Saturday, April 13, 2013

Back To Oz

Next year, will be the 75th anniversary of the classic film, The Wizard of Oz. I adored the movie as a child and always wanted to fly over the rainbow and visit that marvelous land. With a renewed interest in the fantasy and its bevy of characters, I did some background research and learned, the author, Frank Baum, had defined his kingdom of Oz, the sheer adventure of getting there and travelling throughout its magical regions, in ten books. Complicated and mysterious as J.R.R. Tolkein's  middle earth trilogy, these chapters connect the human heart/mind to both the exterior and interior landscape of natural magic, both the mortal and the divine imagination. And so I began to speculate on what might happen if  OZ was invaded by modern technology and its consequences. What might happen to its environment, its natural balance of life and death, seasons and weather, reason and dreams? The result was two poems told from the perspective of two significant characters.

The first poem is called "Ozma's Dream".  She was a fairy princess who was originally abducted by an evil witch and denied her birthright of ruling  Oz. Eventually, she was rescued and restored to the throne. Always seeing the good in all things and people, she retained the na├»vete of  a young girl and  became a graceful but vulnerable presence in the story. In my version, she is older and like all young,  maturing females, desires to be noticed, wooed and flattered. She believes in the impossibility of dreams. However, this becomes her downfall when "new wizards" enter the scene from Shell Oil.  She knows of the existence of a two-headed frog,  and  by  not  questioning the reasons for its mutated form , she thinks it is even  more enchanted. Lonely and seeking romantic companionship,  she thinks a single kiss will gift her with two suitors. The reality is very different and foreboding.

       Ozma's Dream

Especially in Oz, the land of marvel
and new wizards from Shell,
the lonely princess thinks
if she kisses a two headed frog
she’ll break the spell
and have suitors to court and serve her.

So in her gown and veil
of  may lily green,
she glides toward the lake.
Bull rushes and birds hail
her presence with limber wing or leaf.

Carefully, she discards her outer clothes
and leaves the royal silks
to dazzle on shore. A coy bloom
of camisole lace,  she soaks in the coolness waiting
for the strange creature to come. Her hair
baiting him with a flash of  sunlight.

                *   *   *   *   
The water ripples. Something leaps
into her palm floating still
 as a flower pad. With seaweed
 draped over  his dual brow
and spots black as tar sand, the intruder stares
at the startled girl. Shutting her eyes

she kisses the marsh hermit
and expects to find
sleek-tailored knights in his stead.
This is the land of fog and forest,
how could it be otherwise!
           *   *   *   *    *

Flexing  her hand, she feels
something fracture. The wind turns hot
and she watches dust swirl around her body,
speechless. A raven shrieks in the leafless tree.

 Within her grasp, the frog’s skeleton
gleams like fragmented china. His bones
match the color of stalks
and branches strewn along the mud
which has become dry, cracked with the jagged
 scribblings of a lake.

 Her sole companionship  --a shadow, a banshee
crying from the dead limb of a birch,
this is the land of bedrock, the breath of nod. 
Note -- the illustration is by artist, Warwick Goble, and called, "The Frog Prince".

The second poem, "The Query", revisits the character of  Glinda, the good witch from the south, and the eerie atmosphere of Oz. Things have drastically changed regarding
the trendof seasons, human growth & aging, the patterns of weather & migratory species. Glinda, in this poem, sees the signs and fears what she perceives. Yet, she can't believe the change is this drastic. Does she simply age (turning into the wise crone) and forget to look through the records to confirm that Oz has a historical and repetitive pattern of strange climatic  changes?  Or is she right in being so perplexed by the alterations that something really is wrong and evolving toward the worst;  and in sensing this, she still hasn't consulted her book to verify that the occurrences are unique, even for  "the land over the rainbow"? 

                    The Query 

The headline rises over the rainbow,
a white sky scrawled with the flight
of birds. Swallows migrate south
while summer is just beginning
to settle in. Frost was seen on the leaves
this morning -- and the sun frail,
failing lizard, fruit and breeze.

 Over the mountains, far past
the emerald city, Glinda looms
in shadow. She knows
those winged pilgrims are going  
to a place full of sea, the islands so warm
that bears are no longer blanched
but browned by heat. And coconut palms
grow out of hillside rock – that once
launched an iceberg.

The weather has changed and the sweet
sorceress has aged. Her white skin
now  brittle as the peeling bark
of a seasoned birch. Her wrinkles defined
as lines of shimmering silver. And though
she still retains the power  of math
and her imagination, she can’t fathom why
life has become inverted. Her record book
holds nothing like this- left in the corner
with cobwebs and its tarnished lock. Or is it simply
she has forgotten to look, wiping out
the strange history of Oz.
Note --The painting is called, "The Crone" by artist, Heather Daylight. 

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