Leaf Sail


Leaf Sail

They tried to sail a sea of fallen leaves
as if they could assail leave-taking
by keeping to dry ground.

For if their keel were only raking
earth, they thought,
at least they could be safe
from any drown.

But the leaves they sailed–they waved
as if still limbed,
their wrinkles crescents
of a misguiding moon–

and soon the winding tides
took the voyagers to a dark salt place
where all they craved
was the swoon

of willows, anything but
the slap of crumble at
their prow, the chap
of spoil.

For a sea of fallen leaves
is a sea of the fallen–
how they now longed to leave
that buried soil.

Agh. This is very much a draft poem for the tenth day of National Poetry Month, posted for Hedge Witch’s prompt on Odilon Redon for With Real Toads — http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com.  The above is a painting by Redon called Boat in Moonlight.

This poem has been edited a couple of times since posting, once in Grand Central Station! The line I am having trouble with is the crescents line– whether it should just read “crinkled crescents.” Something like that.

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13 Comments on “Leaf Sail”

  1. Polly Says:

    Ah… this is beautiful k 🙂

  2. But the leaves they sailed–they waved
    as if still limbed,
    their wrinkles crescents
    of a guiding moon– This is just one small part of what I love about this piece…Outstanding piece!!

  3. othermary Says:

    Oh, brilliant word-play! Your opening lines are amazing:

    They tried to sail a sea of fallen leaves
    as if they could assail leave-taking

  4. The image I too chose! But you’ve taken a richer path, “the crumble at their prow”.

    I love it!!

  5. This is an amazing poem, karin – so complex within the telling of the tale. The concept is so original and yours scenes so richly expressed, I feel as satisfied as if I had just read an entire novel.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks so much, Kerry, for your kind words. It’s one that came quite quickly in between things and I did a bunch of different versions last night– all the same theme–but still not sure in quite there. I have to say that the experience of writing to a picture is new to me and so interesting. Usually I come up with my own pictures after the poem, which I realize now can be very limiting. Your kindness is much appreciated.


  6. hedgewitch Says:

    I agree with Kerry–your novelist’s hand is under the hood here in a complex but mysterious narrative that so perfectly fits the aim of Redon;s work–to take us into the ‘realm of the undetermined,’ to mine the symbols of the unconscious for their ambiguous gold. As with grapeling’s take on this picture, you immediately hit on the understated ‘wrongness’ of the image of a ship aground–see how high he’s placed it, where no sensible person would ever drag it if they meant to relaunch it–and you explain it so gorgeously with the sail through the fallen, into the land of death or at least dreams of death, disguised as safety–I can’t say enough about how I love this piece..my favorite lines(if I can have any more favorite than others) are “..the swoon/of willows, anything but/the slap of crumble at
    their prow, the chap/of spoil.” there is something about the short clipped p’s and sliding s’s that just embody the idea of this boat sliding through waste, along leaf-littered mud, sticking, yet slicing. Thanks so much for the pleasure you’ve given me here, and for playing our toads game.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you. It was a revelation to work from a picture like that. I’ve done it only a bit before, and not with an artist I so liked. (I have fond memories of Redon from various museums–those bright colors catching the eye.) It makes me realize that I should do poems from this kind of ekphrastic (crazy word) prompt more often, as it is a very interesting method of opening up one’s world.

      On Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 10:26 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  7. kkkkaty Says:

    You certainly brought out the best of that painting….I am writing for NaPoWriMo for the first time and the poems are pretty bad..just to say I did it, more or less…maybe I will have improved by next year..ha…..have not had time to read many others but do like your imagery and subtexts and slant on things..k. You are quite prolific these days I might add.;)

  8. margaret Says:

    This image was (and is) my favorite of all the ones Hedgewitch shared. I only went with flowers because it was easier (I’m a wimp). The lines to me bespeak a fine lesson! … the seemingly “easy” way might be the wrong choice!

  9. janehewey Says:

    hints of old language create another depth in this. your line transitions are remarkable. this reads as a complete story told in compressed form, and each time I read it I come away with another insight. “where all they craved/ was the swoon/ of willows,” is a favorite part. This reads like a dream that one is trying to wake up from and finds oneself in another dream. Your closure works very well, too.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Dear Jane–this is really a response to all your comments. They are so kind and thoughtful and well-considered–but mainly kind! They are very much appreciated. I hope the little baby is doing well and you are getting to run under blue skies. K.

  10. charleenm Says:

    I like the story-like quality of your poem. Nice write.

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