Category Archives: chiasmus

Poetry Madness Is Correlated With Word Death

Original at age 17 (first version lost; my dad probably has a copy):

Augusta Wind

Augusta Wind will blow again,
Her bones like water without skin,
A phantom of the reedy maid
Who blossoms from the river’s wake
In high-moon nights of distilled gin.

Her movement whispers through the din,
A sigh, a song, a swell within
Of rising docks that groan and shake
With a gust of wind.

Her hands are soft, but chilled with sin;
They shut the red, gin eyes of men;
They shake them on the docks and take
Their souls with soft embraces; make
Them grasp at whispering maidens,
At nothing but Augusta Wind.

Age 19:

Love and Cosmos

He sent her cosmos on the hill
And pushed against the gate
That rusted shut from rainy months,
But creaked against his weight.

He rattled sweet-pea on the stalk
And glory in the vine;
He knelt before the one-eyed saint
That bowed the columbine.

He saw the light between the slats–
He spied her sleeping there–
Between the rows of climbing vines,
Close to the briar lair.

Age 22:

Villanelle of Wind and Sea

I hadn’t really thought about the wind,
Although it flaps the sails of many ships,
But now it brings the sea into my mind.

I saw a ship with three white sails to bind,
While still at bay, the three sails cracked like whips–
I hadn’t really thought about the wind.

The hull and bulk were tied for lengths of time,
That in the waves they rocked and stirred and tipped–
The wind, it brought the sea into my mind.

And I would smell the creosote and brine,
And taste the wind like salt fish on my lips–
But still I wouldn’t think about the wind.

At times, I glimpsed the gleaming lines of light
That anchor in the songs of tipping men;
Unanchored, songs of windy sails unwind
With words that make the sea a place of mind.

Age 25:

Ode to a Yellow Rose

Small rose upon my table,
Brought in from the storm,
Its yellow head and petals
Tipping with orange.

A lone view of perfection
Rests within that rose–
As my eye to the world,
My briefest hellos.

How are you, my yellow rose?
Do you see the day?
You, emblazoned by the sun–
Then trampled by rain.

Hello, hello, back to you.
I hear your voice, now,
As the eye of this rough storm,
Abating, but loud.

Age 30:

I Want to Live

I want to live his memories
with fingers free to mourn
his words that fall as crumbs to birds,
their scraps caught up by storms.

I want to breathe his breath, my last,
inside the heart of wind,
the taste of rain a teasing sense
that lingers in my mind.

I want to view his city’s streets,
the windows dark and cold,
with fires burning inwardly
for lighting up the stones.

I want to disappear tonight
inside his vacant house,
where time waits in the empty suit
that shivers on the couch.

I want to hear him whispering
in notes that signal death
and stretch beyond the willow twigs
that rattle in the hearth.

To live in death, I hold my breath;
I knock on doors shut tight
and wait for lock-pick bands of light
to throw the hinges wide.

Age 35:

Midnight in the Garden of Zeugma

Lucia stepped out to gather her rows,
wisps of formed phrases and gentle bon mots,
and the vegetables ripe for the picking:
crooknecks of smiles, and snap-peas clicking
wind-aching chives and chimes round the barrows,
following paths of flax through the yarrow.

Inside her head the gloom was gathering
zest and lovage and herbs for ravening:
How do you do; how fares the night for you?
How fair the garden when the moon creeps through.
Her feet gathered speed with the brooding clouds,
no room in her basket for plucking shrouds.

Back inside her house of stones, the door slammed;
she dropped the basket, spilling out her drams,
her oaths, her thoughts: outside the dust and sky;
what gathered spilled itself, suspended time,
until the tears of love had spent themselves
with time, ill-spent, and she had placed them on shelves.

The storm, once spent, broke open clearer skies
and the bank, where water surged toward the light.
Lucia stepped forth one more time for herbs,
her feet quick along the same sodden turf,
her ideas and verbs scattered to the wind,
his grave – love’s grave was gravity to mind.

Lucia gathered gravity’s first fruits,
what the storm had grasped and flung along the route:
grasping roots for gasping maiden fancy,
while light gave gravity and brilliancy
to golden hair that spilled toward his grave,
her tears tucked on shelves, or deeply interred caves.
How do you do; how fares the night for you?
How fair the garden when the moon creeps through —
wisps of formed phrases and not-so bon mots
gathered, tumultuous, inside her rows.
She laid down the yarrow, flax and smiles,
a chance to cloak her misery with guile.

Her basket emptied; yet again her heart,
she walked toward the water in the dark;
Her foot first struck the cold along the bank
and, next, her heart was filled with water, cold, dank;
the moon crept through and spilled on grassy caves,
and chives chimed dancing over both their graves.

Age 40:

I am Lucia, already in my word grave.


The Planet Sardon: On Ethics, Morality, and the Greeting Card Fund

It has been said that morality on Sardon is determined through riddles, some of which contain no answers. In fact, the vast library of spiritual and inspirational guidebooks resemble Earth-based 1980s joke paperbacks mixed with collections of chiastic expressions. In one tome, this journalist discovered that the morality tales hidden therein create palindromes, leading to the ultimate wisdom on the last page: Always do right backwards to cover your tracks before committing justifiable wrongness when you face forward again. In similar fashion, one terrible joke of unknown moral message asks, What says oh, oh, oh? The mysterious answer seems to be Santa walking backwards. Sardon, having a complex web of requirements to become sainted, is virtually bereft of them, but this joke could lend a clue as to why these few, well-fed men perpetually walk backwards, hooting oh ho! whenever they run into vehicles, people, or furniture.

Notwithstanding, the state of warfare fares better when the state is left standing after the war. This peculiar chiastic expression is inscribed on the dedication page of their “Jolly Book of Military Jaunts”. Thereafter, the passages in said book create their own individual chiastic paragraphs and chapters. Likewise, each chapter leads with advice of this sort: Go deliver a dare, vile dog! And this: Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era? The image illustrating the latter palindrome demonstrates that drawing onward involves sitting on the enemy wards of the state while using tattoo guns on their shirtless backs.

Recently, owing to Sardon’s continued obsession with using old-Earthian technology to inform their religion and morality, they’ve taken to creating morality-based CAPTCHAs that act as guardians at computerized entrances into government buildings, train stations, schools, and airports. The rationale behind these CAPTCHAs is that robotic terrorists are unable to correctly answer moral questions and, ergo, anybody else who can’t answer them must also be a robotic terrorist, or might possibly be, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Sorry, but not safe is the actual result: Few beyond the educated elite are able to answer correctly, and even those at the peak of academic success often only stumble onto the correct answer by their third and final try. In defense of their failings, these holders of Sardonian doctorates claim the CAPTCHAs are too simple for their minds, that morality is much more complex than simple answers, which is why–of course–they must give a string of three to unlock doors. But the uneducated masses, cynical as they are, don’t buy their stories–literally speaking, due to the word-based currency. Unfortunately, this archaic technology has offset the economy, resulting in the government bailing out the affected industries to the tune of trillions of words (see this entry for further information on their currency). This abuse of word-printing has subsequently lowered all standards everywhere, in speech, literature, education, and, most importantly, travel to leisure spots. Hence, the gourmet vegetable marrow production has dropped to an all-time low, as well (see this entry for more on the staple diet of Sardonians).

As crises often snowball in ways nobody can imagine, so has this CAPTCHA crisis. Leading scientists have attempted to cope with the new poverty by inventing genetically engineered super marrows, but because they experimented with splicing Sardonian genes into the marrow genes to increase crop yields, a strange pollination has occurred. Many Sardonian people are currently being born with heads shaped similarly to what we know of as turnips. Conspiracy theorists wander around mumbling, if they have any words at their disposal, “And where do you think the dirty seed came from that spawned the beasts? Ah, the giant marrow monster’s done the dirty deed.”

This brings me to the Greeting Card Fund that I’m currently supporting and promoting, using the divinely free words of my planet. The Sardonian people are in an economic crisis, but more than that, they are in a morality crisis. As interest rates rise, and the government continues to print empty words, those with access to the libraries of ethics and morality are surreptitiously cutting out the most valuable words in the joke books to trade for black market goods, and for cheat answers to CAPTCHA riddles. The League of Planets has come to the conclusion that the Sardonians simply need to be nuked to prevent their spawn from reaching other planets in the solar system and beyond. I disagree.

I ask you–you may hate the Sardonians–you may hate marrows to the core of your being–but do you want this race of intellectual thinkers to vanish from the universe? Do you? If not, I humbly request that you donate greeting cards of upright moral sentiments to the Greeting Card Fund. These impoverished Sardonians need words, and they need words that express truth and love and joy and pure feeling.
Would you have a heart for those whom you may despise? My heart breaks for the poor turnip babies.

Help the cause! Donate today!


A Chiastic Poem

My God, my heart is broken
as I’m stranded on this table,
from where I spy a corner
of the Jujube, its leaves and dates,
and hear San Miguel’s ringing–
ten peals, and the wind abates.
The light is my only mourner
that moves in shadows, a fable
of health, a glittering token.


If Life Were a Chiasm, Where Would It End?

I’m a nerd who reads nearly every day. I read it when I’m feeling low and tired and frustrated. I read it when I need inspiration. The other day, I read a book excerpt on Wired about dyslexia. Aside from knowing a few people over the years who suffered from this disability, I wasn’t too familiar with the brain processes that cause the condition. According to the authors of Dyslexic Advantage (the authors were interviewed in a separate article here), dyslexic individuals have brains differently wired from the average person.

This got me thinking about chiasmus and mirror ideas. I have them, you know, and I’m not alone. Did you know Leonardo da Vinci wrote backwards, as if he was writing in a mirror? Some experts believe he was dyslexic. Okay, I don’t and can’t do that because I’m clearly not dyslexic. Nor am I an artist or a genius by any stretch of imagination. It wouldn’t even occur to me to write backwards, but when I began to study classic rhetoric, the device I fell in love with, that resonated with my thinking, was chiasmus. For more about chiastic expressions, see Dr. Mardy, whose newsletter I’ve been receiving via e-mail for about four years now.

I don’t need an excuse to think of chiasmus. Neither do you. If you read the Bible, an understanding of chiastic expressions is paramount to understanding ancient literary thinking patterns. With our western linear thought processes, many of us fail to understand what’s going on in certain biblical stories, such as the creation account in Genesis. As I was searching for an image for this post, I serendipitously discovered this site: Chiasmus Studies. While I’ve simply made it a hobby to find chiastic expressions and ideas in the Bible, the man who runs this site has made it an area of serious study. Check it out. It’s exciting stuff.

What is a chiasm? you ask (because you didn’t go to Dr. Mardy’s site). Simply put, a chiastic phrase is one in which the words of one phrase mirror the words in the next: By day the frolic, and the dance by night. Day mirrors night, and frolic mirrors dance. This line of poetry, by the way, is from Samuel Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes. Samuel Johnson is well-known for his chiasms. A chiastic passage would be shaped similarly, but the mirroring is of ideas and not just words: A-B-C-X-C-B-A. Each letter represents an idea, with the central or final idea occurring at X. The X is the climax, so to speak. The passage then works its way back to the beginning.

Why all of this nonsensical rhetoric, and what does it have to do with dyslexics? I don’t have a clue. I’m guessing, though, that dyslexics have a unique ability to understand chiastic thought processes. And you know what else? I empathize with intelligent people who are trapped inside stupid people. I am was. I was the stupid kid, the one who fell apart at the sight of story problems and couldn’t process instructions and couldn’t cope with school in general. I couldn’t succeed, just like many dyslexic children. Yet as an adult, I intrinsically understand chiasmus. Go figure. This post has no other reason, except la razón de ser.

p.s. Next week, I’ll be out of town, but will cull some posts from my first blog, The Female Quixote.


I Am My Beloved’s, and He is Mine

Today, I give you an offering of a poem that has never seen the light of day. Before you read it, though, I have to tell you all about it. Sometimes, I think that I’m better at intellectualizing poetry than writing it. Be that as it may, I enjoy understanding the ins and outs of verse, and I want the world to appreciate all the wonderful details, too.

First of all, I wrote this poem around a romantic line from the Song of Solomon that I had stuck in my head: I am my beloved’s, and he is mine. This is a chiasmic expression. That means that its two phrases mirror each other with a reversal of the noun/verb. I wanted to use this reversal to demonstrate the idea of ownership in love, that is, that it doesn’t belong to one, but to both the parties.

As for structure, it is written as a romance. This is actually a Spanish word and one of the oldest and most traditional forms of poetry in Spanish. In your head, roll it off your tongue, because it’s meant to be rolled. Each line of this type of verse has eight syllables; rhyme is assonance or rima asonante, otherwise known as half rhyme in English. The vowels will sound the same, but not the consonants. Lighthouse, for example, might rhyme with eyebrow. The rhymes fall on the even lines, and the odd lines have no distinguishable rhymes.

For my poem, I anglicized it by turning the eight syllables into iambic tetrameter and used exact rhymes. Oh, and, I wrote it in English. Next week, I’ll post one that I wrote in Spanish.

Here, read the poem, already. It’s not very long!

He makes his claim, and I am his,
turned russet, painted in a pear,
and lilies drooping on his bed.
What time keeps from us unaware,
he sets in linseed and pastels:
Ivonna standing near the lake
with apple leaves heaped at her feet,
the field where mountain asters quake
with me, Ivonna, trembling.
What time holds for us, he dispels
in Santa Juana’s corridors
with acolytes that ring her bells
and carry candles through her nave.
He sends me consecrated wine
until, through silence, I can speak:
Yes—I am his, but he is mine!