The following poem is based on an old photograph taken somewhere in Connemara, Ireland about 1900. It shows a group of schoolboys posing outside their one-room schoolhouse with the younger ones dressed in skirts—“to disguise themselves from the fairies."

Five parts of this poem were published in 1992 in The Kenyon  Review.  World events brought Christopher Woodman back to its themes a few years ago, the result being three new sections and a shift in focus.

The poem has become an important element in an unpublished book called La Croix Ma Fille, and is still in development. What was originally the unpublished Part VII, for example, "Why Up So Late on the Village Green Then, Pietà, After All Those Flags, the Honor?" has now been expanded to 120 lines in itself. Not only is it one of Christopher Woodman's most recent projects but one which, he says, most defines him as a civic being as well as a poet.
 

 

 
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Homepage

Address:
Christopher Woodman

P.O.Box 427

2495 North Fish Creek Rd

Wilson,

Wyoming 83014

U.S.A.

&

93 Moo 12

Tawangtan, Saraphi,

Chiang Mai 50140,

Thailand

 

telephone:

(307) 733.0410 (U.S.)
(66) 53.817.362 Thailand

(66) 81.885.1429    "


e-mail:
christopher@homprang.com


website:
 
www.homprang.com


for a bit of his prose:
cowpattyhammer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Page

Homepage

Address:
Christopher Woodman

P.O.Box 427

2495 North Fish Creek Rd

Wilson,

Wyoming 83014

U.S.A.

&

93 Moo 12

Tawangtan, Saraphi,

Chiang Mai 50140,

Thailand

 

telephone:

(307) 733.0410 (U.S.)
(66) 53.817.362 Thailand

(66) 81.885.1429    "


e-mail:
christopher@homprang.com


website:
 
www.homprang.com


for a bit of his prose:
cowpattyhammer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Page

Homepage

Address:
Christopher Woodman

P.O.Box 427

2495 North Fish Creek Rd

Wilson,

Wyoming 83014

U.S.A.

&

93 Moo 12

Tawangtan, Saraphi,

Chiang Mai 50140,

Thailand

 

telephone:

(307) 733.0410 (U.S.)
(66) 53.817.362 Thailand

(66) 81.885.1429    "


e-mail:
christopher@homprang.com


website:
 
www.homprang.com


for a bit of his prose:
cowpattyhammer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previous Page

Homepage

Address:
Christopher Woodman

P.O.Box 427

2495 North Fish Creek Rd

Wilson,

Wyoming 83014

U.S.A.

&

93 Moo 12

Tawangtan, Saraphi,

Chiang Mai 50140,

Thailand

 

telephone:

(307) 733.0410 (U.S.)
(66) 53.817.362 Thailand

(66) 81.885.1429    "


e-mail:
christopher@homprang.com


website:
 
www.homprang.com


for a bit of his prose:
cowpattyhammer.com

 

 

 

 

 

Homepage

Previous Page

 

     CONNEMARA TROUSERS

       A POEM IN SEVEN MASKS
       AND AN ELEGY

For the men in western Ireland who 
as boys wore skirts to disguise
them from the Fairies.

And for all other men and women who,
having survived the same passage,
still believe in it.

 

      I.  Inventing the Skirt

See how the female fingers run
swiftly down the inside edge
opening the seam which once
defined each
                      thigh.

So freed the heavy fabric
peels back and heals,
melding round into a bell,
devolving back into
                                  a skirt.

The old rubbed contours empty out,
the old distractions bleach flat,
only the slight discolorations tell
of flights and feuds and falling down
                                                              the stairs.

Even the fly reduces to
a mere appendix healthy
in its cool unpenetrated calm,
a pocket placed beyond the reach
                                                         of hands.

And watch the hem too how it cuts
each ankle off at the root
to build a base, shoveling in to raise
the sweet hill, the sacred
                                         citadel.

The wrecked stance strides no more
but glides water-fueled along
the valley floor, the black soil
rich in flood-gate weirs
                                       and quays.

Is all this new flesh
dunes blown full
or green rock welling up
to fill the muscle
                            rifts?

Is this a healing back
to a time before
or the opening up
of a fresh
                wound?

 

        II.  In the Courtyard, Blooming

Wrapped so around
who needs
                  light?

So let's unlace the lips
that bind the gates
within this fold
and squat to cradle
                                 here--

Let's span the root-pale
fists that push and pulse,
the ancient day-old lips
that murmur floods and lap
and lap even to the ark,
to the planks and out
to the water-line moat
beyond which all events
are red-faced members
forcing in the flower
                                  beds--

And still our shutters
leaning, louvres half-open
even to the warm night
                                        within.

Who could but draw
the knees up
and hold the
                      breath?

Perhaps tomorrow morning
we can plant more hedges,
edge the paths and hem
the limits of this
                            labyrinth.

 

       III.  Reasons for Hiding

What curse compels this womb
to breed even when its sons
escape only to fling their banners
at the sun and crash back
spread-eagled on the hearth
amidst the broken
                               glass?

Who could have
the courage to
embrace again
such sharp
                  seed?

 

 

       IV.  The Disguise

Then what are daughters for if not to cover
                                                                        sons?

 

       V.  Wearing the Skirt

And who would ever dare
to broach the secret of
those gawky boys standing
barefoot in the cobbled yard
                                                in skirts?

See how they squint back
at the hunchbacked figure
draped in crêpe who still
can photograph beneath
                                          that shroud.

How patched they are,
how sewn around and hemmed,
disguised in folds and fans
even to the chilblained
                                      ground.

Is it that their genitals
are not yet gnarled and
dark enough to frighten off
the garden thoughts of
                                      girls?

Or do their mothers shut
their eyes and let them be until
the hard itch can separate
their legs and make them
                                           slouch?

And who comes running then
with scissors and the thread
but the ruined fathers
to tailor out their falling
                                          sons.

 Then they can row the curragh,
cut the turf and sing until
old age will bring them
broken-backed and webbed
                                                within.

 

 

       VI. Why the Fairies Don't Mess With Girls

Because they give up
      and then they tell,

Because they change the rules
      and then they change sides,

Because they plan the end
      and then abandon the game,

Because they have no honor
      and hardly ever dream,

Because they don't go too far
      and always play for real,

Because they only play
      and only play for real.

           What charm
           could distract
           such sense?

           What spell
           could trammel up
           such perfidy?

           What hand
           could palm
           such weight?

 

       VII. WHY UP SO LATE ON THE VILLAGE GREEN THEN,
              PIETÀ, AFTER ALL THOSE FLAGS, THE HONOR?
 

Your hero’s wounds
                                        are woven
in memoriam, Pietà—
the warp and weft's
                           so crossed
                                   and right
the tissue bleeds
at every knot

                                         and hitch.

Even we veteran faithful
pale as we kneel
                             at the foot of your
                     loom,
its bitter web
the maze in which
our absences are shuttered up,
            trussed with love
                       and trimmed to fight,
each ghostly arm stretched out
                            like this
         and this
to span the limits of
                   your proud, unflinching
                                       weave.

Each callused hand too
is tacked to the misplaced
                    stones and heart-break
          walls
that mark the horizons
                                        of your toil,
while down below
the fittest foot is driven in
        to root
                    the cruel enterprise,

pierced with the nail
                                            of hearth
          and home.

But look to the lady
             sprawled in your lap
                                     there, Pietà—
and we’ll weep for the girl
                                           you were
laid out like the dough-boy
                       granite green
et semper fidelis yesterday
and just as proud to be
        of some repute
                 in pure repose
                           & spangled stripe—
wounds become wings
            in your marbled story.

Even to the heart
of the great bronze hearth
                             at home on Ithaca,
         O ever vigilant Pietà—
for hard at her wake
                       and as late composed
      in the hushed strict silence
                        of the same
                 solicitude,
naked knees still braced
               on the polished stone,
           your homespun glad
                                          Penelope
      as assiduously
                        unweaves.

Half hidden by the hoary
                                  olive trunk,
the thong-lashed bed itself scarred
           by the last oil
                       guttering in the lamp,
her shuttle twitters
                            like a sparrow.

Still farther in the dead
                                 of every night
those nimble fingers
            fold back and stitch
                        with neuron threads
the hundred-thousand petalled
wound which decorates
                             her chosen chest,
                                     domed,
              heavy freighted,
massive with deeds of honor
and fidelity.

And still with consummate
patience in that fitful hour before
                           the living rise
her mystic touch ensures
         the flow
                 of sweet blood
will not be stanched,
that the steely flesh will stay
                                 blue and cool,
that though the swoon
         be deep
                  as death
the joints will stay
                                   soft,
the limbs waxen-warm
held
                    just alive enough
                              in the kneading
          palms
to mourn the exhausted beauty
     of the same unraveled
                      victim that you
drape across yet another
busted dawn’s
                         O early, early care.

So how should we presume
there's so much grieving still
            done for the good
on the village green
                                    then, Pietà—
especially in this late
deadbeat hour
                          of our honor's own
             so darkly disingenuous
                     misweaving?

 

 

       VIII. Elegy for Heroes like Heroines  

And then we
                                all split.

Between the shroud
and the caul,
between the bell
and the word
we squirm and
we wriggle
                                 and split.

But to be equally split
is not to be equally
                                 parted,
for one remains cleft
while the other is
                                 cloven,
one remains fissured
while the other is
                                 forked.

Knees knit together
one loves like a fish
but rises and walks
                                like a man,
while the other
spread-eagled and burst
loves like a man
but lingers behind
                               like the sea.

So pity the mermaid
whose tail is unwoven,
how she strides split
stubborn and silent
                                like Deirdre
or Nausicaa,
eating nothing like Simone,
or clay like Camille, oh Anna, 
how she hopes even
                                to the altar.

And pity the gamin
webbed in the skirt,
his members knit back
into one midnight bell,
how he minces,
                              he hobbles
like our Christy or Lawrence,
how he flutters on pinions
of radiance
                              like Icarus
or dereliction
                              like his father,
laboring in the shadow
of his failure's designer,
how he chimes in the net
                              of the charmed.

                                                            CHRISTOPHER WOODMAN

                                                                                Five parts of this poem, I, II, V, VI & VIII, were published
                                                                                in  The Kenyon Review (vol. xiv, No. 3, 1992). Parts II, IV,
                                                                                & VII remain unpublished.
.

 

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