Poem from An Imaginary Menagerie – a calendar-sequence based on names given to full moons by various Native American people
JUNE: Flower Moon (San Ildefonso)
Beneath the Flower Moon the Phoenix rises.
From the dust of winter’s ashes, from the clay?
A miracle as old as Lazarus, Persephone;
or a flaring flower of a dried-out cactus.
The Phoenix has a handy device
above his counterpart amalgamates,
the Griffin, the Dragon, the cockatrice,
the Gryphon, the Quagga, the Wyvern, the Minotaur,
Thylacine the Tasmanian Wolf et al: ice
couldn’t preserve the Unicorn with its spiral horn,
yet the Phoenix, tried seven times in the fire,
continues, continues, continues to rise.
Surely these pieces are purely inventions
played out as if on some chequered board
according to systems of human convention –
abstraction and emotion hold little regard
for the laws of nature, reality, fact nor fiction.
Attempting to ape the animals we re-create Eden,
design a warped Utopia, Atlantis or Shangri-La:
weird combinations, grafted vines or paper roses,
genetically modified, cloned sheep, test-tube mice,
imaged, molded or morphed like a child’s cartoon;
plasticine, proven dough, clay corrupted and fired.
We cannot be foxier than the fox; the proud
Heraldic Lion is rampantly so (two legs good,
the stubborn symbols, angry defensive arrogance.)
Yet we learn the basic rules, throw the dice,
compose our own music to join in the dance.
The Wolf lies down with the Lamb, the Cow and Bear,
the Leopard and Kid, Lion and Calf and all the Brer
Creatures: cannot all of them jump over the moon?
How can the Infant jump over the Cockatrice nest?
Because it is not written, but invented; allowed to rise,
the Phoenix will follow the cycle of bloom:
flowering, fruiting, decomposed, rotted and hewn
to be cast onto Autumn’s conspiratorial pyre,
only to put, once again, its septennial trick to the test.
One thing is sure: come hell or high water, fair wind
or foul, high noon, full moon, November or June,
When the last red man shall have perished, and the
memory of my tribe become a myth among white men –
on reflection, nothing but a change of worlds – the
Phoenix will flourish long after its author’s demise.
Copyright © J.A. Sutherland 2014
J. A. Sutherland is an emerging poet, active on the Edinburgh spoken word scene. Poems explore anything from phone-boxes to unrequited love, and the dark complexities of the imagination. Sutherland also writes drama, short-stories, novels and blogs: throughtheturretwindow.blogspot.com