Stories and poems

"The metaphoric image of 'orphan lines' is a contrivance of the detached onlooker to whom the verbal art of continuous correspondences remains aesthetically alien. Orphan lines in poetry of pervasive parallels are a contradiction in terms, since whatever the status of a line, all its structure and functions are indissolubly interlaced with the near and distant verbal environment, and the task of linguistic analysis is to disclose the levels of this coaction. When seen from the inside of the parallelistic system, the supposed orphanhood, like any other componential status, turns into a network of multifarious compelling affinities.'
Roman JAKOBSON, "Grammatical Parallelism and its Russian Facet", Language, 42/2, 1966, pp. 399-429, p. 428-429

Saturday, February 1, 2014


A while ago, I was thinking of Rapunzel and then wanted to write a poem about her which would capture the essential elements of the story without really telling it. What makes it a narrative? What makes it itself? And what does it mean?

I didn't post it then, but now here it is, the draft not a draft in fact. I found it in the internet space of this blog almost completed. I only had to add the subtitle (it said Rapunzel or) and change some words.

How ears let eyes and hair grow back again

At first there was a couple
with just one little window
to look through, then she saw
a salad, wanted it, green, sweet.

The man climbed down the wall,
to satisfy the wife, got caught by
the angry witch. They lost their child.
We never hear of them again.

The child grew and grew,
lived in a tower, her hair
grew long, she let it down,
the witch climbed.

Who did she talk to?
She sang. A man came,
heard, his eyes, he'd lose,
couldn't see her, wanted to.

He finds the way in.
She's scared. She says
I don't know how
to get down.

He brings her
strands of silk
to make a ladder. 
They make twins.

Rapunzel tells the witch
she is heavy, heavier than
her prince. She knows
she rages, scissors.

Rapunzel loses her hair.
Golden braids hang,
trick the prince,
she's lost in a desert.

He's blind, his eyes pierced,
though it was his ears
that first drew him, now
he wanders, till

he comes to the desert.
He hears a voice again,
It's hers, she sees him,
she cries on his eyes, they heal.

Healed, they love,
their twins, united,
tongues, mouths sing,
ears, eyes, the braids

presumably grow back.
No longer in need of a ladder
they tie them around their waists
like yellow silk. 

Reading this poem which has been sitting here so long it is no longer mine, I note that it is about recognition, and what to trust. There is the green salad, outside, the witch who climbs, these things that bring us out of ourselves, threaten us. Then there is the inside space of the tower, the song sung to oneself which attracts the lover. The lover who recognizes because he loves. These are, for the Jungian reader, ways to read the story as a portrait of the psyche (after Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women who Run with Wolves, my Bible for a while). Ultimately, the soul makes itself whole again (the twins reunited!)  through the different steps in the story, from blindness and separateness to togetherness and light. The story can also teach us out to be available to ourselves (though I cut off my hair in grief, it grows back, I braid it and wrap it around myself).

And this is exactly what I've been learning this past week at a singing workshop on the northern tip of Scotland.

Sight is perhaps the least dependable of senses, when it comes to love.  The ears, in the end, are more dependable, and win out. The witch does not know to pierce them.

So, Rapunzel is perhaps an ode to singing.

Thanks to all the brave singers on that sometimes scary road with me last week!

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