KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Poem: 140 words


by William F. Lantry
“The silken skilled transmemberment of song”
Considering depression, and these words
(which yet are less than apt, transmuted in
this moment, or this season, bearing down
with frost and sunlight mingled, while the earth
is pivoting, in some ways like my mind
changed by positioning in vacant space)

I’m wondering if rhythm fills a void
(much as magnolias, lifting their bells
in chorus to the winter sun complete
our expectations, or almost retrieve
what we had lost in other seasons when
late ice or sudden wind confused the scene)

but left, or leaves us searching, like a man
who searches for a perle he will not find
all comes back changed, magnolias or light
remembrances or bells cut off by frost
still I have found no answers, and few words
which could renew her dance within my song.

Notes from the Editor:

  1. This poem is one of several by Lantry that were lost for 20 years and recently rediscovered...

  2. Epigraph is from a poem by Hart Crane, Voyages III (entry at Poetry Foundation includes sections I through V)

  3. Perle, middle English 1300-1350, refers here to the “pearl of great price” described in Matthew 13:45-46, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (King James version of the Christian Bible).

    The term is also connected to “Pearl,” a 14th-century Middle English alliterative and allegorical poem which survives in a single copy of a single manuscript, the Cotton Nero A.x. The original manuscript not only includes “the Pearl Poem,” but also two other religious narrative poems as well as the chivalric romance “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The author’s identity is unknown but scholars have dubbed that person as “the Pearl poet” and “the Gawain poet.”

    “Pearl” tells of a father’s grief for a lost child, an infant daughter who died before she was two years old. In a dream, he sees a maiden he believes is both his Pearl (his daughter may have been called Margaret, a name which means pearl) and his perle, who is no longer a child but transfigured as a queen of heaven. She stands on the other bank of a stream which divides them. In response to his anguished questions, she teaches him the lessons of faith and resignation, and allows him a vision of the new Jerusalem.

    Full text of the Pearl Poem in Middle English (1,213 lines), as edited by Sarah Stanbury, University of Rochester, TEAMS Middle English Texts Series

    Pearl: Introduction, a scholarly analysis by Sarah Stanbury, University of Rochester

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