Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April Poetry: When Monkish Scribes Doodled in the Margins




Here's the prompt for April 24 from napowrimo.net, the website that encourages poets to write a new poem each day during National Poetry Month: 

Today, I challenge you to write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art. But I’d also like to challenge you to base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Here you’ll find some characteristic images of rabbits hunting wolves, people sitting on nests of eggs, dogs studiously reading books, and birds wearing snail shells. What can I say? It must have gotten quite boring copying out manuscripts all day, so the monks made their own fun. Hopefully, the detritus of their daydreams will inspire you as well!

Here's my poem based on an image captured from medieval manuscript marginalia:



Ears at Ready

What's with the rabbits?
All right, they're the hamburger of the natural world.
What did you get, Momma Fox asks Dadda
when he's back from the hunt -- Rabbit again?
This rabbit is in a fighting mood.
We know exactly who he is because his ears are strikingly long,
and straight up. Talk about obvious.
He is holding a sword, also long and vertical, paralleling the ears
Listen to me, such posture declares, or my shiny claw will speak daggers!
But from the expression on his minimal features, he's not as brave
as his posture suggests.
We see him profile, one eye lifted, a soft nose in a rounded profile.
He would be fierce, and armed, his pose proclaims,
But it's really not him
and his mouth is open in way the suggests "Yikes!"
rather than "Take that, dastardly predator!"
His courage is borrowed by the convenience,
our marginalizing monk shows us,
of riding on the back of rather humorously featured heraldic lion
with those tightly repeated framing curls as if set by a perm;
his lionish bulk transformed into a rabbit-carrying pony,
but still sufficient to cover the head, neck and shoulders
of a slender four-legged pretty-brown creature
with his big, buff, shaggy paw.
Lion's features are rather childishly amused,
perhaps by the prospect of serving as a warhorse for a rabbit
-- or, perhaps, as surrogate for a poor, put-upon scribbling monk?
And under that powerful paw, as if felled by a falling tree,
who's that ? Could it be Mr. Foxy?
The thing is, though, when we reckon this little guy, 
his full skimpy length on a near par with those strictly elevated bunny ears,
we can't help thinking, "Jeez, Mr. Rabbit,
couldn't you have taken him without bringing along a lion?"