Silent Poetry Reading

I know, it’s feast or famine with this blog. Tough.

Today is the Second Annual Brigid in Cyperspace Poetry Reading, wherein bloggers around the world are posting a poem. Neat, eh? I never studied poetry, and I rarely read it. But there are a few poems that I like — “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” by Dylan Thomas; “Casabianca,” by Elizabeth Bishop; and “She Walks in Beauty,” by George Gordon, Lord Byron, all come immediately to mind. But I think I’d rather share something that most of you probably haven’t come across. This is from The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, edited by J.D. McClatchy. I remember carrying this around for some portion of my senior year of high school. There are so many lovely poems in the book, but this one especially has always appealed to me.

A Dress of Fire
By Dahlia Ravikovitch; translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Ariel Bloch

You know, she said, they made you
a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason’s wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You’ve got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows
like an ember, that burns like coals.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don’t wear it.
It’s not the wind whistling, it’s the poison
seeping in.
You’re not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
Can’t you tell one sound from another, she said,
it’s not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The smell of shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then I got sick from the wind and the rain.
I didn’t know a thing about reading Greek tragedies,
but the smell of the perfume spread
and I was very sick.
Now I can see it’s an unnatural perfume.

What will happen to you now, she said,
they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
So why are you standing there, she said,
you’ve got to be careful.
You know what a burning dress is, don’t you?

I know, I said, but I don’t know
how to be careful.
The smell of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her, No one has to agree with me,
I don’t believe in Greek tragedies.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted,
what are you saying?
I’m not wearing a dress at all,
what’s burning is me.

One thought on “Silent Poetry Reading

  1. Wow — I agree, that’s a very powerful poem. Kinda reminds me of some of TS Eliot (my personal favorite), particularly “The Hollow Men”.

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