“White Flag”


Diorama from North American Mammals Section of the American Museum of Natural History (from AMNH’s site)

White Flag

We go to the museum
after a spat, the white flag
between us deep rose
as it’s raised and crimped a bit
as lips tend to be
aborting retort, though

it unfurls soon enough
under the spiny heights of browned bones
in smiles that flash,
rather than bare,
our teeth (slightly yellowing).

Until we’re faced with a true war – man
against planet – and root together, on the wrong
side of the diorama, for the two wolves’ bristling run
across a snow as flat as cloth, a painted
peace, shivering

even in the cramped
corridor, the darkness
a furred hood, wishing, as one, for somewhere’s
frozen luminescence, somewhere’s crust
of North-lit pine, somewhere’s fanged
wind, sharp
possibility, bite not yet

walking back
to the train.


Here’s a rather odd poem for dVerse Poets Pub’s prompt on peace hosted by Mary Kling.  The picture is a picture of one of the newly restored dioramas at the wonderful American Museum of Natural History in NYC. 

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24 Comments on ““White Flag””

  1. claudia Says:

    nice…i like how some things set our life and personal conflicts into relation to what’s going on in the world around us…and we realize how small they really are even though they seemed to be like huge mountains a few moments ago..

  2. Ah, karin–you really made this one live and breathe for me–our petty wars and bickerings, inter-personal, inter-cultural, blah blah blah, and then the important things, the real wars, of ideas, of reality, of perspective and proportion. But all this analysis is fine, but the heart of the piece is its poetic–beautifully rendered image and language, no wasted words, yet a lavish imagination at play, evoking all the strong visuals that drive the message. My favorite lines,
    ‘..across a snow as flat as cloth, a painted
    peace..’ and the entire first two stanzas, every word. End is excellent as well–so I guess the whole thing is my favorite.

  3. Mary Says:

    I enjoyed this very much, Karin. Definitely shows how people may disagree on the minor things in life; but yet when it comes time to fight for the important things they rally together strongly and put the minor differences behind. Your poem very effectively made that point…and clearly so!

  4. brian miller Says:

    smiles…cool piece k…i need to come visit again just to go see this exhibit….it looks pretty cool….i like how you enter this, through the reality of life, the little spats…and our white flags…and then zoom out to larger conflict as well….

  5. Really effective approach to the theme from my perspective, bringing to mind for me how we go about “normal” while simmering beneath the surface until, most often, anger dissipates or dips into the subconscious and festers.

  6. a beautiful pairing of the prompt and the pic… great to put things in their proper perspective, so beautifully.

  7. Sherry Marr Says:

    Such a beautiful interpretation of the image. I love the thought of the wolves running…..”somewhere’s fanged wind, sharp possibility” is marvellous.

  8. Tony Says:

    Sometimes we waste so much time majoring on the minors, emphasising our differences rather than celebrating our similarities. The contrast with life beyond the human world is stark – and your words here have brought it into sharper focus.

  9. I like the use of the white flag between the couple who are not on good terms. Comparing the spat with the true wars clinches it for me ~ Peace ~

  10. Bodhirose Says:

    Very common, very real, day-to-day managing of relationships…coming and going, in and out of peace. Love the artwork of the wolves…powerful..and peaceful.

  11. Karin, this was so perceptive. The concept of “aborting retorts” is not only poetically fitting, it’s also so visuallly captivating. The journey from spat to contemplation is so real. Also, I’ve seen that diorama, believe it or not! Stuffed (real) animals always skeeve me out! Thanks for stopping by my place, hon. Amy

  12. David King Says:

    A fine poem which was a joy to read.

    the darkness
    a furred hood, wishing, as one, for somewhere’s
    frozen luminescence

    stayed with me afterwards.

  13. rebelle Says:

    Love this whole Jack London “White Fang” thing gonig on. Bravo.

  14. Deborah Says:

    The third stanza is earth shaking! Wonderful ~Fondly D

  15. Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …wise words from you Karin… a most enjoyable to read… truly saved the best for last… and oh, i just realized… i haven’t been back to a museum this late… smiles…

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