Even Granite is
1 suspect as a choice of anchor, 9 as crumbling cliffs push cold
2 vulnerable to split and tilt 8 dust clouds over the tender sprig.
3 by river and ice. What we take 7 Beneath my feet unattached joists
4 for granted as securely solid 6 sheer, sheer and buckle, the last
5 seams unwind, once seeming 5 seams unwind, once seeming
6 sure and surely nothing lasts 4 Atlas-grand. The non sequitur
7 that can be touched or joyed awhile. 3 of design is to drown, to freeze,
8 See, my fan blows dissected 2 dizzy in the spin of free fall,
9 air and cools by being scrambled 1 vacant voice suspended over
a Failing Floor
For anyone interested in the mechanics of poetry, I am innovating a structure that I am calling chiastic poetry. I learned about chiastic structure in studying the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, a common rhetorical tool employed by the Biblical writers. A chiasm is a literary device in which the text forms a kind of X in which the first and last lines of a passage correspond to each other, the second and second-to-last lines correspond to each other, etc., and the core meaning of the passage is found in the center of the X, regardless of how many lines are in the passage. This might make more sense when I describe the structure of Even Granite is a Failing Floor.
The poem above is 18 lines along, set up in two 9 line columns side by side. The lay-out is meant to enable the reader to easily see and link the corresponding lines in the poem. I have also included numbers beside the lines to show the counterparts in the two columns. The poem is meant to be read as a seamless and comprehensible whole, with all of the chiastic structure built into it without calling obvious attention to itself in the reading. The lay-out and the numbers are meant to help illuminate the design. At some point I might shed the lay-out and bury the design in a single column poem, but for now I experiment.
The poem begins with a split title that completes itself at the end of the poem. The beginning half-title also serves grammatically as the beginning of the first sentence, and the concluding half-title also functions to conclude the final sentence of the poem. Thus the title does double duty.
The first line in the first column chiastically connects to the final (ninth) line in the second column (18th line of the poem). The second line in the first column connects to the eighth line in the second column (or the 17th line of the poem). The third line of the first column connects to the seventh line in the second column (or the 16th line of the poem), and so on. The middle lines in both columns (the 5th line and the 14th line) are identical. This constitutes the literal center of the poem ("seams unwind, once seeming").
When I say a line connects to its counterpart, I mean it in the following ways: the lines connect by 1) similar sound patterns, 2) actual rhymes, 3) similar images expressed in different ways, 4) an extension of an idea from one line to its counterpart.
For example, line 1 "suspect as a choice of anchor" connects to line 18 "vacant voice is suspended over" in the following ways: "choice" rhymes with "voice", "anchor" and "vacant" employ similar sounds, as do "suspect" and "suspended".
Another example, "river and ice" in line 3 connects to "drown and freeze" in line 16.
Another example, see how similar "sure and surely nothing lasts" (line 6) is to its counterpart "sheer, sheer and buckle, the last." (line 13).
It is a fun exercise to follow each of the counterparts and explore the ways the two lines are linked and what meanings those connections create.
If you are still reading after all of this technical babble, the poem itself is a lament about the tenuous nature of things "under the sun" as the Bible book of Ecclesiastes puts it. The poem is a longing cry for that which actually is long-lasting, which resists the rust of rain and the gnawing moth and the insatiable law of entropy. A longing which Jesus spoke to eloquently with promises of durability and solidity and long-lastingness which defy the imagination trained by disappointment.
Photo credit: Pixabay.com. Creative Commons License.