Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Poem of the Week 4/21/2008: Your Hair of Snakes and Flowers

Your Hair of Snakes and Flowers

When I saw one of those men touch your hair,
I heard for the first time in many a year
the ancient battle trumpets and I saw
the banners of an army winding off to war
and felt that blind power urging me to knock
him out with one punch, send him tumbling to the floor.
If nobody had held me back, stopped me,
I would—God help me—have killed him on the spot,
stomped out his blood, and spit in it. I'm sorry,
but you must be aware your winding hair
is different now, a hornets' nest, a snakes' lair!
Yes, like a ball of snakes in a flower basket, dear.

HÃ¥kan Sandell
Translated from the Swedish by Bill Coyle

There would be all sorts of fun and easy ways to discuss this poem as the staging of epic in the modern world, how it stands at an intersection of traditional heroic poetry and modern love lyric. Then one could discuss the further intertwining of poet and translator, one language moving into another language.

But that is poetic wrangling, and I can't speak Swedish to compare the two anyway, so it seems that the implication of these intersections is that the battle of epic is a battle in one's own head, in one's own life. The great drums sound as the beating of a heart, the armies are energy and fury running down the arm, pulling the hand into a fist...

A final note: I don't think that it would be as good of a poem without the final line, when the speaker turns to his wife or girlfriend, and addresses her caustically and politely. Yes dear, he says, you are so sweet and dangerous.

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