Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Still Life With Zinc Bucket


Conversation winds around review articles
the contradictions that intimacy and objectivity
cannot help but provoke from inside 
this full-frontal still life. Talk curves 
common objects, a shard of buried porcelain, 
the way a bent garden fork with misshapen clods 
of earth states its attachment to the sun.

He assembles and re-assembles
scattered pieces of nature’s detritus
a torn bird’s wing (feather stirring
with striking yellow stripe, the stilled thread 
of flight). There are hints at life’s other
layers, the masked existence of geological rhythms 
in even the plainest of things. But look, 
the space in the picture is collapsing, yet 
he stubbornly provides no anchor of table 
or solid ground, no convenient mountain backdrop. 

Instead he sets the thinnest wash 
of silver-grey floating across dampened paper.
In the end, it is the warped simplicity
of a single zinc bucket that makes me 
leave the room to slake my thirst. 


For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 
This week's editor is Sarah Jane Barnett. Sarah has posted a TED video of John. G. Rives giving an electrifying performance of his poem Rives Controls The Internet. 


  1. A fantastic poem about an intensely meaningful object, Claire. Can you imagine life without buckets, both the real and the metaphorical? I can't.

  2. The poem speaks to the image--and I love the line:

    "a torn bird’s wing (... the stilled thread
    of flight)."

  3. Forgive my editing, Claire. You may want to compress; for instance:

    Space in the picture collapses.
    The thinnest wash of silver-grey
    floats across dampened paper.

    Fine image!

  4. Hi Elisabeth - have you read Pablo Neruda's short essay on the sacredness of every day things? I have a particular soft spot for buckets - real and metaphorical, as you say. And nope, I couldn't imagine life without them. Wheels and buckets - humble, glorious essentials. . .
    Thanks for your comment re; my poem, Elisabeth.


    It is well, at certain ours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coalbins, barrels and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of man with the earth, like a text for all harassed lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things – all lend a curios attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be underprized.

    In them ones the confused impurity of the human condition, the massing of things, the use and disuse of substances, footprints and fingerprints, the abiding presence of the human engulfing all artefacts, inside and out.

    Let that be the poetry we search for: worn with the hand’s obligations, as by acids, steeped in sweat and in smoke, smelling of lilies and urine, spattered diversely by the trades that we live by, inside the law or beyond it.

    A poetry impure as the clothing we wear, or our bodies, soup-stained, soiled with our shameful behaviour, our wrinkles and vigils and dreams, observations and prophecies, declarations of loathing and love, idylls and beasts, the shocks of encounter, political loyalties, denials and doubts, affirmations and taxes.

    The holy canons of madrigal, the mandates of touch, smell, sight, hearing, the passion for justice, sexual desire, the sea sounding – wilfully rejecting and accepting nothing: the deep penetration of things in the transports of love, a consummate poetry soiled by the pigeon’s claw, ice-marked and tooth-marked, bitten delicately with our sweatdrops - and usage, perhaps. Till the instrument played without respite yield us its solacing surfaces, and the wood show the thorniest suavities shaped by the pride of the tool. Blossom and water and wheat kernel share one precious consistency – the sumptuous appeal of the tactile.

    Let no one forget them: despond, old mawkishness impure and unflawed, fruits of a fabulous species lost to the memory, cast away in a frenzy’s abandonment – moonlight, the swan in the gathering darkness, all the hackneyed endearments: surely that is the poet’s occasion, essential and absolute?

    Those who shun the ‘bad taste’ of things will fall on their face in the snow."

    Pablo Neruda

  5. Thank you, Helen - I've considered drawing the words 'the stilled thread of flight'. The image of arrested flight is a sad one, however. In my imagination this bird's feather has a slash of vivid yellow distinguishing it. . . L, C

  6. Mim - your editing suggestions are most welcome, thank you. I'll have a play and see what wants adjusting. re; compression and the lines you've focussed in on, I think you're onto something, Mim - yes. xo

  7. cont. . .

    Dear Mim - how's this?

    ". . . There are hints at life’s other
    layers, the masked existence
    of geological rhythms
    in even the plainest of things. But look!
    Space in the picture collapses.
    The thinnest wash of silver-grey
    floats across dampened paper, but
    it is the warped simplicity
    of a single zinc bucket that makes me
    leave the room to slake my thirst.

    ?? xo

  8. "Talk curves common objects, a shard of buried porcelain, the way a bent garden fork with misshapen clods
    of earth states its attachment to the sun."

    Oh Claire, this slays. Just beautiful. :)

  9. Dear Jayne - you are generous as always. Thank you ; )

  10. Rebecca - buckets are fantastic, aren't they! I'd like a smash-proof, light-as-air glass one ; ) xo