Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Entymologist

To find it, you need to feel the trunk
with your fingers. It’s soft, a lump, mossy.
It is a door that you open with your tweezers. You
lean out over the gap between the track
and the tree, lean your cheek on the bark,
stare at the lump, insert the tweezers. Tug.

Your face is like a man in love.
Your mouth so soft
as if you are saying ‘bugger, bugger, bugger.’
It doesn’t struggle. Its many legs
hang like hair wet from a child’s mouth.
You slide it into the glass tube
you carry.

It is yours now. It leaves behind the
threads it lays to ambush
the unwary, it leaves behind its
soft lumpish home, it leaves behind
the trapdoor without a hinge
behind which it was wary, but not
wary enough, it leaves behind the remains
of the unwary.  

In the tube,
the spider appears legless. You show us
this -- you show us the trapdoor. It's
your first day out. We applaud you, young man,
fresh sweat on your face and new boots on. 
We applaud you; we
wave you on up the track. 
Then we take turns to lean out over the gully
and touch
the mossy door. 

                                    Mary McCallum

I love the way writing about the work people do brings them alive in poems and fiction. I heard a lovely poem by Kate Duignan read recently (by Kate) about her as a child breaking eggs with her grandmother to bake a cake. It captures so well the intimacy of baking a cake together, the relationship between the two. It's wonderful. 

There's a book at the bookshop that I covet - it is a collection of stories by some great names including Andre Dubus and Alice Munro called blue collar, white collar, no collar - stories of work edited by Richard Ford. I always remember Munro's comment about writing characters - (did I read it or hear her say it at a writers' festival?) 'Give them work to do, we all work in one way or another'. 

Work, surely, is one of those things that animates a character on the page. Gives 'a reason for getting up in the morning'.  

While googling Ford's book, I found this interesting article about how he views the 'work' he does as a novelist. I wouldn't agree it's as easy as he makes out, but the article is interesting nonetheless. 

Do check out another insect poem on the Tuesday Poem  hub - it's called The Wild Bees and it's lush and intricate and by Irish poet, and former Tuesday Poet, John Griffin. The editor is the mysterious Zireaux, who always has something fascinating and controversial to say. This time it's about the need for a wider vocabulary in modern poetry.

After that, look at the sidebar of Tuesday Poets, always interesting stuff there. 


Catherine said...

Lovely. I agree with you (and Alice Munro) about work - there are some fascinating jobs around.

Jayne said...

Mary- I've come to you by way of Claire, and so glad I did. Your poem is beautiful and lively, and so very captivating.

Munro, who I've come to only within the last few years, is one of my favorites. Her short stories are stunning.

Thank you for sharing all of this with us. :)

Helen Lowe said...

Enjoyed the narrative flow in this poem, Mary. I love poetry as story - altho' I confess to feeling a little for the spider!