Mandrake Root

September 29, 2012

Suppose your mind is made
of words that seek the sun
with poison from the soil;
that your sentences
could climb as vines do,
chest high at dawn,
a canopy by noon,
yet come nightfall,
a miasma of
torment  and entanglement
must prevail;
that you are made
illusory by our simple
present tense,
even as you have lived
in the past, as invisible
to thought as suffering is.


4 Responses to “Mandrake Root”

  1. Anna Mark Says:

    Thanks, Jim. I’ve reread your poem and I’m understanding it better as a whole now. There is a meaninglessness to it and that, I think, is what I was finding sad, but perhaps “sad” wasn’t or isn’t the most accurate word, though it has that mood. I’ll read your Perfumes poem now. I like your jest regarding the coincidence of imagery, forget that the sky and remembers the sky. An serendipitous juxtaposition of thoughts and words is always delightful.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    Hi Anna: I never quite addressed your perception that this poem is sad. Simply put, it is sad. The title, ‘Mandrake Root’ tends to foster the idea that it is a mandrake root that’s being addressed. Perhaps I should have called it ‘Red Herring’. Let’s fill in the blank (you) with, say, me—
    Suppose your mind is made
    of words that seek the sun
    with poison from the soil

    The ‘suppose’ bleeds through to the rest of the poem. The ‘twisted syntax’ perhaps helps to mitigate the force of the speculation, but it is there anyway. Suppose all these things are the case…what then? Words that seek the sun with poison from the soil? A miasma of torment and entanglement? Made illusory by our simple present tense? What an unpleasant situation. It calls into question (I’d like to think anyway) the very situation it is arising out of, a poem that is an anti-poem, at least for the addressee. ‘You. You call yourself a poet. You call this a poem?’ Of course, in so far at it succeeds in calling itself into question, it is a success as a poem. Though, alas, insofar as it fails, it simply fails. So, thanks for seeing the sadness…I think.
    By the way, I wrote the current poem, ‘Perfumes Left Behind’—the one that ends ‘forget that the sky…’ without seeing your current poem, ‘The Plea’—the one that ends, ‘for then she remembers the sky’. Really.

  3. Anna Mark Says:

    When I read this poem I am struck, at least at the beginning, with the tension of opposites. Words that seek the sun seem pure by virtue of their seeking (the sun!) but then there is an underground of poison and all of a sudden the words, the vines, are suspicious or blackened or helpless, for even though they reach for the sun, their roots are drinking poison — entanglement and torment prevail. Then, I have trouble making sense of the rest of the poem. I tend to see the past as the “poison”…but I don’t understand it entirely. Things are invisible, illusory like our suffering. I find this poem sad.

  4. John Stevens Says:

    That’s a wonderful simile Jim, words seeking the sun, sentences like a vine …

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