Wednesday 21 March 2018

Two Poems by Melissa Studdard

Melissa Studdard’s books include the poetry collection I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast and the novel Six Weeks to Yehidah. A short film of the title poem from I Ate the Cosmos for was an official selection for the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival and the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Other poems of hers have been made into car magnets, telepoem booth recordings, and Houston City Banners. Her writings have appeared in a wide range of publications, such as The Guardian, Poets & Writers, New Ohio Review, Harvard Review, and Psychology Today. She is the executive producer and host of VIDA Voices & Views for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, president of the women's caucus for Associated Writing Programs, and an editor for American Microreviews and Interviews. These two poems, both based on the myth of Icarus, have never been paired before, as “You Were a Bird; You Are the Sea” was collected in I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, while “Stomp the Ground” was written later and appeared in Southern Humanities Review.

Stomp the Ground

So Daedalus turned his mind to subtle craft,
An unknown art that seemed to outwit nature:
He placed a row of feathers in neat orders

If they tell you build it,
stomp the ground, dancer,
stomp the ground.

And swirl, you,
like wine in a gyrating glass,
while clasping Ariadne’s

hand, holding life close,
and inventing honey
beneath your tongue.

And if they tell you
come now, trail string
through whorls of memory

to find your way out,
back in again,
and around,

charming ants
into choreography
behind you,

across dance floors
and over the membranes
of time. Nautilus,

unicursal man,
with a seashell to one ear

and the other to the ground,
listen when they say
stay there,

and fly, you,
dreamer, round
the tower

of mind.
And spin, you,

into that device,
ignoring the feathers

that brush your windows,
and the winds  
that call you

to distant flight. 
Stay you, father,
until your son learns how to fly.

You Were a Bird; You Are the Sea

—inspired by the John Sokol painting, Icarus Practicing

Stretch them wide
as God’s first breath.

From tip to tip
there is no time.

Just the rumbling
of a tune

in your makeshift
beak, and bright

sky galloping
through the hollow

of bone. Bucket
of air, spine built

from light, boy
full of flutters

and drafts—you
speak mountain

stream, laurel leaf,
rolling cloud—

the dialect of flight.
The world drifts

like a madness
inside you—earth, 

trees, and birds,
feathers, wings,

and night, the start
and end of time

rowing through
blood’s currents,

sailing inside
the freedom

of mind,
now split open

by a whirlwind
of koan, pushed

like air through
sky’s vast lung.

When I go,
let me go

like you, Icarus,
past my own

limits before
I fall. Let me

be a flesh-toned
streak in the sky,

a flash in the blue,
a sunburst

of wonder

the ripples
of sea.

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