From an Unfinished Canto

I think the epic (or at least metered narrative verse) is still a viable literary genre, so I decided to try my hand at it. Below is a fragment of a canto. I am curious whether people think I should bother going on with it, or whether the writing is awkward and trite (as I think it probably is). Let me know. Thanks.

. . . While driving once to an unimportant place
With lovely speed, devouring miles of space,
I passed a child traipsing through a field
Barefooted, filthy and holding a peeled
Orange. The crows unhappily gave him way.
I almost pressed the brake, but not to stay
And help. I could do nothing for the boy.
Besides, I’m only concerned with my own joys:
And I also hate insipid charity:
Better still if he could give something to me.
Instead, boredom — that old despised itch —
Had for some time unseamed me, stitch by stitch;
And something in this scene of sky and grass
Glimpsed from my cruising stage of steel and glass
While on my way to study, spend or earn
(Drawing from or pouring into the cistern
A sulphurous and anxious sort of living),
Made me focus more on getting than giving.
That is to say, I saw no reason why
I should not stop my car and go and lie
In that same field and fuck off all engagements
And let them find for me some daft replacement
While I dissolved into the countryside,
Subsisting raping orchards, then subside
Into a rarefied fission and be gone.
I clearly saw the iron of my prison.

The snare was sprung — I gobbled its appeal:
No one knows angst who knows that his next meal
Is a certain matter of uncertainty.
This logic seemed unshakable to me.
Who was the genius demon that decreed
Our minds were made to satisfy a need
We can’t identify? What is the worm
That, once we think a thing complete, will squirm
And spoil our good conscience with thoughts of progress.
“Don’t stop!” it shrieks, “I see true happiness
Glowing just beyond the next hill’s low crest.”
And the old devil dies laughing at this jest . . .

I thought upon the boy I had just seen
Vanishing in the world of blue and green
And wondered. Would the pleasure be much less
Between filched food and an inspired guess?

In my mind’s eye I watched the ragged child
Inching close to where the farmer piled
The fruits not yet displayed upon the stand.
Bright citrus: lemons and limes. But his hand
Wanted — like the black flies — the ripe blood orange.
He plucked his prize and soon was out of range
To hear the fellow cry out about trying
To make a living, too. And flying, flying
On down the road and through a fence, he lit
Across the field (I saw him there) to sit
Beneath a shady oak and celebrate
His win. And if this is where the exploit
Ends, well then what sweeter end could ambition
Gain than sweet juice dribbling from mouth to chin
And sun, satisfaction and afternoon? . . .


~ by Peter on February 13, 2008.

One Response to “From an Unfinished Canto”

  1. Cool. The origins of poetry and poetic technique, rhythm and rhyme to assist in memory, retelling important events, preserving cultural identifiers. This is a cool narrative poem, detailed descriptions, a good job of a very tricky and challenging form.

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