Friday, May 4, 2012

monja blanca

brace yourselves, that sweet madness thing happens........

MONJA BLANCA by Clive James

The wild White Nun, rarest and loveliest
Of all her kind, takes form in the green shade
Deep in the forest.  Streams of filtered light
Are tapped, distilled, and lavishly expressed
As petals.  Her sweet hunger is displayed
By the labellum, set for bees in flight
To land on.  In her well, the viscin gleams
Mesmeric nectar, sticky stuff of dreams.

This orchid’s sexual commerce is confined
To flowers of her own class, and nothing less.
And yet for humans she sends so sublime
A sensual signal that it melts the mind.
The hunters brave a poisoned wilderness
To capture just a few blooms at a time,
And even they, least sensitive of men,
Will stand to look, and sigh, and look again,

Dying of love for what does not love them.
Transported to the world, her wiles inspire
The same frustration in rich connoisseurs
Who pay the price for nourishing the stem
To keep the bloom fresh, as if their desire
To live forever lived again through hers:
But in a day she fades, though every fold
Be duplicated in fine shades of gold.

Only where she was born, and only for
One creature, will she give up everything
Simply because she is adored; and he
Must sacrifice himself.  The Minotaur,
Ugly, exhausted, has no gifts to bring
Except his grief.  She opens utterly
To show how she can match his tears of pain.
He drinks her in, and she him, like the rain.

He sees her, then, at her most beautiful,
And he would say so, could she give him speech:
But he must end his life there, near his prize,
Having been chosen, half man and half bull,
To find the heaven that we never reach
Though seeking it forever.  Nothing buys
Or keeps a revelation that was meant
For eyes not ours and once seen is soon spent:

For all our sakes she should be left alone,
Guarded by legends of how men went mad
Merely from tasting her, of monsters who
Died from her kiss.  May this forbidden zone
Be drawn for all time.  If she ever had
A hope to live, it lies in what we do
To curb the longing she arouses.  Let
Her be.  We are not ready for her yet,

Because we have a mind to make her ours,
And she belongs to nobody’s idea
Of the sublime but hers.  But that we know,
Or would, if it were not among her powers
Always across the miles to bring us near
To where she thrives on shadows.  By her glow
We measure darkness; by her splendor, all
That is to come, or gone beyond recall.

i usually don't like poems that obviously rhyme but James uses mostly soft rhymes so i don't cringe (too much) and the rhythm is right.  i'm a sucker for beautiful lines and all emphases are mine.....these are lines that "popped" for me.  the Monja Blanca is indeed a real flower, Lycaste skinneri alba.  it is the national flower for Ecuador or Guatemala....y'know one of those dreary third world republic thingies. first i thought the minotaur he's referring to is likely an insect given Orchids tend to exploit sexual mimickry to carry out pollination but he's actually talking about a Minotaur as in labyrinths and such.   and now, in my mind i have the image of the Minotaur confronting the White Nun in his labyrinth.  i wonder if there is some allusion to something i don't know about?  something in art or literature?  the best part of being over-educated is the realization that there is oceans of stuff i don't know.(there is an insect called's a dung beetle, Typhoeus typhaeus.  i think it is found in the UK or  somewhere in Europe.  an amateur entomologist friend has a couple of 'em mounted in his collection) [how awesomely weird/kewl is it that there are catalogues where one can mail-order preserved insects, isopods, arachnids, rocks, and bones/skeletons!?!?!?]

i'm very frustrated with the google image search:  i cannot find an online linky-lurv so i can share Jason Schmidt's photograph of Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell.  i've got a sort of crush thing happening with him because in Mr. Schmidt's photo Mr Campbell reminds me of an older version of a British exchange student/seminarian (his name was Griffin and it was the most fuckin' British thing i could imagine then!)that i'd occassionally frolic with in the strangely deserted theology section of the graduate library.....yes we screwed like bunny rabbits/bonobo chimps on the floor surrounded by innumerable tomes devoted to profound spiritual thinkings.  too bad his fellowship only paid for 3 semesters in the states.  *sigh*  and my fellowship funding for a summer in Swansea fell through (oh, yes i would have found a way to ron-dez-vooo with the guy...). campbell was appointed director....before the appointment he was the curator of tapestries and i can imagine crushed against him while he expounded learnedly until...y'know.......the point of distraction had been met.  my other imaginary boyfriends (whom you all have met in an earlier posts, Der Spiegel editor Herr Jan Fleischhauer, author Chuck Pahlaniuk, news-caster Anderson Cooper, football stars Peyton and Eli Manning) do not need to fret since when it comes to the loving bunkitude, i am an all-you-can-eat buffet.

i went to Choir meeting.  again, the Sad Thing had to make an allusion to my being "trashy" since i knew where the new gay bar in Lost Gap is......i decided it was enough so i had to check the bitch and check the bitch hard.  i said,"y'know....i guess it is a generational thing since when i came up and out we hunted husbands in gay bars, coffee shops, learned seminars/lectures, and gallery openings.  you're generation seems to have specialized in crawling in the bushes at rest stops and loitering in public toilets.  so, i'm content with being "trashy" as you call least i don't need the stink of piss and shit to feel 'sexy.' and can get it up and get it on with the lights on."  the sad thing actually acted hurt.  bitch, please.  i can rapidly escalate and the next check will draw blood unless the weak-dicked bitch learns to mind his place.