Monday, January 28, 2008

birds, pistons, sawblade

I thought Ed Hoeppner’s metaphors a clashing mess. Jim Wayne Miller in his “On the Wings of a Dove” also offers up a disparate set – starlings & doves, pistons, a sawblade. But he sells them well.

… His troubles sat
right under his breastbone, black
as a treeful of starlings, all talking at once.
[Listening to the radio] his mind throbbed and hummed
like pistons under the hood of a good truck
hauling his thoughts over an open highway,
and the lights on the riverbank, and out
on the island got in tune with the bluegass and throbbing
pistons, and his mind turned into a whining sawblade
spinning so fast it grew invisible and quiet

the starlings under his breastbone stopped talking.

Then, white doves rose out of his ribcage
and flew out over the river toward the island.

A man is sitting in his truck, listening to the radio, drinking, looking out at the evening river. He’s a bit depressed, feeling noisy with unpleasant thoughts, his mind working them hard. But the drink and the music soothe him, quiet the noise inside.

I didn’t expect Miller to pull birds, pistons, and a sawblade together successfully. He invests in his metaphors – his thoughts aren’t just revving “like pistons” but “pistons under the hood of a good truck,” not a rattletrap laboring to make it to the next light; though the truck is “hauling” rather than traveling light. And the motor of his mind is in tune with the music on the radio, not clashing, so in tune that they become one music, a music that becomes a form of silence, not distraction, meditation. And the music is a tool, sharp and useful, that attracts no attention to itself.

Now the birds come back. They come back to listen to the perfected music so are silent themselves. And through their silence they are transformed from a chaos, noisy & black, to a peace, white & light, rising with no additional effort over water already hosting the sparkling lights of night fishermen.

Rather than a clashy collage these metaphors feel like transformations. The sort of thing that happens without effort in dreams every night.

source: Anthology of Magazine Verse 1980

No comments: