Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Of Henna Night, Being An Account Of The Ritual Re-Creation Of The First Bell

Sympathizing with an experiment, we yet need not venerate the result.

--Marianne Moore, The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore (Penguin, 1987), p. 586

For Marianne Levenstein Annur

[This poem arrived literally out of a shoe box. Experimenting with cut-up poetic technique as propounded by William Burroughs, in the mid-1970's in my little cabin on Huckleberry Mountain in the North Carolina mountains I cut up phrases from several dreams I'd had along with xeroxed (photo copied) essays from an encyclopedia on the history of bells and bell making, and one on the rituals and traditions of Henna night in Islamic countries. My choices of essays were random. I just opened the encyclopedia and these were the essays I opened to. I cut up phrases from each, added them to the shoe box along with my dream fragments, and thoroughly shaken (not stirred) pulled out phrase by phrase what became this poem. This was my most successful attempt of many with this technique. What I found was that, especially when seized up in writer's block, the 'accidental' or chance juxtaposition of images, phrases, caesuras in content, contexts and voicings along with disparity of logical connection between topics (bells, metalurgy, Henna rituals for women, wedding nights, sexual attraction and consumation) sometimes created not only astonishing images and poetry but re-tuned my own consciousness to function in this non-linear associative way as a poet and now, importantly, in my creative work as a psychotherapeutic counselor with others. I recommend this technique for all poets or aspiring poets for much is to be learned with perhaps the greatest discovery being that there is another Mind/Hand/Source involved in the craft of poetry, of all writing, guiding the quotidian course of our lives, paying attention first and foremost with a willingness to leave known territory while not devaluing that territory at all. Immediate and tangible foundations are supported by unseen and assumed greater, deeper, older and stronger ones. From this rich arche-techtonic structure, hold and mold our lives and our creativity rise.]

I will tell you of Fatima.

She is the bell,
The tintinabulum,
The veil and the will.

Then take me to her.
You can have the tapestry of streets,
The bowls of tint.
Shade the surface black
And she will emerge
The river,
The bead upon the throat,
The bread swelling,
Lifting up,
The Fertile Crescent...


Between the breasts and
Most of the moving parts
While she crossed the threshold
She was quite badly torn

Fatima had clusters
Mounted solidly of bronze

She said it hurt terribly


Fatima opened her dark eyes

...If they were with the tide
From top to lip...

She escorted me to an inner room
Where was an intricate carillon music
It is the inevitable accompaniment
She said pointing below
Come in here, my little eye
I did where she remembered, ululating
With plump cushions where it rotates
Of the tintinabulum
A change of waist
Iron or steel bars
To the edge of the lip

At the advent
I nibbled salted melon seeds
For this is the Lailet el Henna


In the towers are the reproducers

Within the clean bronze
Their walls were stood
Ready to receive her
And later became all
Of the intricate trills

She pushed her way through
The pivot points
A deep lactation
In the most ravishing shades

Simulate the Pleiades
The rich magenta

Running water is much the best
Whether she wept as she then drew out
Watering the date gardens

She stepped over warm spurting blood

You should have heard her cry
'Ya Ali' and her loud hell-hella


A sheep was slaughtered

The physical vibrating movements
For anything tinkling
On the palms and the fingernails
At the point of clapper impact

And on the pillow
She drew out
For the rhythmic accompaniment
And then put it while it was hot
Up inside

A folded piece of bread


What did she vow at the Saint's tomb?


The Henna Night was celebrated

Metal was added to the lip
Placenta and puella runs
And full harmony that are familiar to lovers

Before Fatima's face
A knife had been placed
Between the upper and
Lower big sprigs of myrtle

The waist almost became
Through the flattening of the crown
Similarly beautiful
And took out of the outside skin
Alone in thousands of towers
Between legs
A tiny triangle where several seams met
Variations in the walls thickness
When the bride's hands were hennaed
Had very slow pains
Prayers were said while the metal was
Poured into the molds
An opaque black veil over
The bells of Nimrud

This thickening of the lip
Straight and pot like
To the chanting
Gave it rhythm and balance


Fatima was propped up on pillows
On her big bed
She had a large round silver box
Heavily embossed
The shape of the bell
The same thickness
A push button that rings arpeggios

Carelessly she pulled out
Before I went into
...Joining in refrains...
Into the modern bell
Recast it for tuning again
Thick and ornamented with gold
Paint and Flowers
As it unfolded her pains
Delicately through the dark and silent
Just as the rope that swings
Scarely noticed


Did you have a hard time of it, Fatima?


The large brass bedstead

Lighted candles

Their walls were
All primitive forms
Although she put on the veil
A delight to the senses


Mohammad came
As fast as the
Vibrating bars that
Generate blows
I kept on my ornaments
I rubbed her abdomen with a knife
Tore in two a flap of bread
Pink gauze curtains

Wheat and salt were scattered
None has been found
Fatima had donned the veil

Iron, steel, gold
Silver, zinc and lead
Which is formed by the squaring
Of the shoulders

Small bells began
Were shortened
Reduced the muscular effort
Needed to swing...


And then went in to his bride
With mounds of henna paste
All from silver containers

Plus hundreds of single bells and peals
A time indicator
Anything set with precious stones
I put this on his navel
All with small finger loops on top

The idea of the clapper
To fall back into position
To crack
The thickness of the lip


A call to worship was lost
When rings were cast around
The hinges and locks
The soles of her feet
A beehive in shape
Close to the vibrating
Enveloped in a black coat

And my dear whispered
It must be completely consumed
Must be in the open
From the top

There bury it face up
With votive rags
Of the Tigris and Euphrates
The opal and the navel

Watched with deep
Or Henna Night


The only remedy is to melt it down

Fatima to me as she lifted the heavy lid

A naked sword was laid
Came into being

As a warning signal
There would be a loud burst of
The piercing, high pitched
Trilling ululation
Into tiny handle-less cups

A deep lactation
Fatima's milk

The gradually inward sloping sides

Fatima to me as she lifted the heavy box


It is the Henna Night


It is the parting of veils

She pointed downward,

Disrobing in the darkness,

The lantern light of the street

Rubbing against her

Fatima to me as she lifted the heavy box

...To dip your fingers in seven colors...

Fatima opened her dark eyes

Fatima to me

She lifted it up

The heavy hennaed night ringing


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