Ron Smith

The Ancrene Wisse

 

The introduction of a person’s hand

                              into your cell is a penetration.     

      You may not cross your legs, affect

                  a lisp, arch your eyebrows

with moistened fingers. You may own

            no glove. You must seek permission

                        to wear a belt made of hair or iron 

      or hedgehog skins. You may not flog yourself

                  with these things, nor may you

bloody yourself, nor sting yourself with nettles.

                  Do not strike the front of your body,

                              nor lacerate your flesh in any way.

            All tortures are treats to be rationed,

            permissible only with authorization.

 

 

[Author’s note: The Ancrene Wisse is a “Guide for Anchoresses.” This poem is

inspired by (and partly extracted from) Mary Wellesley’s “This place is a pryson,”

a review of the book Hermits & Anchorites in England, 1200-1550, ed. by E.A. Jones.

I found Wellesley’s review in The London Review of Books, 23 May 2019, pp. 3-6.]

 

 

 

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On Translation

 

The gap

between word and world is

unbridgeable.

 

The gap

between word and word is

unbridgeable.

 

Go ahead, poet: Take the leap.

 

 

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Ron Smith, 616 Maple Ave., Richmond, VA 23226, U.S.A     Tele: (804) 380-5995      Email: smithjron@aol.com

 

What Walks on Four Legs

in the Morning, Reclines

on Two Elbows at Evening,

and Snores Away the Next Day?

 

            Two men with bouncing

pole bending with double-handed wine, 

      two hands each for the rod,

            two shoulders (total) chafing,

      dry tongues yearning to lift the cups

their masters will drain,

                        and they, if only in

            imagination, will siphon off

      a fair share of (quiet) frenzy, nothing

Dionysus would begrudge them, as

                  two friends become one

(in oblivion) empty vessel of smiling sleep. 

 

 

 

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Discuss: How Is Tonight’s Symposium

Like Homer’s Iliad?

 

            Rage? We feel no Achillean rage 

as we recline here amid swarming

      witticisms, sipping (gulping?) 

                  our host’s excellent wine. So far

      Calistos remains somewhat sober,

and none of us have smashed any crockery,

                        not even Herodion,

            our customary breaker of painted horses. 

 

 [NOTE: The poems on this page were commissioned by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a

  reading accompanying the exhibition “The Horse in Ancient Greek Art,” February 2018]

 

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