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The Monday Poem > Two poems by A.E. Stallings (29 Feb '16)

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message 1: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Homecoming
   (for Ashley and Shelby)

It was as if she pulled a thread,
Each time he saw her, that unravelled
All the distance he had travelled
To sleep at home in his own bed,
Or sit together in a room
Spinning yarns of monsters, wars,
Hours counted by the chores.
He loved to watch her at the loom:
The fluent wrists, the liquid motion
Of small tasks not thought about,
The shuttle leaping in and out,
Dolphins sewing the torn ocean.


Medea, Homesick

How many gifted witches, young and fair,
Have flunked, been ordinary, left the back-
Stooping study of their art, black
Or white, for love, that sudden foreigner?
Because chalk-fingered Wisdom streaks the hair,
Because the flame that flaps upon its wick
Rubrics the eye, I left behind the book
And washed my hands of ink, my homeland, my father.
But beauty doesn't travel well: the ocean,
Sun-strong years. The charms I knew by rote,
Irregular as verbs, decline to charm.
I cannot spell the simplest old potion
I learned for love. As for the antidote,
He discovered it himself, and is past harm.


message 2: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I couldn't decide between these two and as they are both fairly short, I decided to post both. A.E. Stallings is a contemporary poet who has won several awards including the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award. A native of Georgia (the southern U.S. state, not the former Soviet republic!), she graduated from the University of Georgia and Oxford University. She currently lives in Athens, Greece.

Both the two poems I chose show the influence of Greece & Greek myths.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Leslie, I really like both these poems. I just read The Odyssey and I'm also currently reading Ulysses, so I got the mythic element right away. I love the line "Because chalk-fingered Wisdom streaks the hair." The image is fantastic. Well done, Leslie!


message 4: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Just this morning after posting, I read another poem about Penelope and Odysseus - Penelope is saying "well, believe that I was unpicking my weaving if you want" - it was a great feminist view of why the story treats her as it does :) I think that the name of that one is "The Wife of the Man with Many Wiles".


message 5: by Greg (last edited Feb 29, 2016 10:05AM) (new)

Greg | 7485 comments Mod
Wonderful poems Leslie! I'm not familiar with Stallings, but I like her control; some great imagery but despite that, it feels anchored in a good way. It makes me think a little of C.P. Cavafy.

Both of them are pretty clear.

I like the domestic feel of "Homecoming," the healing that happens with the two of them together after all the travels are done. The last line is great - I like how "Dolphins sewing the torn ocean" ties together the weaving and Odysseus' travels, almost domesticizing it.

I also like the worldly-wise feel of "Medea, Homesick." One line puzzles me, though I love the sound of it: "Because the flame that flaps upon its wick / Rubrics the eye." I'm assuming "rubrics" is used in a sense of providing guidelines, teaching, and I think the wick being burned up could be like her youth, consumed as it burns bright ... but I can't quite piece that line together in a way that totally satisfies me yet.

Thanks though Leslie! From these poems, Stallings is a poet well worth knowing!! I don't think I've ever read her work before.

I do love the Greek myths!


message 6: by Leslie (last edited Feb 29, 2016 10:41AM) (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Greg, I puzzled about that same line! Maybe there is a secondary meaning to the word rubrics...

(edited later)
The word's origin might be helpful - here is what I found on Google:

late Middle English rubrish (originally referring to a heading, section of text, etc., written in red for distinctiveness), from Old French rubriche, from Latin rubrica (terra ) ‘red (earth or ocher as writing material),’ from the base of rubeus ‘red’; the later spelling is influenced by the Latin form.

So a flame could be reddish in color which would be reflected in the eye or alternately, a passion could be an internal red flame (a red-eyed passion instead of the traditional green-eyed jealousy). Sort of like love making you see things through rose-colored glasses...


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