Posted tagged ‘Farmerkin poem’

Raw Deal (Farmerkin/Pasiphaë)

February 8, 2015


Raw Deal

The classic story of a wooden frame carpentered
as a comely calf
that stars a man
(and also involves
a cow hide)
was memorialized
by the Brothers Grimm and follows
the trickster Farmerkin, who parleys his wooden calf
with its painted black eyelashes, and his cow hide
with its hidden raven, into, eventually,
the drowning of nearly everybody in his town, one
in a nail-driven barrel (so it will  leak), leaving Farmerkin
as mayor of sorts, with pots and pots
of gold.

The tale of a wooden cow frame featuring
a woman
is the myth of Pasiphaë, who, as punishment
for her husband’s greed,
is God-besotted
by a beautiful white bull
(meaning that Poseidon, mad
at Minos, made
her do it.)

It being the fitting of herself into
a heifer frame, sides hidden
by cow hide,
her genitalia carefully slotted
against applicable vents,
then taken out to pasture,
as it were.

One can’t exactly say Pasiphaë,
got the short end
of the stick,
yet Farmerkin, through sleight of paint brush
and pinch of hide-clotted raven, separated
his compatriots
from both their money and
their lives, ensuring his own,
according to the Grimms,
happily ever after,
while Pasiphaë ended up
as archetypal porn queen
and beast mother.

One–if one actually thinks about it–
imagines her wracked
with pain, pregnant, a leaking, gored, barrel.

“Hmmm,” some might say,
who do not understand
what I am getting at.


Here’s an odd sort of poem.  I have been thinking about Pasiphaë (which for some reason I think is pronounced Pacify–ay, rhyming with Pacify- day) since seeing a Jackson Pollock painting of that name a week ago at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.  The painting is part of an exhibit about Thomas Hart Benton, who was Pollock’s mentor.  I happened by it while a lecture was going on in which the docent asked the tourists what they saw on the canvas, and several talked of little stick figures at the middle or top, but no one mentioned the large phallus in the bottom right hand corner!  (Needless to say, I did not point it out, and I couldn’t then remember the story of Pasiphaë, but the whole incident made me look it up later.  I would note that there are many many very graphic illustrations of Pasiphaë made throughout art history and beyond.)

There are several stories based on Pasiphaë but the main one is that she was the daughter of Helios (the Sun), married to King Minos of Crete.  Poseidon gave Minos a beautiful white bull (his altar ego), with the understanding that Minos would sacrifice it back to Poseidon, but Minos instead kept the valuable bull (probably to use as a stud)  which in turn led Poseidon to bewitch Pasiphaë into falling desperately in love/lust with the bull (resulting in the cow frame discussed in the poem.) The beast child born from the union of Pasiphaë and the bull was the Minotaur, which later was kept in Minos’ labyrinth.  Pasiphaë was also mother of Phaedre and Ariadne, and interestingly, it was the great craftsman, Daedelus (the guy who made the wax wings to get out of that same labyrinth with his son, Icarus), who devised the cow frame used by Pasiphaë, to seduce the bull.  (Several poems there perhaps.)    

The  Brothers Grimm Farmerkin story is a story of a classic trickster, who without a cow of his own, uses a wooden frame of a calf to trick a herder into thinking he has lost Farmerkin’s cow and must give him one.  Farmerkin than uses that cow hide for further trickery, ending up with a drowned town and a great deal of moola.  Phillip Pullman who has authored a wonderful retelling of the Grimm stories says that it was originally told to the Grimm brothers by the Hassenpflug family and Dorothea Viehmann. 

Below is Pollock’s Pasiphaë, painted in 1943.  (Unfortunately, I could find no reproduction that does justice to the wonderful palette of the actual painting. )  Above is a painting of Pasiphaë and Daedelus by Giulio Romano, painted in Mantua sometime between 1525-1535.  (No copyright infringement intended in the photos.) 

I was not sure where, if anywhere, I would link this odd poem, but I will try the Poetry Pantry on Poets’ United, since I know they are very accepting people over there!