The Lady Mineola

April 22, 2011

Garrulous prose: a child’s mere babble. And yet a man who drools, the idiot, the man of tears who restrains himself no longer, who let’s himself go—he too is without words, bereft of power, but still he is closer to speech that flows and flows away than to writing which restrains itself even if this be restraint beyond mastery. In this sense, there is no silence if not written: broken reserve. A deep cut in the possibility of any cut at all.
—Maurice Blanchot

My daughter, Minnie Ha-Ha, found the shallow grave
where I’d buried the Lady Mineola—not
deep enough—in the backyard. ‘We was just digging,’
she’d said, as if that explained it. Kids do
that all the time, you know.  They dig big holes,
turn them into aristocrats—as if
the act of digging in the earth
were an act of investiture. But this time
no one was fooled. Minnie’d been looking high
and low for her Ladyship.  We knew that.
It’s tough to have a puppy die…
especially if you’d treated it with ‘un-tender hands’
as if you yourself were the murdering ‘org’
(in Minnie’s spelling), the one she wrote a poem about.

The ground is dry behind the shed, protected from
the rain and ice and snow. My bad, okay, I know.
Minnie Ha-Ha, I should’ve taken
Mineola out in to the woods,
let her decay in peace—
and not be holding a séance for
her soul, not bring this all back to life:

Get down on thy back, damsel.
The book between us should satisfy us both,
for your master is mine as well—

as if the burning dawn is like a candle,
like a dawn that never saw air or sky,
the mind’s timid transplant, and the one
you never will forget, the Lady  Mineola, who
wanted nothing more than to play with Minnie Ha-Ha in
my daughter’s last demesne… Stay on thy back, damsel.
Stay in thy grave. Refrain, refrain!

Advertisements

2 Responses to “The Lady Mineola”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    I don’t know that I know the answer to these questions, and, John, to be honest, all I’m doing is coming up with more questions.
    Perhaps it’s not so much who is speaking in the poem, but who is the author of the poem. Who is putting words into whose mouth? It’s conceivable to me that the daughter wrote the poem and not the father, that she is reflecting back on another time, using her father’s voice as a way of understanding her situation then. Did she kill the dog? Was there a dog? What did die?
    What about these names? Minnie Ha-Ha and Mineola are very similar rhythmically. Mineola, aside from being a town on Long Island, is a name for a tangelo, a fruit developed from tangerines and a polemo (whatever that is). ‘Mineola’ might be a nice name for a pet, but it’s a strange name for a family with a daughter named Minnie to come up with. And Minnie Ha-Ha…well, we’re back with Ha-Ha again. Minnie Ha-ha was an actress. Minnie Ha-Ha might be a corruption of Mineola. It might just a name the family used to refer to their daughter. Maybe she laughed a lot. Maybe the laughter died. Maybe youth, innocence. Maybe it was the ability to make ‘investiture’ in the earth. If it’s the daughter writing the poem—or is it ‘the book’—and her name is Mineola—maybe she is making fun of herself with this ha-ha stuff. Of course, a ha-ha is a sort of barrier, a negative fence, a trench dug in the ground. Be careful, you can fall in there.
    The italicized words must be addressed to Lady Mineola. This is some séance. ‘Get down on thy back, damsel.’ ‘Stay on thy back!’ One is buried on one’s back. Get back in the ground and stay there. We don’t want to talk to you. Or do we? I will point to that nice word ‘refrain’. Is this a request for someone to stop doing something, or for another chorus?
    as if the burning dawn is like a candle,
    like a dawn that never saw air or sky,
    the mind’s timid transplant, and the one
    you never will forget, the Lady Mineola, who
    wanted nothing more than to play with Minnie Ha-Ha in
    my daughter’s last demesne.
    The mind’s timid transplant. That seems to be at the heart of things here.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    I’m still puzzling out the last stanza: who is speaking here, and to whom, what is the book, what is the dawn? I don’t know. But the previous two stanzas are of course clear enough: the daughter, the discovery of the pet’s grave, and through that the discovery of death and loss, the father’s regrets; these are very poignant lines, particularly because the reader is invited to see death and loss through the eyes of a child as though for the first time. I like it a lot.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: