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Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Black cars determined in the rain’s steady drip
to carry father to the grave. My father hated
cold water, downpours and afternoons without
sunlight preferring green banana stalks, copra
boats and men with bandoliers; sailing in his
mind to the Amazon’s head waters to become
lost, Panama ship locks and tropical diseases,
moons gold as the mouth of a Calcutta dentist;
Digging out sacred relics guarded by Zambezi
mud huts; the dark, illegal backgammon dens
of Hyderabad and Bangalore; border crossings
in fog, stars burning in Fox constellation filled
he said with blooms of purple rhododendron;
he married rich; satin tux, Claridge for a truffle
supper, green Pernod at the tufted Fumoir bar;
Palm Beach summer suit and red banded hat;
silver plated trophy rifle; biographies of great
men, a life in novels; gifted years with mother;
burnished times beside me, but his luck failed.
He died surrounded by books, coolly shaded
by pink thunderheads swelling over Oronoco,
his reed funeral skiff saluted by face painted
drummers and puma skinned villagers playing
grandiloquent flutes awarded the Palme d'Or.


     
 
 


Last edited by Bernie01, Mar/9/2013, 5:49 pm


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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Bernie,
I had two reactions to this, maybe three. One was to the early strength of the first image, the steady rain and the black cars. The poem quickly veered into the exotic, and while those images held a certain fascination, the total effect was not as strong as the thrust of the initial image. I was also attracted to the comment of the narrator’s father marrying rich, maybe enjoying the Hemingwayesque life of big game hunting and its attendant thrills. I don’t know if the world is changing in its attitude toward the killing of big mammals, or whether its just me. But it has influenced my attitude toward the poem. I brought up the same theme – whether it's fair to judge a poem based on our own prejudices (I suppose it’s inescapable). In that case, on the "other" site a man had written a religious poem and was being denied full acceptance because the readers no longer believed with a deep faith in his Christianity. Similarly here, I no longer believe it’s a great thing to go shoot elephants and lions. But is it fair to let that bias seep into how I see the poem? This character, the father, lived on the border of reality and fantasy, made easy by his money and hunting guides. In the end, he supposedly goes off into a wonderful place where the natives in body paint play horns for him. Even here, I can’t help but to wonder if that is our ending, or if we will somehow be called to account for our character flaws. In that sense, the poem succeeded in getting me to think about things. Zak


quote:

Bernie01 wrote:

Black cars determined in the rain’s steady drip
to carry father to the grave. My father hated
cold water, downpours and afternoons without
sunlight preferring green banana stalks, copra
boats and men with bandoliers; sailing in his
mind to the Amazon’s head waters becoming
lost, Panama ship locks and tropical diseases,
moons gold as the mouth of a Calcutta dentist;
sacred sites beside tumbling Zambezi mud huts;
gambling at the illegal backgammon dens
of Hyderabad and Bangalore; stars burning
in Fox constellation filled he said with white
rhododendron blooms; a wool scarf knotted
like a race horse tail; My father married rich.
Satin tux, Claridge truffle supper, green Pernod
at the Fumoir bar; new rifle purchase; hunting
guides and biographies of great men, a life
in novels, tales from travelers; years with my
mother; years beside me. Last week his luck
failed him, he died reading a travel book, gazing
into swells of pink clouds blowing over Oronoco,
his reed funeral skiff saluted by face painted
drummers and lion skinned villagers playing
grandiloquent horn solos on curved ivory bone.



Mar/7/2013, 7:31 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Zak---

got your point, got your troubling question.

how to regard some of my favorite poets and novelists after learning their racial prejudices and Fascist politics---especially during the war. How did Gertrude Stein, a jew, survive the German Occupation of France where she lived?

however, this main character only lives fully in his mind---

sailing in his
mind to the Amazon’s head waters


his fantasies; you notice the funeral was nondescript. Only in a fantasy does he think of a reed boat, native drummers waving him to a final rest.

i believe the narrator who says the man married rich and i believe he was a decent husband and father, after that important central fact, we have fantasy.

the model here is the Walter Mitty story---the opening lines of the short story:

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber (opening lines)
 

quote:

"WE'RE going through!" The Commander's voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. "We can't make it, sir. It's spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me." "I'm not asking you, Lieutenant Berg," said the Commander. "Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We're going through!" The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" he shouted. "Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!" repeated Lieutenant Berg. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" shouted the Commander. "Full strength in No. 3 turret!" The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. "The Old Man'll get us through," they said to one another. "The Old Man ain't afraid of hell!" . . .

"Not so fast! You're driving too fast!" said Mrs. Mitty. "What are you driving so fast for?"

"Hmm?" said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. "You were up to fifty-five," she said. "You know I don't like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five." Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind. "You're tensed up again," said Mrs. Mitty. "It's one of your days. I wish you'd let Dr. Renshaw look you over."



http://bnrg.cs.berkeley.edu/~randy/mitty.html

this poem does not confront your question---how much should a reader's personal and political view color a poem or novel under review?

Ezra Pound. Wallace Stevens used the N word in his private discourse. F. Scott Fitzgerald too.

thanks for looking over this poem.


bernie



   






Last edited by Bernie01, Mar/7/2013, 10:47 am


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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


hi bernie,

I got that the body of the poem is fantasy.
After "sailing in his/mind..." the colorful, exotic images he imagined. The poem bracketed by the reality of a rainy funeral with which it begins and the "reed funeral skiff" of the ending lines.

The pov strikes me as more sympathetic than mocking. Don't we all have a Walter Mitty streak?

Chris

Last edited by Christine98, Mar/8/2013, 10:46 am
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


C---

never mocked anyone in my life (i think).


the son reports these several facts about his father:


he married rich, dressed great and liked the best foods. he also did backyard astronomy and offered an amusing (I hope) comment about stars:

stars burning in Fox constellation filled
he said with blooms of purple rhododendron;



i hope it does not go unoticed, that the son also makes this comment about the father's constancy and decency:

...gifted years with mother;
burnished times beside me...



you know, during WW II many men began to identify with the Fascists---the boots, guns and uniforms---the orderliness of any police state---the play to our worst prejudices. I notice this father expresses no animosity toward other classes, other
colors of people.

he does express what might be called stereotypes---afterall, what is the chief characteristic of hit movies like Raiders of the the Lost Ark.

Internet:

The year is 1936. A professor who studies archeology named Indiana Jones is venturing in the jungles in South America searching for a golden statue....

iconic characters in almost mythical adventures.

how to make the daydreams of the father clearly just that, daydreams; slight exageration, but not prejudicial or silly fantasies; the father bases his visions on what he reads from men and women who actualy lived these events around the world---his travel books and those biographies mentioned by the poem.

i have never been able to completely verify the truth of this newspaper ad, but Shackleton is said to have placed it when assembling a crew for his fateful antarctic expedition:


"MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON"


Who would answer this 1914 advertisemnt?

here for a a photo and brief bio of each crewmember:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/shackleton/1914/team.html


the narrator's father would have read this ad over and over---and slapped men who applied on the back. (me too)


the opening funeral, grimly real to me.

the funeral imagined by the father for himself emerges in the last lines of the poem:


He died surrounded by books, coolly shaded
by pink thunderheads swelling over Oronoco,
his reed funeral skiff saluted by face painted
drummers and lion skinned villagers playing
grandiloquent flutes awarded the Palme d'Or.





for me, it was essential to overcome any colonial paternalism, and so the music played by the villagers is capable of winning the academy award---


grandiloquent flutes awarded the Palme d'Or.


The Palme d'Or (Gold Prize), the equivalent by the French film academy of the Hollywood Oscar.

Mocking? lord, i hope not.

thanks for stopping by.


bernie

by the way, i was saddened to see how bland my description was of the father's clothes---a Palm Beach suit...etc.


now here, this is something i can cheer for:



Ezra,(Pound) dressed to the nines in his velvet jacket, pants with equestrian seat, his cowboy hat, swinging his silver-headed cane as he made for San Ambrogio, women applauding him from their windows."
 
...James Laughlin


oh, to make my own poem sparkle and dance, to shine with such light.









 











Last edited by Bernie01, Mar/8/2013, 2:46 pm


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Terreson Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


This is a good read. I too got the Walter Mitty context. Got the secret life of the subject. I particularly think you found the right stylistic way, in composition, for carrying over such a secret life. Maybe I should say interior life. One small problem for me. Unless I'm mistaken there are no lions in South America. But, of course, maybe I'm being a stickler, not allowing for the father's fantasies. Still, I can't help but think a jaguar's image would make for a richer moment.

Tere
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Tere---


you are very right about that lion; a jaguar makes better on the ground choice---however, i wanted a two syllable word and i often hear people pronounce jaguar in three.

i wanted neruda's puma.

the last lines:

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.


but i couldn't remember the animal he uses. while memory frozen, i used the lion as a substitute. thanks for calling my attention back to this issue. i actually think it is not minor. i kept seeing and hearing the movie, "Motorcycle Diaries" (with the neruda quotes) but just couldn't hear that Neruda last line.

you might think i don't listen to you, but where composing lists is concerned, i am trying to improve. there is a shorter version of this poem now---fewer items composing the list.


thanks for stopping by.


bernie

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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Perfect. Puma is spot on.

Tere
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Hi Bernie,

I picked on the Walter Mitty aspect of this right away. I read that story years ago, and it has always stuck with me. I did feel a minor confusion as to where the fantasy ended and real life began with regard to the N's relationship to the wife/mother and to the N. I take it the married rich part was a fantasy but the "gifted years" and "burnished times" were reality? I'm not sure and not sure it makes a difference but thought I'd point it out. Whether the gifted years and burnished times are real or not, they fade in the light of the father's fantasy life just as his real funeral fades in the light of the imaginary one. It says something significant, I think, about the N that he is able to embrace his father's fantasy life as much as the father did.

Last edited by Katlin, Mar/10/2013, 11:10 am
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


hi K---

in my mind, the speaker/narrator attempts successfuly to describe the mythical travels and adventures his father entertained.

except with the wedding, which to me is quite real. the narrator turns from the father, looks into the camera of his own heart, and sees the marriage, the lifestyle and the contancy of the father. i wonder if i can reduce ambiguity on that point.

how to make that even more clear? i will keep looking at it with that in mind. thanks for your comments.

this version shortens the poem to 16 lines, down almost 40 percent.


Orinoco Funeral Cortege

Black cars determined in the rain’s steady drip
to carry father to the grave; he always looked
for warm climates sailing the world in his mind;
biographies of great men, travel books, maps;
he liked men strapped with bandoliers piloting
copra boats, tropical diseases and the rusted
Panama ship locks. The Amazon’s head waters,
moons gold as the mouth of a Calcutta dentist;
backgammon dens of Hyderabad and Bangalore.
He married rich; satin tux, a Claridge for truffle
supper, green Pernod at the tufted Fumoir bar;
He died surrounded by books, coolly shaded
by pink thunderheads swelling over Oronoco,
his reed funeral skiff saluted by face painted
drummers and puma skinned villagers playing
grandiloquent flutes awarded the Palme d'Or.



bernie


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Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Of course it is your poem, Bernie. But sometimes it is texture that makes a poem sui generis, not the abstraction of argument. Shoot, man, don't shorten the poem on my account.

Tere
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Tere---

hey, much appreciated that comment.

i revise like a house on fire, like there was no tomorrow, Kathleen says. i love poetry, i can say that, even revising.

don't know if this interests you, but it is a booklength poetry contest ($25 entrance fee).

50-120 pages, deadline in another 20 days, i think.

i'm just about ready to submit; never done that before, so don't know what to expect.

     
http://www.ablemusepress.com/ablemuse-book-award


thanks again.


bernie

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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


Bernie,

I think a simple change of punctuation in the original would clarify for me that the marriage was real. A period instead of a semi-colon would separate the two worlds for this reader:

Digging out sacred relics guarded by Zambezi
mud huts; the dark, illegal backgammon dens
of Hyderabad and Bangalore; border crossings
in fog, stars burning in Fox constellation filled
he said with blooms of purple rhododendron.
He
married rich; satin tux, Claridge for a truffle
supper, green Pernod at the tufted Fumoir bar;
Palm Beach summer suit and red banded hat;

Like Tere, I am going to say: don't shorten this on my account when a simple change might work just as well.

Best of luck in the Able Muse book contest! I hope you win. Wouldn't that be lovely? emoticon
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Oronoco Funeral Cortege


K---

and thanks.

yup, putting this one to bed.

added it to my list of 120 for the big contest...LOL. and to a five poem submission at Innisfree zine---they are very interested in John Koethe from whom i learned memory, travel and clear if moody imagery for the spine of many poems. He lived at one time near me and his use of local geography i particularly noted.

 

quote:

I love the way remembering lets the light in, as the sullen gray
Of consciousness dissolves into a yard, a pepper tree, a summer day.
And minor moments and details that had been buried in the past
Take on the clarity of dreams, with a transparency they never had in life.

(from "The Lath House," Ninety-fifth Street)John Koethe




and here:


May, the night air felt cold.
The sky was black. The sky was gold and blue
Above an Eiffel Tower lit with gold.

John Koethe



soooo, i writ this opening few lines:



A new star in the Negro sky, wafer blue light
the shade of mother’s aged and bleached eyes
as she convalesces beside me restless and frail.

A beam clean as though just washed falls across
the Ford Dealership where it lingers over row
after row of new cars....bernie



thanks again. (not to worry about any undue influence---i just believe in experimenting.)
 




Last edited by Bernie01, Mar/11/2013, 12:31 pm


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