Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Walking dreams

(For Luis Benitez)

In the dark morning of ritual,
in the mirror of the unacceptable,
is an imperfection
of the imagination
which must be cut and bled,
must be the elaborate object of sacrifice.

Mirrors must be foggy, steamy,
a universal mystery lives there.
Wash the corpse, bathe it with fragrance,
prepare it for the life to come,
meeting with other corpses
in the pretend world,
a world not to be entered simply,
a world opened only by ritual
and entered only by those who
have begun to dream a dead sleep.

Mending the dead is solitary work,
all flaws must be imagined in new ways –
cut, trim. Sharp objects, soaps, tools
of rubber and chrome must be ready
before the cadaver can be
surveyed dispassionately,
bending close to the mirror,
with the feel of cold ceramics
against bare thighs.

The transformation comes in
slow, sure strokes,
dull skin begins to shine,
untidy patches no longer
are a part of the living.
Water, lots of water rinses away
all signs of life, imperfection.

Imagining a world
where this corpse
walks with other such dead
doesn’t prepare us for
the chance meeting
with the living and dying –
the shock of broken things assaults us,
leaving staring bodies
with blank eyes
marring ritual perfection.

16 comments:

Aurora said...

Whoa, Russell, darkly perfected piece! An impressive, thorough write!

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks Aurora! Glad this was enjoyable. Thanks, as always my sweet, for the thrilling comments.

You should read Luis Benitez's I SEE A WOMAN MAKING UP. It is really great!

Pat Paulk said...

The return of Darth. Must be well written cause I'm still shaking with the willies!!!

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks Pat! I'm glad you found this moving. There are admittedly some dark images here but this is simply about a ritual transformation that is really commonplace for men.

Thanks for the exciting comment.

Anonymous said...

I read this one earlier and I can't get the imagery out of my head. I love it.

iamnasra said...

This so touching..Im more seeing the final goodbye of woman who had passed away..the final wash she get and the preparation for after life...

Its sad ...your poem is so touching..

iamnasra said...

I came to wish Happyx-mas ..but read ur poem and forgot to wish u

Sue hardy-Dawson said...

Just a quick happy Christmas, I will be back to catch up. I've had flu, boo hoo. have a wonderful one

catnapping said...

beautifully done. i think this line says it all:

all signs of life, imperfection

Happy Solstice. May our new year bring peace.

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks Annette! Ritual activity is, by nature, haunting and memorable. I'm glad this poem got past the memorable and found haunting! Thanks for the great comment. Sorry I didn't respond sooner, I've been on the road, so to speak.

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks Nasra! There is a profound presence of ritual in this piece. It claims deeper meaning but doesn't deserve it. It is about humble and imaginary rather than enduring and transcendental. You do me more honor than I can deserve. Thanks for your wonderful words.

Russell Ragsdale said...

Nasra, may the One God bless all mankind with the peace of knowing him. May He help us to forget ourselves and our petty concerns and treat others with love and kindness, as you so gently do. You live in His blessing because your life serves rather than the arrogance of demanding. Your example teaches us obedience. We are all greatful to him for giving us your humanity, in the best sense of that word, to learn from. May the season find you richly blessed.

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks Sue, you too! I hope you are healthy and you and your family we enjoy a blessed Christmas!

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks catnapping! Season's best to you also. May you find what you have been searching for. Answers only come when we ask questions. And thanks so much for the wonderful comment.

Anonymous said...

I found it very touching, somewhat scary and moving. Stark and dark. It appeals to my poetic sense.

Russell Ragsdale said...

Thanks gautami tripathy! I'm glad this appealed to you. This is again another of my thoughts about my frequent theme of transformation. This is about how a man ritually changes his appearence in the morning from what he looks like (really) to what he thinks he should look like. The poet for whom this is dedicated (Luis Benitez) has written a wonderful poem about a woman putting on make-up that has inspired me to write this.

Thanks for commenting on how this has affected you. I always enjoy your comments.