2019 is the Year of the Boar or the Year of the Pig. I never liked pigs. They are too intelligent and too angry with us. And, these days, they suffer too much in huge factory farms where they are endlessly tortured until they die. Not much to be happy about. Actually, something to fight against...
Some people love cute little piglets. The French queen Marie Antoinette did, before her head was cut off. She pretended to be a shepherdess and led her pink, soft, velvety, piglet on a silk ribbon around the gilded splendor, velvet and mirrors of the magnificent palace of Versailles. It was not good for her, and not good for the piglets. Alas.
So, I do not have any poems about Boars, nor any about Pigs, nor Piglets. It seems I cannot celebrate the Year of the Boar, then. . . Even the Boars are too dangerous, too dark and wicked for poetry.
They used to haunt my Grandma's winters on a lone farm at the edge of the tall fir and pine forest. They used to come out of the dark at night in the late fall and winter, to root for potatoes and grain in the fields. They destroyed the carefully cultivated crops. My Grandma, a widow, only had 11 hectares of land, so every square meter mattered immensely. It made a difference whether she had enough food for the winter, or not. She did not sell the potatoes, but used them to feed the pigs on her farm, fattening them for slaughter and sale. Those were the pigs I did not like, feared and detested; those were the pigs that did not like and detested me.
The pigs were unusually dirty, for one; they stank and they gave you the evil eye, if you came to watch them eat and twiddle their short curly rat-like tails. Or maybe their voices were the worst? All this harrumping, squealing, and grunting? Yes, I ate pork for decades. From the pigs' point of view, I'm a murderer, committing sacriledge. I do not do it any more, as much as I can. Do not buy meat, do not eat it.
So, how do I celebrate the year of the Boar? This is the year of the Earth Boar, so we can celebrate nature, being grounded, serene. The element of the earth is very comforting, here is where we came from here is where we will return (not exactly, our bodies will, but still, bodies are not prisons but freely chosen vessels for the souls)
Instead of Boars or Pigs, let me share poems about foxes. As devious thieves, foxes do not have the best of opinion in most folk tales around the world, nor do they have a whole year dedicated to them in the Chinese calendar. But there are beautiful Chinese legends about nine-tailed foxes, so I wrote two poems after watching a film about that.
I come from a tribe of nine-tailed foxes
You are a gold fox with nine tails too
We splash in the pools of silver moonlight
We chase bright stars through violet sky
We catch a ride on a sparkling comet
Nourished by nectar of honey dew
We leap through sunbursts, sunfire, sunrays
We rest in the golden glow of noon
Our wisdom grows in spirals, circles
Our joy is boundless, our love is true
(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk
This simple rhyming poem is perfectly suitable for the other focus of February - the Valentine's Day, a commercial feast of pink and red hearts, chocolate, teddy-bears and sentimental or ribald greeting cards. As soon as Christmas is over, the Valentine's Day merchandise comes out. Instead of red roses, and hearts, I thought that smooth, bronze fur of a fox is a lovely metaphor for the comfort seeking and for sensuality. Let's stay in this train of thought, then.
How to Domesticate a Cat
A tiger, really, crouching in the corner of your yard
With bared teeth. Tired, terrified.
You just sit there, read, sit, don’t let him notice
You are watching – the fur so sleek,
The play of muscles underneath,
Chocolate hazel of his eyes.
Sing – no – hum of misty Wonderland,
Love that’s here to stay, whisper
Sunshine into the warm air,
In the receding darkness under closed eyelids
“Who knows how long I’ve loved you…”
Stretch out your hand and pet him on the back.
Pretend you do not notice
How he strains to prolong your touch
With a spark in his eyes –
close, right next to you.
Somehow he gets even closer.
Feed him choice morsels off your hand,
Tell stories, sotto voce – hypnotize him
with an exotic melody of alien language.
Oblivious, he will lean into you,
Warming you with his heartbeat.
Steady – steady – cicho – sza –
Just sit there, burying your fingers
In the blond fur, caressing
The silkiness of his strong, tamed shoulders,
Moving rhythmically with your touch.
Closer – closer – cicho – szaa –
The dance of togetherness,
The fearless, glorious waltz
Of now – only now –
Cicho – cicho – cicho – szaaa –
(c) 2017 by Maja Trochimczyk
"Cicho" means "quiet" in Polish while "cicho, sza" is the equivalent of "there, there" in English, when comforting someone crying, someone in pain... The "tiger-cat" idea finds another expression in a different Valentine-Day-themed poem, also set in the garden of love.
Things Not to Say on a Lazy Afternoon in the Garden
You ask me, what am I doing?
I’m taming the wild foxes
In you, in me, all around.
Their sharp teeth look better
In a smile. They can learn to stop snarling
Eat berries, not meat, don’t you think?
But what about mice? you say,
Ever mindful of the world’s balance, adding shadow
To every good deed? Mice steal our food, true.
Without foxes wed be eaten out of our harvest
by rodents, rabbits, raccoons.
Oh, the seductive beauty of foxes
With their smooth copper fur
White-tipped tails, waving like flags surrender
The bright yellow eyes, smart and wary
Attentive, always ready to run.
I’m taming the wild foxes
In me, in the world, in you.
Every kind thought, word, gesture
Every tender touch of affection
gentles, them slightly, step by step -
From snarls into smiles -
From bristles to giggles -
Kinder, softer -
More, a bit more -
Come closer, let me caress
your glossy gold coat -
smooth, shiny -
so soft to touch -
Come, you will like it -
a bit more -
a bit more -
a bit more -
(C) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk
Now that we have moved entirely into the Valentine's Day subject area, let me end this paradoxical reflection on the coming year of abundance and riches, with a folk-style ballad about the healing power of love, that provides the undercurrent of both wild foxes and tigercat poems above. Just for fun, let's change the protagonist, here the man is the active healer, and the woman is the healed one.
A Ballad of New Star
She came out of nowhere with head bowed down low
in shame and in sorrow, contrite.
Her face wrapped in shadows, cloak black as a tombstone,
she came out of nowhere at night.
She stood there before him, with head bowed down low,
asking silently, asking for love.
His hands on her heart, her lone heart beating wildly,
steady current flowed out from his palms.
Light and Love, Light and Love, so much Light, so much Love:
The black cloak broke stiffly in half.
Rays of bright light exploded: she flew out of her cage
in a lightning, a flash of delight.
She was free, he was thrilled. Two halves of dark shell
fell down on the ground far below.
In brightness most fine, with high outstretched arms,
she rose up, the birth of new dawn.
But did she have wings? We don't know, we can't tell.
It looked like, maybe, she did.
Could she fly? She did fly, bursting out of her shell
like a phoenix, a comet, a kid.
In a lightning of love she ascended so free,
shining true, a phoenix of might.
He was happy, so glad. He laughed out so loud -
such miracle, the dream of his heart.
In a whirlwind of rays, comets, stardust and sparks,
divine brightness, more dazzling than moon.
There's a new star, new sun as she glows, laughs & shines,
turning midnight into high noon.
She's his sister reborn, golden princess of dawn,
floating on weaves of fire and air.
Now his job here is done, his two hands on her heart
healing, breaking the spell of despair.
Oh, sweet love has healed her. Oh, sweet love has freed her.
He let the One Love flow through his arms.
No matter how dark, no matter how lost,
we can wake, we can all become stars.
We are free, we can fly, high above midnight sky.
So much love, so much light, so much care!
It's for us that this Love flows so brightly tonight,
and we sing of new life of new world.
(C) 2019 by Maja Trochimczyk
It would be hard to describe this vision of a magical healing, a transformation from imprisonment in a shell, a coffin of sorrow, into interstellar, galactic flight of freedom and joy in a different poetic form, like free verse. It seems to me that such a poem would have been either too repetitive, or too brief. The folk ballad rhymes and rhythms provide the myth or fable with enough space to grow; they also place it far away, elsewhere. The use of the third person for both the healed man and the healing woman in this poetic narrative also serves to distance it from the reader.
What could happen if the third person, objectified and distanced, were to be replaced with the first person, first just for the woman. So the poem would be about "me" and "I" and "him" and "he" - told from the point of view of a lonely person narrating the unusual adventure to someone else, a sympathetic listener, such as the poet's audience. It would not be easy to change the third-to-first person for the man, mostly because of his silence at the outset of the poem, and the role of a "receiver" of the healing, an "object" to be healed, rather than a "subject" that acts. The use of an occasional "we" as well as ending with all of "us" makes it a universal story that applies equally to everyone.
What if we changed both personas to first and second person format? It could be from the point of view of the woman ("You stood there before me..." "my hands on your chest/your heart beating wildly") or from the point of view of the man ("I stood there before you" "your hands on my chest/my heart beating wildly").
Both have advantages and disadvantages. In the first option, the woman comes across as too smug and conceited: not only did she serve as the conduit for the man's healing, but also insistently described the process and took credit for the miracle. In the second option, the difficulty starts from at the beginning, when the imprisoned soul arrives out of nowhere, asking for healing.... It simply makes no sense for the "object" of the healing to describe himself at this moment, as if he could see himself from outside.
Back to the third-person account then, and a delightful love story that is not a romance made just for two, but rather a universal story of healing - people can and do heal each other all the time. They can and do, if their action are not based on selfishness, greed, desire, or control of others, but rather if they exchange their gifts freely, openly, and with joy. In the version above, the woman is the healer, the man is the one to be healed. These roles could be reversed: we are all healers and all in need of healing...
Love is the glue that holds the world together. We are in an avalanche of pinks and reds, for St. Valentine's Day, piled up in all stores, so soon after Christmas decorations have been put away.
But to me, love is not associated with red. It is best captured in the color green, the color of plants that give us oxygen, food, and beauty. It is green and jade that should be everywhere on Valentine's Day, not red and pink and mauve. It is also the color blue, and its manifold variants - the sky, the lake, the ocean... Water and air, love personified...