When Low


When Low

I follow as fish whose lip has been caught.
‘Follow,’ I say, but flop flatter than him–
he, who pants hard with lungs he’s not got,
as eyes, like rolled marbles, marl rather than dim.

I can’t strike ahead, but trail as a shade
might shadow the living, one of those ghosts
who tracks Proserpine throughout Hades’ glade,
as if her curls’ currents will dwarf Lethe’s flows,

for quick and lithe even life’s keratin lies
compared to a spirit that flickers like stone,
this spirit I bangle in bright ribbons, dyes,
trying to tangle its bass undertone

with hues and translucence, with light seen through lawn,
the stranded weave tight, though seams are long gone–


Don’t ask me what it means!  This was written for Bjorn Rudberg’s prompt on Real Toads to write a sonnet using a series of rhyming end words.  (The specific words were given by Bjorn.  I have used them all and in the correct sequence, though Bjorn said we could use homonyms and slant rhymes, so I’ve substituted ghosts for goes; a slant homonym.  Ha!)

PS – vague process notes–lawn a type of tightly woven fabric like linen; Lethe a river to the underworld whose waters cause forgetfulness; Proserpine, the Roman name of Persephone–goddess (daughter of Demeter)  who spends six months of the year each year in the underworld after having been stolen by Hades (Pluto) and eaten a kernel of pomegranate there; keratin–what hair is made of!   The picture is a photo of a sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum in New York–I am sorry –don’t know the details of the sculpture; photo is mine; all rights reserved. 

Pps– I am joking when I say I don’t know what it means– I don’t know how others interpret any poems but I tend to be pretty specific (if sometimes obscure) in terms of what I am getting it!  




Explore posts in the same categories: poetry

Tags: , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

22 Comments on “When Low”

  1. Isadora Gruye Says:

    I don’t quite know what it means either, but I really really like it! From fish lips to lawns, you’ve got this one stitched up. Viva la

  2. gailatthefarm Says:

    We never know what the other writes but for me it was a journey through depression. A sense of loss also with a promise, a knowledge, that it will change and improve.

    I have never thought of depression as a hooked fish struggling to breath free but I thought that here.

    Beautiful work. Sometimes words speak by themselves.

    Thank you for visiting. The creek was a wet weather creek through a glade, no stray dog but my beloved Ki-Anne at the top of the photo, well loved and spoiled.

  3. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    Beautiful sculpture. And very evocative poem. I like the way you make it so personal, and the metaphor of the caught fish.

  4. I try to weave a narrative through your metaphors and similes and to me it becomes a story of sadness and loss.

  5. Sanaa Rizvi Says:

    Loved the majestic sculpture coupled with a poignant sonnet 😀

    Well penned..!
    Lots of love,

  6. claudia Says:

    i always found the story and destiny of Persephone an extremely tough on… the loss and desperation is palpable in your words here

  7. It is an intriguing poem. I guess your subconscious mind has a few questions to answer! 🙂 I loved it. Especially the first line. It’s brave to open a poem with a line like that.

    Greetings from London.

  8. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    There is a remarkable cadence in this poem, an undertone indeed, which sends my imagination down the winding stairs to Hades’ realm. I really love the substitution of ghost for ‘goes’ and the contrast of life’s keratin with the flimsy light-filtering lawn.

  9. X Says:

    I come away with the feeling of a rather zombified life. Of when down just following along rather aimless and mindlessly. The ties to Persephone are strong in adding depth to the feeling. I agree there is nice movement in this that pulls you along K.

  10. hedgewitch Says:

    Really this is so skillfully and neatly worded that it doesn’t even *need* to mean anything to get an effect; the fact that it so patently does just makes it shoot over the top–as Kerry says, an elegant cadence which shows the deep civility, the richness of the form, and then the language and images which make it wholly of our own age, all so well-illumined that I can see the fish and its marled eyes–just excellent. Mine too was about that lost place in the soul that is so easy to get to, down and down–especially with a little help from our non-friends–but I had real difficulty making it gel, so turned it into a rather easier concept– a bit of a cop-out. And you used ‘glade’ perfectly, as did Shay, so that I really feel like a shirker. ;_) Really excellent sonnet.

  11. coalblack Says:

    I like that there is a dwarf. Dwarves make far too few appearances in sonnets, by and large.

  12. I enjoy the inclusion of the Greek mythology and the metaphors employed as well…nicely done, K.

  13. Sherry Marr Says:

    This does have a wonderful cadence to it, as Kerry says….I love the eyes like rolled marbles, that marl rather than dim….and especially the translucent quality spoken of in the closing lines….like “light seen through lawn”. Beautiful.

  14. Debi Says:

    I esp. like the first stanza and the last two lines. Excellent work

  15. margaret Says:

    “but trail as a shade
    might shadow the living”

    many images here that set the mind in contemplation. I catch a sadness, an unwillingness to follow, but yet an inability to do anything about it. Well penned.

  16. ZQ Says:

    I’m with you… what does it mean… 🙂 But, as usual I always enjoy my visit here.

  17. M Says:

    I like the word ‘marl’. and the whole pen ~

  18. jinksy Says:

    Those last two lines are intriguingly haunting – the meaning comes as through a veil !

Leave a Reply to Debi Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: