Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iris Undone

In classic mythology, Iris is deity of the rainbow and serves as messenger to the Gods as well as serving girl to Hera, Queen of Mount Olympus. Her character is described as a beautiful maiden with devotional loyalty and virginal grace. Sometimes, she is companioned with a dove symbolizing her modesty and fair reputation. In The Iliad, her purpose is defined as harbinger and transporter of souls to the underworld. Often depicted on ancient vases with golden wings and a full pitcher of water in hand, she is seen more as flat decor than a dimensional goddess who determines fate or intercedes on behalf of humanity.

My poem , as suggested by the title, explores the willful side of Iris. She slows down from the fast-paced world of errands and heaven-bound duties, to vent her frustration. She grows tired of existing in the Aegean climate with no sense of self-identity or challenge. For ages, her function has been limited to the salvation of others. Now it’s time to redeem herself. She wants to feel the sensation of life, love with its risk, heat and fiery storm of both passion and release. She wants her name to have impact, to echo in the desert thunder, to have her presence prick the mind/heart with awareness, longing and need. She yearns to inhale the dust of earth and turn her divine breath sensuously mortal. And still, she craves to rise from any emotional or territorial bonds with an independent poise, supple and strong, manipulating to her own advantage, the influence of wind, water and light.

She ceased
to move, as one between desire and shame
Suspended.........Percy Bysshe Shelley

Enough of Cypress shade
and vineyards stepping down
toward the shore.

Enough of binding wrists
with bracelets of salt-weed
and ankles with currents
of swift wind.

Enough of running errands
between sea and sky
ship and porch-- I am more

than chaste handmaiden
to Queen Hera
always keeping
my pitcher full
but womb shallow.

Beyond the stone bath
of Portara, the pines of Samos
the stemless flowers of Crete

there is red clay
and cactus, a temple
of leaf cymbals
and thorns invoking

thunder, light fingernail
pricks of heat, foreplay of a storm.
And I will rise slowly

after the flame, lithe
bend of head and back,
my hair the rippling
tremor of wings ---
rock dove
ravishing hawk.

No comments: