Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What I Should Have Done, by Joyce Ellen Davis

Joyce Ellen Davis
Like most of my favourite contemporary poets, I met Joyce Ellen Davis online. Thank God for the Internet, I feel like saying. I believe it was when I asked her for the publication of one or some of her poems among the pages of Canopic Jar, the literary magazine I co-edit with Phil Rice. She did send me poems, as she has agreed today for me to share one of her poems on this forum. Joyce blogs at Plodding Taurus and has several books out, among them Pepek The Assassin, from which this poem originates.

Joyce's poetry, I remember saying to someone years ago, takes a hold of the reader and doesn't let go. Some poets do that to me, and in the end I have to shut the book or turn off whatever screen I was reading from, in order to better assimilate the poem.

Since I first met her poetry, these many years ago, I have followed her as best as I could, and have been grateful for the blog she runs because once in a while she drops something there. She's on Facebook as well, and if you visit her page you will immediately be struck by her love of life. Not the life she maintains by breathing in and out, I wouldn't know about that, but universe life, the wonder, the possibilities, the endless possibilities, and closer home, insects and other small, cute animals. It comes through that she is in love with existence. And who's to say that this energy is not from the background or the fodder of what she writes about so well; or, even, that it's not from the finished pictures that she paints and says to the world?

I have opted for the poem What I Should Have Done, one of my personal favourites, and one that I feel has to be read again and again, like so many others by so many other poets! Joyce is busy writing a novel as I type this... that energy, again. Thank you for letting me share your poem, Joyce now and before.
Posted with permission
Editor: Rethabile Masilo

What I Should Have Done

I should have cut a hole in the ceiling
to let my prayers out, words
like smoke from incense pots,
unable to rise above that bloody altar.
Look: here is where you should have slept,
your ear only an inch above my heart.
See: this field of stars above the watchtower
that we might have counted, bye and bye.
Now the sky is full of dark matter,
and though I were rich as Herod,
the baby-killer of Bethlehem
(who was richer than Caesar), I can
not get you back, even though
I would rub salt upon your infant body
and powder you with mustard seeds,
and wrap you up with swaddling bands
embroidered with your genealogies.
Here is the singing bird I'd give you,
the pony, here the toy soldiers,
their cannons in flames.
Here angels play, out of sight
lest they terrify us, though we lie
prostrate, trembling on the ground,
we eaters of entrails, we breakers of bones.
The first to bring an offering
and the first to be offered,
like a burning ram, I continue
to follow your lead
like Nahshon followed Moses, loving him
too much, walking out before him into the sea,
walking out until the water was
all the way up to his nose
before the sea finally parted.
~by Joyce Ellen Davis 

This week's editor Rethabile Masilo is a Mosotho poet who enjoys reading and writing. He lives in Paris, France, with his wife and two children. Rethabile is self-employed and works in language-teaching. He says he has been writing for a good while, learning through trial and error and picking up lots of sounds by reading and re-reading the poems that he likes. He is the author of Things That Are Silent (Pindrop Press, 2012).

Rethabile was born in 1961 in Lesotho and left his country with his parents and siblings to go into exile in 1980. He moved through The Republic of South Africa (very short stay, on account of the weight of Apartheid), Kenya and The United States of America, before settling in France in 1987. He blogs at PoƩfrika and co-edits with Phil Rice the literary magazine Canopic Jar.

After reading Joyce Ellen Davis's poem, do check out the rest of the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar. Thank you.


Kathleen Jones said...

Thank you for posting this Rethabile - it's very moving - such passion and grief.

ager said...

these verses are so in tune with these times and behind the imagery there's that pulse that pumps the greatest feeling in the end Hope, "the sea finally parted" This blog is absolutely inspirational, thank you

Rethabile said...

Thank you both, on behalf of Joyce. Blog inspirational, very much so. Week after week after week.

Dis guy. said...

Such poem, much nice. Good job.
Much cultural harmony. So poignant.

Claire Beynon said...

Oh! Rethabile, I've been away and am only now getting to read this poem. To echo Kathleen's words - such love, such sorrow, such courage. Thanks to you and Joyce.

Cattyrox said...

Loved this poem, Rethabile - all the references resonated.