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Friday, 8 June 2012

The Marriage of Beauty and Banality

What are these four, I'm wondering:
four kinds of votive offering?
Sacrificial victims to the  Lamb of Landfill?
Gate-keepers maybe, meant to keep
the dark consumer world at bay..?

Not all of it, of course. All but its detritus.
Themselves part of the detritus:
                                               a Teddy bear
waist deep in oil
(old engine oil, my guess -
                                        but what
do I know of a pool spilt sometime from
some old container?)
                               and a doll,
her battered head in duct tape turban,
splattered blood and mud,
                                        beside a leprechaun
and woolly lion with tangled mane.
                                                   The leprechaun
alone shows signs of life, as if
he is about to dance a jig.
                                      It comes
as something of a shock to realise
his head is firmly in the lion's mouth!

The lion lets loose a mighty roar,
the leprechaun is unperturbed,
doll and Teddy bear are wet with fear.

Lion and leprechaun are poised atop
a pile of old computers, and display
a sign, its marks marked out in marker pen:
Then leave the rest here for the leprechaun -
it's why he's all in green.

Who are these four
                              then, ancient saints
of this, a modern faith enshrined
here in its place of worship?
                                          Writers of
its Gospels? Or
                         the Horsemen of some new
Apocalypse, strange symbols of a pestilence,
a war, a famine and a death to come?

The way a fox will pee to mark its territory,
the priestly caste of waste recycle operatives
have marked the boundaries, the borders set
around their Holy Mountain -
                                            this to emphasise
its difference, its not belonging to
the plain of plain mankind beyond. Their
cone-shaped golden vases of fresh flowers
on trestles of white wood
include giant buttercups, ferns, meadow turf,
and daisies, burdock, sedge and bracken.
All plants with ancient powers. Some stand
in harsh and unambiguous contrast
before the grey and rusting skips and giant
containers. Others are but fragrant pee
laid down at intervals
                                 around the hinterland -
Or are they just to decorate?
                                            To beautify?
The way pew-ends are dressed before a wedding?

From outside looking in
the scene is unremarkable,
but, past the lines of guardian plants, becomes
more alien than Mars.
This is the portal to the promised landfill -
portal in its turn to the fulfillment of our dream.
This is the Customs and the Duty House.
Here creatures of a gnomic disposition,
doctors of the periodic scale of waste,
of all compatibilities and powers of such,
well versed in disciplines beyond our understanding,
do scrutinise the offerings we bring
before dispatching each of us
to his appointed bin.

Nature, in whom all beauties once were rolled together,
still can blush, confronted by her groom.
Perhaps it is the lack of visual beauty that offends,
the blush no longer innocent, but tinged with loss.

What comforts can her Black Prince of Banality provide
to compensate for what his bride will miss?

The answer's in these simple plants
the way they hold their own...
as if some tiny particles of earth
had found their first, unsullied form
and started Earth again.
No wonder it looks alien!

Our world has only taught us right and wrong,
good and evil mixed. We never thought
to see them separate and stand
in contradiction, each to each.

Beyond them lies the great nave of the Lamb of Landfill.
Here relics that have lost their power
are laid to rest by devotees
in hope of resurrection to some future life
as artefact or plant or animal.

Begonias decaying slowly on a path
acquire a different kind of beauty. Soon
from the great  nave an anthem sounds - and the event's
photographer - who could be Dali - sees a new
and alien world he must record, for only he
would think a choir of herring gulls
(white cassocks, blue-grey surpilces, and sin-black fingers to their gloves)
in panicked movements back and forth beyond the chancel arch -
though in good voice, rehearsing all their cries and squarks. Only he
would think rust bucket of a car
where the high altar ought to be.
And thinking is enough to freeze the image for all time.

The artist as philosopher.
                                      Landscapes seen
in close-up
                  morph into still lifes - or lives.
Safaris in a fridge.
                           The stains on
an old mattress are pictures in a fire.
A rocking horse is caught
in razor wire
and angel flares dance lightly every night
on clouds of methane gas.
The locals think them ghosts,
will not go near the place.

Here art is myth.
                         We artists
are the unicorns who walk
                                       the grim banality of grime.
Beauty is of Earth, and visual
beauty of Earth's God;
                                  the anthem vain.

How did banality - that strange banality
that crept upon the landscape
                                              like a predatory beast
its presence there
                          no accident
and no mistake
resulting not from
                          failure of imagination
from something we had overlooked
but by design -
how did that special and peculiar benality
                                      became acceptible
                                      adopted by our culture
                                      seen everywhere:
in poetry
              in church and fashion house
at home and in the media.
Can someone tell me what,
adopting it, we have interred?

The wedding guests are eyeless (some)
or without ears. They've lost
the organs that they did not use
or use enough. The god
of this new world has proved himself
a jealous god indeed.

Ten inches in ten years, they've raised
this great cathedral floor.
The images from yesterday
have blurred
                    the edges fuzzed
the contours lost their shape
the grass grown over them.
(Three years they have been capping it.)

(Still clearly visible from space,
but not from here.)
Its' life, but life
impinging upon life.
It's life browbeating life.

No object comes untrammelled
Each one  is linked to concepts,
expressions or beliefs.
Juxtapose the images, you juxtapose the thoughts.

As if a Chinese ideogram
became a video.
This for Chazinator's Critique and Craft prompt at http://dversepoets.com/


Jenny Woolf said...

Nature always wins, because it's alive and these other things never were alive, they were just symbols of life.

Janine Bollée said...

A gruesome nightmare, too tinged with reality to take it lightly. I feel I need a second shower now.
The second tour-de-force peom I have read this morning.

The only bit of humour I could extract to make me want my breakfast is the idea of somebody being invited into the House of Lords and given the title: Lord X, Baron of Landfill.
Well, humour is a safety valve, and this requires one.

Brian Miller said...

We artists
are the unicorns who walk
the grim banality of grime....nice line man....the wedding crowd scene, having lost its part is rather intense...wow sir this is top notch stuff....

kaykuala said...

The curse that afflicts human kind. Of banality of landfills that keep growing, upwards and sideways.Rubbish that could have found its way for recycling but struck against the environment. Powerful verse Dave!


Unknown said...

This really brings together so many of the themes of what it might to be alien. Turning the landfill into a symbol of what was once normal become the land of no return, a modern nether world archiving so much discarded desire, banished to this refuse bin of the Holy! Your narrative is superlative, you describe its details so realistically, plotting out the place this junk has in nothingness. I think you've created a marvelous correlate to those otherworldly journeys from old, delving deply in the process into the soul of our overly material culture. I enjoyed it immensely.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave - this is a very ambitious poem that meets its ambitions and more - I especially liked the beginning with the stuffed parade (altar pieces?) and the ongoing coupling of beauty banality, decay taking over - the raising of the cathedral floor ( the marriage part very clever.) An interesting mix of how we alienate ourselves with all this stuff, and how alien it becomes when looming large - the lion's mouth.

Well done. k.

Kat Mortensen said...

My goodness, this is a magnum opus!

I found elements of pure genius here ( and would quote them if I were not single-digit typing on a 2x5 keyboard (inches).

It occurred to me as I read this, how much I (and indeed many) would benefit from a good old fashioned book filled with your great work. Think about that.


Kat Mortensen said...

P.S. duct-tape is very popular today
Oh, and your poem (on further thought) is rather like one of the medieval allegories with its mad assortment of characters.

Laurie Kolp said...

Ahh... imaginative and thought-provoking!

Daydreamertoo said...

Wow... this is fabulous. My uncle was a dustman and he used to collect all kinds of neat things other people threw away. He took me to the landfill site one day. Apart from the dreadful stink, I saw a dead cat in the pile and he told me people throw anything and everything into the garbage, including dead animals.
This was an epic of a tale Dave. I could see it all in my mind's eye as I was reading. Very surreal and out of this world and yet, it is also very real really too.
Yes, an epic of a tale so well told.
Enjoyed it very much!

Susan said...

I loved the 4 sentries so much, I thought they could stand alone as a poem--and then to have them stand witness to this grotesque marriage! I totally enjoyed it. See what happens when the trivial accumulates? Nothing is banal without leading to worse, and after the 20th century banality of evil,where do we go but into a live reality ala Hieronymus Bosch!

hedgewitch said...

You develop your themes so well in this David--Beauty and Banality indeed, and the ever mounting landfill of uselessness that is our alien, unnatural life--like the middens of an archeological dig, everything we create and destroy on our wins, purposeful, sentimental or symbolic, is buried there, defining us, defining our Sacred. A fine, perfectly constructed poem, with every word effective.

hedgewitch said...

that should be whims, not 'wins'--new keyboard is giving me fits.

Rachna Chhabria said...

My God, this was one really long poem, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Victoria said...

What can I say about the brilliance of this poem, Dave? There are so many layers, so much meaning. The imagery, analogies so well thought-out. I suspect that this is one of those works that you wrote almost without labor, kind of like channeling.

rosemary mint said...

I like these sections:

"and a doll,
her battered head in duct tape turban,
splattered blood and mud, beside a leprechaun
and woolly lion with tangled mane"

"A rocking horse is caught
in razor wire"

"We artists
are the unicorns who walk the grim banality of grime"

"The wedding guests are eyeless"

"No object comes untrammelled"

Mary said...

I agree with the ambitiousness of this poem, Dave. This is surely one of your best!

haricot said...

You do such enormous work, Dave.
In this many lines I found some elements you mentioned in the last poem; some symbolic reborn and death.

Dave King said...

True, very true - and just as well, methinks.

Oh, I do so love that: Lord X, Baron of Landfill! So thanks for setting me off with a mischievous guffaw this morning.

Yup, looking at it again in the cold light of dawn, I do think the wedding scene needs a bit more work. Thanks for your thoughts.

Very true. We - in this country especially - have ben very remiss.

archiving so much discarded desire - powerful phrase with potent reverberations: wish I'd thought of it! Thank you so much for it and for the rest of your kind critique. I truly value it.

A really delightful critique to receive. Thank you so much for it - you flatter me in the matter of the stuffed parade: I hadn't thought of altar pieces. Wish I had! Thanks again.

Much obliged to you for your kind words - and for the flattering suggestion. I have started to look around, but so far the publishers I've thought suitable are loathe to take work already published on the web. I shall keep looking - and if any friend out there knows one... Thanks so much for your support.

A medieval allegory... mad assortment of characters... yes, I see all that!!!

Thanks Laurie. Much appreciated.

Daydreamer too
Lovely response to get, I am so grateful for it. Love the references you make to your uncle and your own visit to such a site. It came in part from my interest in landscape, and here was one that many people would think a non-landscape and, yes, a chance to indulge in a bit of surrealism!

Yes, excellent, I like your thinking, especially as it ends with Bosch! What a marvellous finale to the accumulation of trivia! Me like much! Thanks for your thoughts, they've already set mine in motion!
Thanks too, for your visit. Really good to have you aboard.

Thanks for these wonderful thoughts - the middens of the archeological dig... Oh, I like this so much! And yes, there's a whole library of stories, poems and thoughts, to be unearthed on the theme of what we bury there. Thanks for saying.

Thanks for this - I was a little worried that it was too long. Wasn't meant to be: like Topsy it "just growed"!

You are correct in your supposition. Yes, there was no burning of the midnight oil. It was an easy birth. Maybe the complications will come later - after I've lived with it for a while.

Welcome to the blog. Really good to have you visiting.
Thanks for this useful bit of feedback. Much appreciated.

Good of you to say so. Really appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you for your kind response. Your comments are always good to have.

Bodhirose said...

I really enjoyed this amazing work you came out with. And to think that this world was completely created by our "waste". In time, all of us is buried. The eyeless and earless reference is haunting. So true, use it or lose it! I think we're losing it..