Monday, October 6, 2008

Shrouds

So, as I said I would, I'm posting the poem inspired by Sena Jeter Naslund's novel, Ahab's Wife. I wrote it back in 2001. I would say that, at the time, it was an accurate representation of the best I could do, but since then I've learned a lot. Instead of re-editing it, though, I'm posting it here as it was after about 5 drafts. This is the version Naslund saw in the chapbook I passed her:

Nantucket Widows

I was never Ahab's wife;
     He had his sails,
     I had my quilts.
He was married to the
ocean long before he
put his children
in my belly.

Nantucket was a town
entirely populated with Widows, then.
We ran most store owners off
doing our own knitting,
sewing;
none made any money
except on molasses and
     black yarn,
     black string,
     black cloth.
I thought
that, somewhere, there was a man
gone fat and bouncing grandbabies
on his knee
     because of the ocean's
     harsh sense of justice,
     because of his
     black cloth for sale;
bouncing grand babies on his knee
the way Ahab never would.
     They had their sails,
     we had our shrouds.

I want to say here that I have since come to have a real problem with ekphrasis. I think that the attempt is arrogant at best--thinking that one artist can better explain the essence of another art from a different medium (usually poetry about paintings as far as I can tell) means that one artist thinks they can describe the essence of another better than the original piece itself. Even in the case where the poet is describing their reaction to the piece and not the piece itself, things are still hinky to me. Hence the fact that since about 2002, I haven't talked about this poem or posted it anywhere, really. Still, it was on the subject and so I thought I'd share it.

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