Handmaid’s Harp

April 19, 2013

Not every student thinks to study the sunrise—
not with hand-made wings, they don’t.
A great grey sky, shy gulls, the night’s cries
tell of harpies and liars—not of
the music of the handmaid’s harp.

What is cool, though, is that
to fulfill the harp’s music here on earth,
someone’s ears must hear it all.
Today’s conception must start with this,
with ears that have words behind them—
like a sub-vocal light until light’s crystals stir,
or reign or cry as angels might when set on fire.
For rumors do not touch her wings, sir.
It must be heard to make the harp a lyre.


5 Responses to “Handmaid’s Harp”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Here’s the rest of what I wrote, but did’t copy::
    That the poem learns to fly, might be the ultimate compliment—so thank you again. I wonder though if it might be more accurately described as emptying itself of meaning. I was commenting on John Armstrong’s latest work (at bebrowed) which I highly recommend, noticing how the piece seemed to empty the words of meaning—and it struck me that this was pretty much what I was doing here. The two pieces—poems, if you will—couldn’t be more different. Maybe it’s not flight we have here, but light-headedness.

    Here’s a link to John’s stuff:

  2. extrasimile Says:

    Yes, it’s a nice poem.
    (Let’s not be too modest here, John.)
    The line, the steady arc he drew over the world’s curve, is one of the best you’ve written. The Auden poem is one of my favorites—not to mention Brueghel’s painting. I should point out, though, when James Joyce was giving a name to one of his major characters, he did not settle on Steven Icarus.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    I find it so interesting, how the Icarus myth still fascinates and inspires – and more so than the story of Daedalus who was the successful mastermind. What does that tell us about the human psyche I wonder?
    I once posted a poem that celebrated Daedalus rather than Icarus which began: “Why is it always Icarus we choose to paint and not the other one? “; it seems to be the poem most reread on my blog! That’s very curious to me.)
    Rereading your poem here, Jim, confirms my first impressions: the lines take flight.

  4. extrasimile Says:

    Learn a little more? Okay, here goes. This poem started out as another installment in the ‘Middle School’ series. It came to seem too far away in content from the other three so I took off the tie in. Perhaps I should put it back, for it does tie the ‘How Tintoretto…’ back to ‘The First Day’—in that they have similar aspirations. To fly, perhaps? I mean, did Icarus really meant to escape along with Daedalus, or was he in it just for the flying part? Anyway, we have a student set to study the sunrise, strapping on hand-made wings. It’s still dark. Scary. Those gull cries could easily be interpreted as evil. I once heard an interview with a guy who gets his kicks jumping from cliffs in Norway in a wing suit. Asked if he sometimes doesn’t jump, he admitted to trusting his instincts. If it didn’t feel right, he wouldn’t go. Now, I ask you, sir, who really has ‘instincts’ about jumping off a cliff? It’s got to always be scary.
    None the less our protagonist takes off. Stanza two is his flight (what is cool…) Even Daedalus must have been surprised when his wings worked.

  5. John Stevens Says:

    There’s much that I can’t quite see or hear clearly in this Jim, but it takes flight: there’s a quiet and grey beginning, a slow dawn perhaps after a disturbing night (those harpies), and then it gradually rises through thoughts about sight and sound until you reach those last four lines, with their joyful rhyme (and the last two, indeed, with their five distinct ‘feet’ and confident iambs). I look forward to learning a little more.

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