This poem is incomplete. I’ve been tossing this idea around for 3 months now and been itching to make a blog post about it for 2 months. The idea behind this poem is one that greatly excites me, but clearly this will be one of those projects that takes far more time to settle.
So I’ll present this ‘pre-alpha’ draft, and then I’ll make some comments on what this poem has to do with Hebrew poetry, Greek myth, Christian anthropology, and Anime Waifus!
Dallying dust cloud, adrift in wind,
Faring formlessly, flutters; scatters.
Ill-conceived image of lifeless ivory,
Formerly feminine, floats now hopeless.
Her face was fair, bright and unfeeling;
Her lips so lush got lifeless kisses;
Her cheeks cheerfully chiseled, unblushing;
Odes were rehearsed to unhearing ears.
Her figured fulfilled a private fancy:
Pygmalion molded this maiden of grey.
With heart hard as rock, he hated those girls
That charged him “Change! Share! Show charity!”
Swift currents swept his sweet words away,
Uttered to earthen ears, and his gifts
Of flowers grew pale, pedals faded,
Rings to rust yielded – misspent relics.
Formerly famed, he floats now hopeless,
His face grown pale, complexion faded.
He lingers alone, lifeless in mind,
A dallying dust cloud, adrift in wind.
While I generally prefer poems that are uplifting, this is a monitory tragedy. The subject is Pygmalion, which is a Greek myth about an uncultured Cockney girl who gets adopted by a linguistics professor…
My mistake, that’s the other one. Pygmalion is a craftsman who, displeased by the character of women around him, makes a statue of a woman to be the object of his affections. He falls in love with the statue, giving her all manner of gifts, and finally offers prayers and sacrifices to Venus that she might become real. Venus grants his request and Piggy and the Statch live happily ever after.
So, admitting my religious angle, this story makes me super uncomfortable. Judaeo-Christian tradition holds that God created humanity in his ‘image’ (a word carrying contested implications, but the statue analogy is relevant) and forbids devotion to derivative works made by human hands (aka ‘idols’), the logic being that Images of God (Humans) already exist and therefore we don’t need idols. Blah, blah, theology. Agree or disagree, this is what I’m thinking when I read the Pygmalion story.
(Coincidentally, earlier today I read Psalm 135 which says of idols, “They have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear… Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!” Cf. Psalm 115)
When the ideological arithmetic is all done, reworking Piggy and the Statch as a didactic tragedy is obvious. Where I really wanted to be clever was in execution. I had been reading a lot about biblical Hebrew poetry so it occurred to me that this would be a great time to try baby’s first chiams.
Chiasms are basically structures where a series of images, ideas, or words are reflected and ordered symmetrically out from the center. 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1; for example. Maybe butterfly wings are a good analogy, or you can google it. I wanted to go for something more modest. Show the ruined statue, tell the story, show the ruined man. The ruined statue matches the ruined man.
And of course I had to try writing it in anglo-saxon alliterative style because it’s. just. fun. Generally, the second of the two versets in the line only needs to throw in that third alliterating lift to complete the line. I’m enjoying trying to sneak rhyming vowel sounds into the second verset just for fun, but it occasionally makes for some contrived wordings.
As a current popular application, we might take a second to think carefully about the way we treat fictional characters. Including but not limited to Anime waifus.
This all, then, is the experiment. I’m not quite sure if I’m going to keep Pygmalion’s motive for rejecting real women as being that they would try to change him. I kinda like that the fear of one kind of transformation pushes him towards another, but maybe that’s making this project all too ambitious. I should also say that I’m sure there are more charitable readings of Pygmalion and that my experiment is admittedly born of gut-felt cynicism, but I still enjoy playing with these ideas if only as an exercise in trying to bring themes out of a story.