would find a soulmate in the 17th century poet, Robert Herrick:

Upon Julia’s Breasts

Display thy breasts, my Julia—there let me
Behold that circummortal purity,
Between whose glories there my lips I’ll lay,
Ravish’d in that fair
via lactea.
– Robert Herrick, The Hesperides, 1648

A remarkable little stanza, in which Julia’s breasts become cosmic spheres, as vast and timeless as the Milky Way (via lactea). “Circummortal” is Herrick’s own, if somewhat oversized, neologism, and we must admire a poet who draws new vocabulary from his beauty’s teat.

Herrick sings often of his Julia in The Hersperides. The name Julia itself is youthful, brimming, ebullient, circummortal. From Shakespeare to Sacha Baron Cohen, the name has kept its connotations. Here’s the brilliant Cohen character, Ali. G, singing about “me Julie.”

From the song “Me Julie,” by Ali G. and Shaggy:

You got your Julie, I got my Julie.
Anybody else who don’t have a Julie needs to get one.

Julie, you know I love you
Truly,
From me head down to my
Goolie.
You turn me on with your big Babylons.

My readers will recall that I’ve addressed the poetic beauty of breasts (and the origins of mazophilia) in previous posts: the “large unruly orbs” of Mary McCallum’s “Pink T-Shirt,” and, most scientifically, the “Big Hips and Breasts” of Kamal.

 

Read from the beginning of Res Publica | Listen to the audio version (read by Stuart Devenie) | Buy a signed copy of the book

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Filed under Res Publica, Book One