03 October 2012

Inspiration : Beldam

Thalestris, Queen of the Amazons visits Alexander.
Beldam 9/25/09

This was the first poem-a-day poem. As with all the poems, the word came first.

'Beldam' is an old-English word for witch or hag. It is implied the woman in question is ugly.

At the time my family was facing a lot of death. My aunt had recently died from breast cancer. My father's mother had died suddenly from cancer and my mother's mother was diagnosed with lymphoma. She would die fairly soon after.

With all that around me I was thinking about what makes an ugly woman. I thought of the Amazons and their practice of removing the left breast for archery purposes. In our society women who are left breast-less are viewed as weak, less than. My aunt had a double mastectomy. To rebuild her breasts they did a procedure where they use a flap of skin from the stomach and stretch it up and then use the muscle to build. She was left nipple-less and belly button-less.

Each amazonian breast
placed in a vat of honey
soaks until golden

I wanted the image to be empowering. Enshrining that lost part of the body in gold.

Artists interpretation of 'Mellified Man'
Honey is naturally antiseptic and antibacterial. In Burma there are priests that bury their chief abbots in coffins of honey. There is the myth of the Mellified Man. An older member of the community agrees to the process. They abandon all food and water for only consuming honey. After awhile this diet would prove fatal. The body is then suspended in a coffin of honey for up to 100 years then the 'mellified' body is taken and sold as a confection to ward against ailment.

is spooned like cow tongues
onto a waiting child's mouth

That confection is both sweet and terrible. Our own genes cause us to self-destruct. We remove the bad parts, but what happens to them? We still pass on those genes to the next generation. The idea that what we take into us becomes a part of us is as old as man.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and he that loves it will eat from its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

Endocannibalism is the eating of a member of the tribe. There are many reasons that people did this. Most are based around the idea that the dead person's soul will enter the living who consume the body. There is a belief that the experiences and power of the dead will be absorbed by the living.

The consumption of the honeyed body is the ultimate metaphor of gene-passing. Of knowledge. And the good and bad that come with it. Cannibalism is linked to all sorts of diseases. A mad-cow like disease called kuru occurs in the tribes of Papua New Guinea. The disease has been traced back to one individual who was consumed at death.

we empty
into each other

Inspiration is a try at exploring my own work in a thoughtful way. A book report on me.

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