Friday, April 21, 2017

National Poetry Month: David Rattray

"A red-framed print of the Summer Palace"
(David Rattray)

My mother died in her bed
one balmy night in May, 1974;
my hair wasn't yet gray.
At the head of the bed
was a red-framed print
of the Summer Palace near Peking
in salmon pink and tea green
over a lake with a little stream launch
and a bridge
to an island in the foreground.
She'd been there as a girl
and for 50 years later
dreamt of it
only to awake
in tears at not returning
to the summer palace of youth.
In her will she left me the picture --
it's on my study wall.
Last year a Sinologist came by, and I learned 
the bridge   
is incorrectly rendered.
There are in fact
17 arches, not 14 as shown.
Also, there are errors in perspective
and the Chinese writing in the clouds
over the lake
is cut and dried description, 
not the poetry I'd hoped.

"A red-framed print of the Summer Palace" by David Rattray (1958-1993) appeared in Sulfur #3, 1982. His translations included work by the 20th-century French writers Antonin Artaud and Rene Crevel; he published a book of collected stories and essays, How I Became One of the Invisible and a poetry collection, Opening the Eyelid (1990). He died unexpectedly of a brain tumor at the age of 57. (Photo of David Rattray by Ira Cohen.)

No comments: