Friday, December 7, 2012

Sometimes a Wild God by Coyopa

 Photo by Wolfgang Sauber

As is rather obvious from what goes on around here, I'm not much taken with the long poem. My miniscule attention span begins to waver after 10 lines or two stanzas, whichever comes first. So it is rather wonderful that the following long poem stormed the castle and swept away my soul. Of course, it came to me via a friend who 'knew' that it would do exactly that, said friend being the very fine tanka poet, Joy McCall. We were exchanging songs and poems and what not one gray Sunday morning (for me, midday, rather soggy for her across the pond) as we are wont to do. She had sent me a lovely Ronald Baatz poem in response to my posting of his poems here, and I sent along a copy of my favorite Robert Frost poem, Never Again Will Birds' Song Be the Same, and she sent this:

Sometimes a Wild God by Coyopa

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine.

When the wild god arrives at the door,
You will probably fear him.
He reminds you of something dark
That you might have dreamt,
Or the secret you do not wish to be shared.

He will not ring the doorbell;
Instead he scrapes with his fingers
Leaving blood on the paintwork,
Though primroses grow
In circles round his feet.

You do not want to let him in.
You are very busy.
It is late, or early, and besides…
You cannot look at him straight
Because he makes you want to cry.

The dog barks.
The wild god smiles,
Holds out his hand.
The dog licks his wounds
And leads him inside.

The wild god stands in your kitchen.
Ivy is taking over your sideboard;
Mistletoe has moved into the lampshades
And wrens have begun to sing
An old song in the mouth of your kettle.

‘I haven’t much,’ you say
And give him the worst of your food.
He sits at the table, bleeding.
He coughs up foxes.
There are otters in his eyes.

When your wife calls down,
You close the door and
Tell her it’s fine.
You will not let her see
The strange guest at your table.

The wild god asks for whiskey
And you pour a glass for him,
Then a glass for yourself.
Three snakes are beginning to nest
In your voicebox. You cough.

Oh, limitless space.
Oh, eternal mystery.

Oh, endless cycles of death and birth.

Oh, miracle of life.

Oh, the wondrous dance of it all.

You cough again,
Expectorate the snakes and
Water down the whiskey,
Wondering how you got so old
And where your passion went.

The wild god reaches into a bag
Made of moles and nightingale-skin.
He pulls out a two-reeded pipe,
Raises an eyebrow
And all the birds begin to sing.

The fox leaps into your eyes.
Otters rush from the darkness.
The snakes pour through your body.
Your dog howls and upstairs
Your wife both exhalts and weeps at once.

The wild god dances with your dog.
You dance with the sparrows.
A white stag pulls up a stool
And bellows hymns to enchantments.
A pelican leaps from chair to chair.

In the distance, warriors pour from their tombs.
Ancient gold grows like grass in the fields.
Everyone dreams the words to long-forgotten songs.
The hills echo and the grey stones ring
With laughter and madness and pain.

In the middle of the dance,
The house takes off from the ground.
Clouds climb through the windows;
Lightning pounds its fists on the table.
The moon leans in through the window.

The wild god points to your side.
You are bleeding heavily.
You have been bleeding for a long time,
Possibly since you were born.
There is a bear in the wound.

‘Why did you leave me to die?’
Asks the wild god and you say:
‘I was busy surviving.
The shops were all closed;
I didn’t know how. I’m sorry.’

Listen to them:

The fox in your neck and
The snakes in your arms and
The wren and the sparrow and the deer…
The great un-nameable beasts
In your liver and your kidneys and your heart…

There is a symphony of howling.
A cacophony of dissent.
The wild god nods his head and
You wake on the floor holding a knife,
A bottle and a handful of black fur.

Your dog is asleep on the table.
Your wife is stirring, far above.
Your cheeks are wet with tears;
Your mouth aches from laughter or shouting.
A black bear is sitting by the fire.

Sometimes a wild god comes to the table.
He is awkward and does not know the ways
Of porcelain, of fork and mustard and silver.
His voice makes vinegar from wine
And brings the dead to life.

Tip o' the hat to Joy - an amazing piece of writing all around.


Shinigami by Takehara Shunsen

the god of death
has passed me over...
autumn dusk
 translated by David G. Lanoue 


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 146 songs


Ed Baker said...

five days now without looking at a blog or commenting and
this comes in:

another "wild god"
in mind dancing

how else to "hold" the stream of "I"
than via the 3hird person a solid/exciting piece, this....

and out of (Coyopa's) Imagination
comes everything
of import
(just sent you a re-writen/re-formatted piece that
also goes into the third person
AND where he has embraced that "wild god dancing"

I embrace the goddess also wild:

a Wild Woman dancing.

ayaz daryl nielsen said...

wow, Don, thanks for sharing Coyopa's poem - I forwarded it to three innocent bystanders, and went to Coyopa's site - ayaz daryl nielsen

roselle said...

So glad you found that poem. Coyopa - Tom Hirons - lives near me on Dartmoor in S W Britain, and that poem blew me away when I first read it. Excellent. Thank you - I'd forgotten it.

Baxter Clare Trautman said...

Thank you for holding this poem up to the light - it's one of my humble favorites!

awyn said...

"laughter and madness and pain
- and the wondrous dance of it all" -
I'm with you, Don, on preference for not-so-longish poems, but I gotta say, this one's an exception. Even went back and read it again!
Thanks for this!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Ed, the wild gods and goddesses dance and dance and dance ...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Daryl, glad you liked and thanks for sending it along to others.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


So great to rediscover something wonderful.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for stopping by ... it is a powerful piece.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yes, this one is the exception to the rule ... fine poem, glad it grabbed you.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have occasionally essayed a long poem, without much success. But I like them when they work. this one is quite good.

Jenny Ward Angyal said...

Wow! Thanks for posting this poem. I don't read many long poems, either, but this is one that I will read and reread. It is absolutely stunning.

Ed Baker said...

I guess none of y'all ever read, say:

- Cavender's House (Robinson)
- Tales from Ovid (Highes)
- Anabasis
- Winds
- no Blake ?
- how 'bout The Maximus Poems ?
- et ceteras...

Coyopa's "long" poem

made up of countless shorter
clips and clops

in talking along these lines
with one of our Master's of the Short Form (J.M.) he agreed with my conclusion no matter the form or length:

after all it s only one poem

string together ALL of Issa's "shorties" together ... it s only one poem

Coyopa'a "long poem" made up of

put together short pieces strung together and REALLY worked his
five-line sections
a novel made.
took him some time, I BET,
and many re-writes to get it

"pinned down"

I think that maybe tweeting and blogging and cell-phoning is reducing poems
and the readers attention to them

attention span to anything down to (nonsense)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Glad this one hit the Mark, Charles.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


You are welcome. Glad it hit home.


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Your critique is so true, and the point of JM and yourself is well taken, both poets I have the utmost respect for. Both among the finest writing today.

Speaking for myself, it is a deficit. Mine predates the web - Lilliput started in 1989, and I had been writing since the 70s in the short form myself, if not to great effect - but still there is that. A short attention span, uh-huh.

I've often wondered about this attraction to the short poem and faulted myself for it. But all of Whitman, Merrill's Changing Light at Sandover, some full-length Walcott pieces have found their way into my heart, so I'm not sure it is a black and white thing, this short and long.

Ovid, yes, Hughes, no - sacrilege I know, but the truth often is. Yes, yes to Blake, Olsen, particularly Maximus, em. Some of it is taste, some of it is style, some of it is something else again.

Focus, attention span.

I can't speak for others, only myself. You are oh so right. I see the deficit.

And I cherish it.


roselle said...

Ed (et al): well, I've read most of those, and others.

Surely it isn't either/or? I write, read and teach haiku. I also write, read and teach long poems.

We shouldn't have to apologise for our tastes. Neither 'long' nor 'short' is a guarantee of quality, nor of what will pierce our chest...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Don.
And thanks for your words, those who've read and enjoyed the piece.

On the short/long poetry subject, I disagree with the perspective (if I understand you right) that the 'long poem' of a poet's output equals the sum of his/her pieces.

That's a quantitative approach to the written word that is completely alien to me - it presupposes that poetry possesses some linear quality that means that two short pieces can be added together to make a longer piece. To me, this is not true! In a similar way, a long poem cannot necessarily be cut in two to make two shorter pieces. Similarly, two halves of a story do not make two short stories and two short stories joined do not necessarily make one longer story.

Maths and poetry do not necessarily mix!

The sum of a poet's pieces is a multi-dimensional entity, but it isn't necessarily a poem.

But perhaps I have misunderstood your point(s) - poetry is many things; sometimes a flash of lightning and sometimes a descent and emergence. Sometimes a song, sometimes a cry.

Ed Baker said...

yes... you did "miss the point"

every word
every line
every space

has to "do their job"
for ANY poem to "work"

irregardless of length
"the whole IS equal to the sum of it s parts"

it is not a matter of any "mathematics" or prescriptive formula
(as they "teach" in Creative Writing classes everywhere) that is by rote
to me
a long poem
a short poem
a round poem
a green poem
a naked poem
a snake poem
a 'kiss me' poem

that WORKS

moves reader into it s center (essence)

my shortest poem/piece : one point,
top left corner of a 9 x 12 cream-colored sheet

my longest poem/piece 515 8 x 11 pps
what WAS the point
of the previous comments ?
of my comments ?

in other words: what's the point ?


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks for the note and thoughts.

I think somehow I communicated very poorly, indeed.

I agree with Ed that the entire output of a particular poet might be considered as one long poem. I don't agree that a particular long poem is necessarily made up of a series of short poems, though a poet might do that - you certainly haven't here.

I don't presume to speak for Ed. Perhaps he was talking about how a long poem is composed ... but, I've made enough of a muddle so I'll back away.

I also agreed with Ed about today's short attention span, since I'm probably a primary example of that.

Your poem is certainly the antithesis of quantifying quality and it would be hard to imagine that anyone who thought you could would even like what you've done.

It's funny this should come up - I was arguing with a young account at work the other day (I'm a librarian) that you can't quantify quality and she assured me that, oh, yes, she could.

I find that totally bemusing.

Thanks again so much for allowing me to share your work with others who have appreciated it so much (and I know Ed is one) and I apologize for my muddling confusion.


Ed Baker said...

p.s I (sort uve) dealt with this-all back in 1971
via Points / Counterpoints

(which DW put something up about it awhile back on Issa's Untidy.

Fact-Simile Press published the paper version and this version:

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Ed ... and here is that "Points/Counterpoints" post.

I knew you'd get to "the point."

Anonymous said...

Don & Ed - I see that I did misunderstand, at least partially. Don, Thanks for clarifying - no apologies necessary!


Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks again for everything.


roselle said...

Ed - I just wanted to say, as a creative writing facilitator, that we don't all 'teach' using mathematics and formulaic methods.

What I'm interested in is catalysing a course participant's imaginative response to the world and then their deepest and most original way of expressing that, with an emphasis on way.

This is indeed not 'teaching', but rather a two-way process of uncovering. As Coyopa has suggested, this often involves lightning strikes, descents, and entry into unexpected territory, along with encounters with our wilder natures.


Ed Baker said...

ahhh, Rosalie:

WOWOW ! that is exactly my point !

or as Daniel Berkeley Updike put it in 1937:

----a quote out of a talk in 1937 that Updike gave it is in The Well-Made Book:

Many men think that studying printing all by themselves
is a dull and lonely business and may be better accomplished
in groups or associations, apparently feeling (as Mrs Wharton
once said of members of women's clubs) like "one of the la-
dies who pursue Culture in bands as though it were dangerous
to meet alone." Hence we have companies of Book Builders,
Book Clinics, and what not, which are supposed to impart
knowledge with a minimum of suffering to the patient. I am
not so sure that much is accomplished by such gatherings, for
"good work means tête-à-tête with what you are doing and is
incompatible with the spirit of picnics."

this is from an address that he gave in 1937 in Providence
at the opening of a collection that a library there took-in of his

"Mrs. Wharton" is Edith Wharton his friend and who a lot of her
book he (Merrymount Press) printed and designed...

and< I suppose, that there are no state-mandated objectives and/or lesson plans or "teacher" evaluations where you "tech" ? change "studying printing" to "studying creative writing"

and maybe, pass on to your students Updike's: The Well Made Book

roselle said...

Ed, you say: ""as a CREATIVE WRITING FACILITATOR, WE "teach" ...""

What I said was: ' a creative writing facilitator, [that] we don't all 'teach' using mathematics and formulaic methods.'

I was deliberately and ironically using your word 'teach', hence the quote marks! (And the words about mathematics and formulaic methods were yours.)

I think YOU rather missed the point - if you read what I went on to say you'll see why I said what I did!

Luckily for me, I'm a maverick freelance, not attached to any institution, and so no I have no state-determined objectives and mandates, goals or 'targets'.

I'm interested in encouraging creativity, and am free to use the many tools at my disposal developed over 25 years (I'm well-published and have a decent audience for writing, one-to-one mentoring and courses, so something works).

Updike's not my man. E M Forster and David Lodge have both written interestingly on writing and consciousness; all in all though I personally prefer more 'right brain' and multi-faceted ways in to creative expression. Think Julia Cameron, Christian McEwen, Jon Fox, Natalie Goldberg. Think storytellers and bards. Oh and I have written a 350+ page hands-on book to generate writing myself, with contributions from some inspiring writers (sponsored by the Arts Council).

And errr the name's ROSELLE...!

Ed Baker said...

NOT TALKING ABOUT John Updike .........

talking about Daniel Berkeley Updike

he founded and ran one of the great American press... the Merrymount Press...

google him. and, never my intention to "paint" all "creative writing facilitators" one color....

Writing Down the Bone, Wild Mind
nice books... a bit simplistic and kind-of Ho-Hum... ersatz zen getting very boring ! next step will be a writing retreat on a pristine mountain top limited to 30 paying customers

"right-brain, left-brain" yin/yang
up/down inside/outside subject/object

how are you able to differentiate ?
and why the demand to so do.

I just came up with the title for my next book: IS THAT SO

here is the first draft of the first "shortie":

full moon
in the clouds
her nose too

not great poetry, but, what is ?

Ed Baker said...

pardon me for not getting your name correct and
it is Daniel Berkeley Updike NOT John
then again
unlike Natalie Goldberg's 'Writing Down the Bones'

left/brain right/brain how can you (or her) differentiate as if there really is a one OR the other
rather than a
one AND the other...

might as well do a 10-day Creative Writing retreat in, say, Happy Valley
all of this ersatz zen and need to
compile credentials is getting "old"

just, thanks to you, have come up with title for my next book:


here is the first of the projected 1,237 "shorties" :

full moon
in the clouds
her nose too

roselle said...

Oh, Ed, I meant to add, more relevantly perhaps, that many of my course participants and mentees are now published, too - and not by vanity or self-publishing methods but by mainstream or small press bona fide publishing houses. That says something I think - in other words, I don't just hold ladies' salons for the chattering classes, as the quote you chose seemed to suggest! (And by the way the Guardian ran a whole page on one of my courses once.)

I'm saying all this not to boast, but to correct your false impression of creative writing courses: there are some of us out here who don't 'teach formulaic methods', that's all I wanted to say, really.

There are many ways of catalysing writing, and it isn't a question of sacrificing quality to the 'spirit of a picnic'; or calibre to emotionality; it's important I think that participants know what goes into really good writing, and that comes with reading widely and critically as well as writing creatively. I imagine you'd agree?


roselle said...

words books opinions –
so many waterfalls over the cliff

up there the moon, alone

(with apologies to Paz & Snyder)

Ed Baker said...

ahhhhh yes that "moon"

I am partial to re-visiting / re:claiming that certain de:sire
within and without ANY differentiation :

full moon
behind a cloud
will I see you again

full moon
in her garden

full moon
in the clouds
her nose too

full moon
here seventy-two years
big fucking deal

full moon
I think I'm in love
with a rock

blood moon
coming around again
"no one said it'd be easy"

full moon
here on time
how are we doing

(one of these days
I'll take a course in writing
these things.... maybe write a decent "haiku" ? apologize to Octavio Paz
to Gary Snyder

I appreciate your going "out there" and in this public forum...
of course you recall Charles Olson's
of "public / private"

it just might lead to a solid, contemporary SOLID confessional poetry...

full moon
depends upon
her attitude

full moon
depends upon
her altitude

she could care less
about that water-fall
this old man

roselle said...


NOW you're talking. And neat 'shorts'.