Flowers that Glide

Simul justus et peccator

Monday, September 06, 2004

2 ratios on Herbert

I'm currently reading Kamau Braithwaite's Black + Blues, which is a beautiful thing. One of the very early poems in the book is called "Totem." I couldn't help hearing Herbert's famous "shape" poem in there, and so I decided to write my own ratio on that poem, too, and post all three. I tend not to want to publish my own poems here for reasons that may be completely specious, but in this case I thought the process might be somewhat interesting. So, first is my poem, then Braithwaite's, then Herbert's. I suppose it makes most sense to read in the reverse of that order, but I figured everyone had read Herbert, fewer had read Braithwaite, and none me, so...front load the swag, I say.

Piety / Pity

I’m making my amends in sinews
my sinews
hot candle wax and blurry curse of

which is to say the sacrifice is pro-
in the gap between the here
and the frame

before the consolation which flies


The altar must be made of skulls
spiked head of the slave by the wayside
the bones that the dog shark’s
dark bark of teeth left by the sea side

for bones are vegetable arms
that clutch dreams
that grow the fatty pork of flesh
the gods will eat

are relics ruins
fetish of sperm
totem of screams
hollow bamboo branches

of what was once a tree

The Altar

A broken Altar, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workmans tool hath touch’d the same.
A Heart alone
Is such a stone,
Nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed Sacrifice be mine,
And sanctifie this Altar to be thine.