Thursday, December 3, 2015

Richard Jones: "Rapture"

a bedtime story, after Tolstoy

In the desert, a traveler
returning to his family
is surprised
by a wild beast.

To save himself
from the fierce animal,
he leaps into a deep well
empty of water.

But at the bottom
is a dragon, waiting
with open mouth
to devour him.

The unhappy man,
not daring to go out
lest he should be
the prey of the beast,

not daring to jump
to the bottom
lest he should be
devoured by the dragon,

clings to the branch
of a bush growing
in the cracks of the well.
Hanging upon the bough,

he feels his hands
weaken, yet still
he clings, afraid
of his certain fate.

Then he sees two mice,
one white, the other black,
moving about the bush,
gnawing the roots.

The traveler sees this
and knows that he must
inevitably perish, that he will
never see his sons again.

But while thus hanging
he looks about and sees
on the leaves of the bush
some drops of honey.

These leaves
he reaches with his tongue
and licks the honey off,
with rapture.

"Rapture" by Richard Jones. Text as published in The Blessing: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2000).

Art credit: "Honey dripping from nest of Giant honey bee (Apis dorsata binghami)," photograph taken in Indonesia by Nature Picture Library.

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  1. Does the poem give you a feeling? Mine is one of horror made more so by the last stanza. It reminds me of a dream I had decades ago, after my parakeet was eaten by my cat. In the dream Ringo, terrified, had lain his head against Tiger's shoulder for comfort, knowing that the inevitable was near. The dream was more disturbing than the murder.

    1. My, different readers, different experiences of the same poem! I'm so sorry you found this poem horrifying, and disturbing.

    2. I loved it and have saved it to my favorites! To me, poetry doesn't have to be soothing and pretty, but is successful if it inspires a strong feeling.

    3. Interesting. Thank you for elaborating!

  2. i like your blog. I need to say that this poem is a straight copy of an ancient buddhist tale " The tiger and the strawberry". It's not his thought. I don't know if he acknowledges it, but... pretty disturbing if he's passing this off as his. He just changed the wording. In the original it's usually a cliff, the person is hanging from with the tigers chasing him above and jagged rocks below. mice come out to eat the branch he's hanging from and he sees a delicious berry in the branch and eats it.


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