This is a great exercise to defeat writer’s block. Take lines or groups of lines (selected at random or purposefully) from two different texts and combine them in a poem. What’s fun about this is that each text (especially two very different sorts of books) begins speaking in the cadence of the other and correspondences are revealed between music and also subject.
For this poem, I combined lines and whole stanzas/paragraphs from Roman poet/philosopher Lucretius’ poem “On the Nature of Things (circa 1st century B.C.) and a 1975 book by George A. Llano called “Sharks: Attacks on Man.” I loved seeing how these two books spoke to one another—Lucretius discussing the nature of the soul and the body, Llano recounting the sometimes gruesome and terrifying accounts of shark attacks. There’s a tension I found between the fear of death and an attempt to understand the nature of existence thereby extinguishing that universal dread. Here is a longish excerpt of my “poem”:
All the wounds were full of sand.
The rest of the soul dispersed through all the body
Half moon incisions, leaving the bones exposed
Are we to say that the soul resides complete in each of the pieces?
I dove from the wharf and headed out into the sound.
There was a constant cloud of minnows
Earth, and sea and sky and life in all its forms
From a shark’s point of view all humans must look like dreadful swimmers.
I don’t know if it was a fin or a tail.
I knew it was some kind of fish.
But things are made of atoms; they are stable
until some force comes, hits them hard, and splits them.
I saw the shark throw the woman out of the water and then I saw it grab her again.
I’ve shown that things cannot be made
from nothing, nor, once made, be brought to nothing….
The shark let go disappearing in a cloud of blood.
“Let me die, let me die, I am finished,” she said on the beach.
Words pass through walls and slip past lock and key,
And numbing cold seeps to our very bones.
The reports of men adrift at sea
imitating liquid notes of birds
little by little the men learned
As it was a moonlit night, and during some moments very clear, I was able to observe that strange figures crossed very close to us..until at a given moment I felt they were trying to take away the corpse, pulling it by the feet…I clutched desperately the body of my companion and with him we slid…
For if in death it’s painful to be mauled
and bitten by beasts, why would it be less cruel
to be laid on a pyre and roast in searing flames
or to be put to smother in honey, or grow stiff
with cold atop a slab of icy stone
or be squeezed and crushed beneath a load of earth?
When the body and soul have been divorced
then nothing whatever to us, who shall not be
Keep close to your companions.
Swim smoothly in retreating.
Keep your eye on the shark.
This is absolutely amazing. I love it.
It was so much fun to write. I am glad you liked it! I want to try some other experiments soon & hope to post them here!
I come back to this poem from time to time. It’s so haunting …
Thanks so much!