II – Hands

[Pt. 1]

I suppose introductions are in order before I can really kick things off.

The humans like to call me the Angel of Death, despite my glaringly obvious lack of wings. Another reason behind my hatred of mankind: humans are disastrously stupid and often unwilling to admit this. I’d say no offence, but by this point I’m afraid it’s intended.

No, my real name is Huginn, but for the humans who recognize that name as well, this can begin to cloud things slightly. Huginn was my name back when I had someone to instruct me, and a sibling to keep me company. For those of you with whom this name doesn’t ring a bell, you have no idea how refreshing that is. A name you might recognize is Odin. Back when this name, along with many others (Thor, Freyja, and of course the infamous Loki) was on the lips of all of the human race, me and my brother Muninn spent our days circling the Nine Worlds, serving as Odin’s eyes and ears. The old man only had one eye anyway, so he needed all the help he could get, though you’d never catch me saying that to his face.

All you really need to know for now is that my brother and I were great at our job, and we helped the others rise to godhood. Then something happened and there were no Gods, or men…or messengers.

The last thing I remember is reaching out with my jet black wing to touch the tip of Muninn’s wing. Then the sky itself became a wing of equating blackness and my eyes could no longer do my master justice.

It is true I died that night along with my brethren, but just like every fantastical End of the World story, ours had a stage of rebirth. I hoped as my new eyes cracked open that day, that I would be back at my old post, crouching atop Odin’s throne with Muninn at my hip, but instead as I stretched my left wing out to the side, I saw that my feathers had all but dropped off like autumn leaves. I was fleshy and pink. Well, white. I had these kind of half-formed wings at the end of each arm. As I tilted my head up, I met a face as pale as my own, and the figure standing there informed me that these appendages were in fact “hands”.

“Fuck me.” I remember saying, and what escaped wasn’t the humanoid squawk I’d been used to, but the voice of a man. My voice.

I had only been in this body for thirty seconds and was already having my first existential crisis. The human in front of me had a strong jaw and protruding brow but was female. Her lips were full and as she smiled I felt something in me shiver into a thousand pieces.

“You might want to save those expletives. You’re going to need them.” The woman rolled up her sleeves, I recognised them from the bright halls of Asgard where the female guests wore chain mail frocks made of spun gold. This dress was nothing fancier than wool.

“Now take my hands. Take my hands and you will inherit the power.” She said, turning her palms towards me, they were lined with ink.

I stared at them in fear, in absolute awe. What power could she possibly pass on to me? And more importantly, was I even worthy?

“It won’t kill me will it?” I asked stupidly, not realising that she had already reached for my hands.

“My dear…” She laughed, her voice was deliciously gruff. My hands felt cold, numb. “You are beyond death. Now it is time to become it.”

I – Beginnings

How exactly do you tell somebody ‘Today’s the day you’re going to die’?

The short answer? You don’t. At least…I don’t.

When I was a temp I tried to be all Edgar Allen Poe about it, but the poetic nature of death becomes awfully tiresome when your audience doesn’t appreciate the effort you put into their demise. You’d be surprised how narcissistic some people can be in their final moments before taking the big plunge. That’s just one of the reasons I can barely stand to be around humans, but you’ll learn more about that shortly.

For now though, why don’t you just sit back, relax, and enjoy the vicariousness of other people’s suffering? Trust me, it’s easier than it sounds. You do it every day. You watch the News, you read the paper, you scroll through your so-called Newsfeed, all the while keeping a straight face. This won’t be any different, I assure you. And who are you not to trust me? After all, I’m the narrator, the newscaster, reporter on the scene.

So go ahead. Trust me.

There. That was easy, wasn’t it?

Now we can really begin.

[Pt. 2]

Untitled

Now we know where the pigeons sleep.

The boys pass on bikes,
Now women
Old and young,
Large square baskets
Decorated with the scent
Of real flowers.
Tired warriors screech above.

The tracks hum
Like a horse hair bow
Straining across the neck
Of viola strings.

Now we know where the pigeons sleep.

They will not hear
The perfect C chord,
Their dreams are feet and
Whirling wheels,
They dream
In black and white.

Gravitas

Head-on
Walks
With real purpose

He’s about to change the world

If you let him.

Back arched
Salvaging our
Dignity
He is peace
He is gravity

In his kingdom
There are no
Servants
To sweep the debris
From his path

Chases trash
Down the street
Runs it out of town
Makes it wish
It had never been born

Cannot figure out
How it all goes
Unnoticed
It’s beginning
To climb itself

Head-on
Eyes down
He just wants them
To see
What he has always seen.

Poetry is a Hedgehog

Poetic theory, as any poor twisted soul (all English students) will tell you, is difficult enough to get your head around without Derrida throwing in his two cents as well.

Recently I was faced with the fascinating yet illusive text, Jacques Derrida’s Che cos’e la poesia? This roughly translates to “What is that thing poetry?” which I think has a nice ring to it. It approaches poetry (or the poetic, as Derrida prefers to call it) as if it were a surly creature, something wild yet deeply vulnerable that runs straight into the motorway with no fear of becoming pavement pizza. More specifically, he states confidently that “yes, you know what? Poetry…is not just any animal. Poetry is a hedgehog.”

For one thing, poems are often prickly. Their shields are up, they don’t want to offer themselves up willingly. But if you start your inspection from afar, the hedgehog eventually uncoils itself. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t get pricked! On the contrary, Derrida is keen to stress the hedgehog’s inherent nature to wound. It lures us in with humility and its apparent nonchalance (“I don’t care if you read me or not”) while secretly hoping to be read, to be solved.

And this, to make an educated guess, is where many people give up (the hedgehog risks being rejected; metaphorically run over). They sense that the poem requires more attention than say, an article in the local paper, or a post on Buzzfeed, and they don’t want that stress. Which is fair enough! But for those of us who are willing to work with the poetic, to let it change shape before our very eyes, not only are we liable to be wounded but, according to Monsieur Derrida, the poem itself is revealed to be an open wound.

If we take, for example, Charles Bukowski’s Bluebird (1992):

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.

The poem is vulnerable in the sense that Bukowski is expressing something highly personal, a melancholia that he tries hard to suppress. It asks us to consider exactly what the poet means by ‘bluebird’ and once this inspection occurs, we see the open wound. Next is the poem’s ability to wound:

when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

In addressing us directly, we are encouraged, nay obliged to turn our previous inspection of Bukowski inwards, and examine our own vulnerabilities. “Do I show my sadness, my sensitivity on the outside? Do I?”

This is also the kind of poem that stays with its reader, claims them as its own. Even if they do not think of Bluebird for weeks, or even months on end, it will return to them in the future. Derrida claims that we are vessels for the poetic, we devour poems and then carry them within us. They appeal to our hearts, but not only in the anatomical sense. We learn them by heart, even if we are not aware of it. In fact, we learn them in an unconscious state, the way that infants learn their first words or adults learn clichéd phrases to drop into their everyday speech.

But surely not every poem is to be transported within us? Some works are so overblown, so overused that they merely grate on us (I’m looking at you Rudyard Kipling). But then again, even those poems we pledge not to like, to find so incredibly tedious are ingrained in us. If by Rudyard Kipling does not have substantial meaning for me after hearing it several thousand times, not to mention Jerusalem by William Blake which makes a grab for me every Sunday when I flick through the TV channels and catch a quick snippet of Songs of Praise, but I will not deny the fact that I can recite most of their lines.

I cannot for the life of me remember every single poem I have ever read. I doubt any of us can. But that doesn’t mean to say that they are not inside us somewhere. Perhaps they are curled up tightly, bricked against each other, their pricked spines arched into place. Unstable and ever-evolving. Waiting for us to pay attention to them.