A Fool’s Gift

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Holy Fool Surrounded by Pilgrims (1872) by Vasily Perov

You delight in tales,
not history or achievements,
in parables ancient and abstract.
Your ways are bloodless.

Fearing nothing but God
and your own human heart,
you are no mere jester,
no sophisticated mime,
or vulgar clown.

The face of a fool is intimate,
not subtle, not philosophical.
You are gifted, though, and deft
at unraveling mystery and depth,
at exchanging rhetoric for art.

{This poem was inspired by the dVerse prompt which asks us to:

Write a poem using the word clown or a word – real or created – with clown as the root.

I am not at all a fan of clowns. I find them quite frightening.

Some poets decided to go the horror route with this prompt. Some went political. (Clowns and politicians just go hand in hand don’t they?)

Mine went a different direction. The Fool fits loosely under the clown category. I have always been intrigued by the archetype of the Fool, and in particular the Holy Fool.

There are many representations of the Fool throughout literature. Shakespeare’s plays feature these types of characters. There’s a Fool card in the tarot. And of course there were many saints who were honored with the title within the Eastern Orthodox Church. (In the Western Church we have St. Francis of Assisi as an example.)

The Holy Fool was known to do outrageous (and occasionally humorous) acts. Many had colorful or controversial pasts.

The concept of the Holy Fool is based, in part, on scriptures such as:

God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Here are a two great reads on the subject:

The Holy Fool (at Image Journal)

St. Simeon the Holy Fool (at Ship of Fools)

There are so many manifestations of the Fool. It’s a fascinating subject.}

The Stone Tree

My naked feet pressed the wet blades flat and smooth. Grass is always coldest in the shadow of the Stone Tree. I dreamt about her. Mother told us that anyone who cut that tree would find a treasure inside.

Last night I was a sparrow circling above the forest. I caught a bright flash of white and silver like starlight. I knew I could find that place again in the morning.

After lessons, I drew a picture of her. Her bright limbs reaching for me through thick gray clouds. I wept because I could never be certain that those arms would be able to reach me here in the darkest part of the world.

When I found her, I lay down in the soft moss beside her and slept.

These memories were left here with the trees.

{Some short fiction for the dVerse Prosery prompt. 

It’s meant to encourage poetry writers to try some fiction.  I don’t think fiction is my cup of tea, but the prompts are meant to expand our creativity by taking us outside of our comfort zones.

This prompt asked us to incorporate a line of poetry: “These memories were left here with the trees.” It is taken from a poem by the new US poet laureate, Joy Harjo. Her complete poem is here.

You are only given a few days to write it. Most people write theirs on the first day of the prompt! I like to revise what I write a few times before I post… and after I post… and three years later… I am always revising what I write. I see what’s missing and I add it (or not), especially with fiction.

Poetry is a little different. Because a poem is such a small piece of writing, I usually get the sense that it is complete.  

To be honest, I am certain that I am a poet, not a fiction writer. But these short fiction prompts can be fun to try, and maybe they will help me to develop as a poet too.

I got the idea for the piece of fiction above from a poem I wrote the other day. The prompt asked us to write in prose, so I turned my poem into a piece of short fiction.

I think the poem I wrote also deserves to see the light of day… so I will share it:

The Stone Tree

It’s been so long.
My insides,
like the trees
of ancient times,
are petrified.

I can count
ring upon ring
upon ring,
of gold, but I
am not that old.

No spirit will call
my bone white branches home,
or chew my silver leaves
When I weep, even
when I sigh,

always the smallest,
nearest creatures die,
and, unlike my evergreen
memory, decompose.

Healed

A child is standing in a gilded church
staring at the backs of strangers
all crowded together
in heavy winter coats,
hands by their sides,
until they make the sign of peace.

She silently mouths the words
to the hymn she knows by heart,
but is too shy to sing aloud–
We hold a treasure, not made of gold…
She is thinking about school,
about a girl in her class
with bright, orange-gold hair.

“It’s red, not orange!” the girl snaps,
and shows off her new necklace
from Hawaii. And the child wonders
why she can’t have hair like that–
like the color of volcanic fire.
Why is her own hair so brown?

The voice behind her is a tenor.
The priest is wearing purple–
the color of royalty.
The gold felt banner by the altar reads: Celebrate!
Her hair is brown like the pews,
like the soft, leather kneelers.

Earthen vessels…She mouths the words.
Her hair is the color of earth,
the color of the ceramic jug
in the corner of the basement
covered with dust and daddy long legs.
Wealth untold…the hymn says.

“I am not worthy,” speaks the congregation in unison.
And for one moment, the child feels worthy.
Because none are worthy.
And she joins in this time, on cue,
“But only say the word…
and I shall be healed.”

[Communion, from The Hours of Catherine Cleves]
{Linking to dVerse for open link night. The final words of this (autobiographical) poem are a bit strange, unless you’re a Catholic. Here is a good explanation. Here is a link to the hymn, Earthen Vessels: https://youtu.be/IAZhIw49ULc }