Category Archives: Jill Domschot

The Peregrine Three

Several years ago, my dad, artist A. Leon Miler, asked me to write a poem based on his image of a peregrine:

Because I had lost all my confidence in my ability to write poetry (not that I’d ever had any), I wrote numerous small poems about peregrines and never gave him any of them to use with his bird. Since then, I’ve found three of those peregrine poems. They aren’t great pieces of poetry, but they’re interesting. Take a gander–they’re short enough to hold most people’s attention span.

1:

His perch rests on the highest throne,
a raven wounded by the dart,
whose beak tears at the serpent tail.
He turns from flight to death to hell,
but Peregrine, he tears the heart,
then rises to his tower stone.

A counterpoint to Peregrine,
whose height and gravity and flight
will rein the wind in vacant skies,
in deserts etched with falcon eyes,
he draws his story in the night:
the swan and eagle light his screen.

His lights are visible from earth,
where truth is history’s weight to bear.
His wings flash brilliantly, then dim
and fall below horizon’s rim.
Yet, Peregrine, he rules the air
by snatching those who sing his worth.

2:

He snatches song birds from the air,
the bloody peregrine;
he chants his song on top his throne,
the chiding peregrine;
he gathers movement with his eyes
and rides the air between
the sky and earth and stone, tall tower,
such cunning, peregrine.

3:

The fields are orange—the world’s on fire,
And songbirds flee the acres at break-neck.
They search the river in ribbons of sand—
in glimmers of light—they search for water.
With aching and sorrow in silent currents,
Peregrine snatches the songbirds in flight.

The fields are orange, the world’s on fire,
the chollas are blazing with yellow light,
and Peregrine rises to his tower,
chiding his song, his goodness—the liar,
night from day and spirit from song,
scorching the fields until darkness is fire.

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Mary Leapor, Poem and Perspective**

Several years ago, I wrote a poem about Mary Leapor (I’ll paste it to the end of this post).  I don’t expect anyone to gasp at this news.  It isn’t a particularly stellar poem, nor is it unusual for me to attempt such literary feats.  I have written poems about other historical characters.  Recently, however, I felt inspired to dig out the Leapor poem and post it on Eratosphere.  For those unaware, Eratosphere is a site in which the modern day heavyweights of metrical poetry mingle.  I’m not a heavyweight, but that’s all right–anyone who is serious about poetry, and who has a backbone, may post a poem.  The critiques can be brutal, so I was pleasantly surprised that several people really appreciated my Leapor poem. 

One critique, however, had me wondering about the nature of feminism.  To start with, the woman claimed my poem had inspired her to read about Mary Leapor.  That’s a good thing, I think.  Then, she asked me why I hadn’t focused a little more on Leapor’s feminist views, due to the highly irregular nature of such thinking in Leapor’s time.  I scratched my head.  Were feminist views really all that uncommon prior to Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman?

Sometimes, my brain rolls along like an unfolding scroll with snippets of things read, but this scroll is like the Dead Sea texts–old and damaged (the scroll is, not me!).  I don’t want to do any name-dropping, so please believe me when I insist that there are many literary and intellectual women from the 17th and 18th centuries who preceded Wollstonecraft.  Mary Leapor is but one who dropped into the world for twenty-four short years and managed, in that time, to leave a wealth of verse that includes these: “Yet, with ten thousand Follies to her Charge, / Unhappy Woman’s but a Slave at large (This, I believe, is from her poem, An Essay on Woman).”

Am I to believe that feminist women of the ilk of Leapor sprung on the scene suddenly, as if they emerged from the great deep in response to God’s voice: Let there be light, and there was?  Surely, that can’t be the truth.  People–of both sexes–have been known to rise against their oppressors throughout all epochs of history.  The fact is, though, that we want to cram the idea of feminisism into one definition–a modern one.  In the past, European women of a feminist slant attempted to reconcile their Christian beliefs with their desire for autonomy and independence.  It could be a quandary, but not necessarily.  Living under various authority figures doesn’t negate the passion of the individual.

Mary Leapor was a servant.  Some would say she wasn’t a good servant, but she was one, none the less.  Within the confines of her life, she still managed to read copiously and scribble out heroic couplets.  For my poem, I focused on her servitude because it’s the basic position that all people find themselves in: male or female, slave or free.

Here’s my blank verse poem, with its lines of trochaic pentameter:

The Short, Sad Life of Mary Leapor

Mary is a watcher without windows,
and I hear that under her disguises
hides a maid that stirs pea soup for servants
in the kitchen with the melted candles.
Who is like you, little Mira-Mary?
Turn the meat; don’t scribble in the shadows,
waiting for Cordia’s greasy clutches.
Stir the pot and stop your constant dreaming!
Out the door with nothing but your verses,
run from her, and leave behind her curses!

Mary runs to Brackley, hiding rashes
where her cap strings meet her woolen layers.
In her broken hands she clutches volumes,
wilted papers streaked with new pastorals.
Who has taught the serving girl her letters?
Better—who has led her to the pastures?
Pope and Swift together could not couple
thoughtful lines like you, my Mira-Mary.
When it’s morning, tend your father’s garden;
in the night, accept his wine and pardon.

Mary faints.  She falls by sparking embers;
spots are blazing on her pearly brow bone,
as adornment for her plain complexion,
beauty without gold, nor paint for blushes.
Mary, blind now, where are all your letters?
From your drowsy fever-words, drop riches
never heard from spinster serving ladies
sick at twenty-four with Peter waiting
at the gate–his ear to your oration,
kneeling down with words of your salvation.


**I originally wrote this post for The Female Quixote in the summer of 2009. I haven’t written poetry in years and, consequently, haven’t been over to Eratosphere for several years, either. If you’re interested in checking out a thriving poetry site, this is it: http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/.

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Shameless Self-Promotion!

I have no flash fiction today. Next week, I will post a new story. I thought I’d do a little shameless self-promotion instead. I’ve slowly been working on an author website . The site now has an author bio, the first five pages of my novel, and three art/poetry cards for sale. The cards are composed of my dad’s artwork together with my poetry, which, I have proclaimed before, is a winning combination. Jump over there and take a peek.

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After the Flood

Here is an example of how my dad’s artwork–in this case a watercolor–transforms my poetry into something magical. It isn’t that the poem is awful; it’s just that it has rather obvious rhymes. Actually, it’s a song and needs music, in addition to the painting. I’ll have to work on the music bit.

The star tree spreads its branches over fish,
whose dreams are difficult to catch with bait,
or webs and pennies tossed out on a wish
that slip from human hands to heaven’s gate.

Bow down the branches, shake the starry fruits;
the fish will pause and rise to taste the air.
Lean in the water, grasping at the roots,
then bait your bucket with a song and prayer.

The fish you catch will disappear from sight;
the river’s own will snatch your music’s cheer,
then fill your dreams with bucketfuls of night,
of stars and fish lost in the atmosphere.

Then bait your bucket with a song and prayer,
of stars and fish lost in the atmosphere,
that slip from human hands to heaven’s gate,
that slip from human hands to heaven’s gate.

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