Thursday, 28 February 2013

Calliope, Caltrops And Cantos - Friday Flash




He reached back into his quiver and strung a fine quilled verse into the arched bow of his lips. He released the quivering tension within the shaft of his glossa and hurled the finely crafted heroic quatrain at his adversary. His aim was directly targeted between the other's eyes.

The other man raised his forearm up to his own brow, seemingly in a gesture of warding off a powerful blow. But his arm continued its motion over his hair as if peeling off a layer to directly access his own cranium beneath. His other hand flicked up over his mouth, then his nose and out toward his rival and brought in its stead a cataract of iambic pentameter projecting from his mouth like a Catherine Wheel. A furious fusillade of frenetic phonic flow. It felled his foe, who ricocheted back into the amplifiers like a skalded cat. But the conqueror did not refrain form his flow in order to don the proffered victor's laurel wreath. Instead he strode over to the crumpled casualty and brought the mic to his ear and poured a villainous villanelle of five withering tercets and a final quatrain which perforated the wretch's eardrum.

He would have served time for assault, this man who was in a hurry, but plea bargained in stanzas from the dock and agreed to serve in his nation's army. There he found a bounded outlet for his innate aggression, but his unusual aptitude for language meant that somehow his insurgent attitude towards authority was missed by his bamboozled ranking superiors. He represented his unit in mixed martial arts and in slam poetry contests and swept the boards in both. Gradually he rose up the hierarchy with stars and stripes pinned to his jacket. His rhymes softened from those jagged shards of the street, though his brutal rhythms became utterly martial.

He was given his own troop to command. His men were utterly loyal to him, for they knew no bullet could best him, nor any inferior superior officer could outblast his versified attacks on them. Even Generals took his adept poesy as a sign that he was a deep thinker. Gradually he began to strategise for divisions of men. Working in his tent by a candle glued into a skull by magma of melted wax, he plotted the ellipses of armies in the field like the rhythms across the paper. And when he had cracked the required manoeuvres, he relaxed by penning some battlefield verses to inspire his troops.

And while the prisoners of war were being rounded up, he took a tour of the latest liberated hamlet or suburb. He composed verses as he went. Paeans to the bilious, oily smoke plumes rising like diabolic elementals. Rhapsodies over the trituration of brick, the warping and shredding of steel structures. He coupleted cabling splayed and jutting from the mangled remains like jungle tendrils. Inverted pastoralisms. Villages rendered deserts under flame, towns metamorphosised into wastelands ("Take that Thomas Stearns Eliot, you only wrote about a figurative one, whereas I have both brought it about and them composed an epic treatise on it). He staked out a unique territory of a poetics of ruin and back home his adoring public loved his metered missives from the front.

But increasingly in his tent at night, it wasn't only mosquitoes which pricked his skin. He began to agonise about how the harmony and beauty of perfectly harnessed language in the form of a poem, could sit astride such horror and destruction. And more pertinently, how the same two forces pulling in contradictory directions could both reside within him simultaneously. How could he be a great, gifted man shone down upon by the creative light of the gods and muses, if he was also this terrible inhuman monster who lay waste to everything natural and manmade he encountered? And to then make art from it? To engender suffering and then romanticise it? His work went so much farther than mere propagandist doggerel of military and patriotic glorification. Rather it was the very essence of the human soul he was touching with his words. Because his own soul was so utterly debased? That could be the only explanation. Sowing dissonance everywhere in his wake, in order to plumb a personal seam of assonance?

In the isolation of his tent afforded by his stature and rank, he took his military pistol and brought it to his head seething with rhymes. The successful warrior could not be a poet. The successful poet could not continue to fight. As he pulled the trigger, he lost his first ever battle in his life.

11 comments:

Helen said...

Oh poor man!

Kath said...

I felt like I was in the trenches of my language here alongside your doomed poet-soldier. Much like him, you really did create "a unique territory of a poetics of ruin". Magnificent, Marc.

Tony Noland said...

The physicality of the opening poetry slam was terrific, set the stage perfectly for all that followed.

Larry Kollar said...

I thought of Tony's book while reading this. Words taking on more than their metaphorical abilities to cut, to wound, to maim, surely the army would be competing with record companies for rappers.

And of course: our protagonist went from poetry to evil, then from bad to verse. :-P

Sulci Collective said...

Top pun Larry I commend you! :-)

Icy Sedgwick said...

I'll be honest, I'm unfamiliar with poetry terms so I think a lot of this is lost on me. The latter half is well-written but when I come across a word like "trituration" it jolts me out of the story while I go and look it up. Also, doesn't "scalded" have a c as opposed to a k?

Sulci Collective said...

no problem Icy. Skald was a play on words, spelled with a 'k' it refers to the old icelandic story tellers of the epic sagas

Sonia Lal said...

Man. He needs a support group. Poor guy.

Katherine Hajer said...

This was fun! It reminded me of a lot of the jokes-but-truths my Renaissance Literature prof would give in lectures (He insisted that writing sonnets should be reinstated as a requirement for obtaining a seat in Parliament.)

ATOS STORIES said...

Villainous villanelle, nice. Very clever way to debate is the pen mightier than the sword. Fascinating

brainhaze said...

Such a powerful piece. The language just punches through the page, i love it.