A Note on BODY TAPESTRIES
Learning a Landscape of Interior Spaces
In 1986 the 1st voice arrived.
"Like I'm a fiend in high school, like dead sky, Man."
The voice of Monkey Boy. Lonely high school kid. He who has a deep crush on a girl named Felicia, who has an affair with a greaser named Angel, who commits suicide when he sees Felicia being "intimate" with other boys after a football game, and, once dead, who learns to be an angel, the kind who ministers to other troubled folk, who kisses "the cut wrists and the burns on the suicides' arms," who touches their flesh, who feels their lips upon his own.
But I didn't know any of that then. I just followed the voice.
The Duchess of Moisture. Her anger blooms, erupts into a flower of violence upon the world she inhabits. Her anger is a motive force that propels many of the narrative threads in the sequence, twists them about, frays them, rearranges them.
Which is to say,
The Duchess dotes on a character named Moonlight, and he for her, seemingly. But he is a coward, a cad. He professes love for the Duchess, then leaves her for another, The Princess Waterfall, and then, when the Duchess' troops pursue him, he in turn leaves her, to be guarded by the woodcutter turned into a tree, until his return. But, as might be expected from a coward, a cad, he never returns, ending up instead at the end of the universe, writing postcards home, living on a cusp of solitude and loneliness.
Which is to say...
Meanwhile, Princess Waterfall has a child by him, a daughter, Moonlit Lake, who is raped and then murdered by the Duchess' troops. Because longing and grief can be read in many ways, and flows down many different paths, the poems in her voice can be read both across and down in a sort of columnar way.
And sew on.
These narratives have been woven into silken tapestries by Caterpillar, a faithful recorder (she who even records the moment of her death, "Thus I was.").
And so in the weave of we've, the characters came.
The Leech Oracle, who predicts what will happen to these tapestries. The elves enchained in the darkness by the Duchess, who escort caterpillar to visit the bones of her dead father.
Turtle, who, when the Duchess of Moisture's anger erupts, escorts Caterpillar on her shell through the sea to seek help from the Dolphin Queen. They arrive at her citadel too late.
Greybeard worm who escapes from being shoveled down into the maws of the "scabied brood" of the Duchess' ally, the Empress Waterfowl, she who has presence but no voice in these proceedings. But old Greybeard, crafty old thing, escapes to tell his tale, which is then repeated by a younger worm, but, though the sounds are the same, as in a game of telephone, the words come out differently.
And others. Which is to say the world presented itself slowly.
But how should/does one take these funny named fairytale-like characters? Ironically? Archetypically? As the Woodcutter who has been turned into a tree says, upon being asked if he's "a shire/ For the wasp? A limbate to the ivy's art?",
"To everything, yes."
Throughout, the narratives start, the narratives stop, The narratives pick up again, are embellished, are responded to by different characters, are transformed, transmuted, translated, even as they are transmitted.
When these poems were first presented to our erstwhile editor, our good William Slaughter (a sort of weaver himself, compiler of the voices that linger in MUDLARK, so that as we shuttle from issue to issue, poster to poster, year to year, a sort of tapestry is born, is spun ever wider and ever more widely fine), I explained to him that "the work I'm submitting is from a book-length series of what I call 'scarred' or 'splintered' sonnets, that the poems in the series are poly vocal and consist of a number of coinciding/colliding/interwoven narratives."
And sew on. Multi-narratived, the sequence attempts to thrive off the scintillates, the energy produced when a poem approaches a recognizable form and then veers away from it. Likewise, within a larger frame of narrative, there are "sub-narratives" that trail off, only to be picked up again later in the sequence; various voicings, often within the same poem; and differing layers of intertextualities. The Duchess of Moisture, for example, has written an autobiography that co-exists within the sequence as a sort of shadow text. A reader/listener will construct these voices in different ways, is invited to construct these voices in different ways.
The fact that the sequence is entitled Body Tapestries is meant to suggest that the tapestries are within us, a mapping of sorts, of interior spaces, of voicings from some of the [un?]common areas we share.
For if poetry is a record, can it be with the emphasis on cord, that which attempts to tie together, to bind, and on re, to bind together again? And again?
"The Final Tapestry: To Be Read After My Death" was originally published in CAFE SOLO.
Stuart Lishan | Contents