Pushcart XLIII: Mary Ruefle, “Singular Dream” (poem) from Poetry, January 2017

I was born in Speckled Eggs Garden.
I will die on Broken Egg Farm.
I’m hopping between them now,
I consider everything
to be friendly
and nothing dubbed.
I am a chick with legs
and yellow hair.

Complete poem available online at Poetry

What am I supposed to do with a poem about a chicken? Seriously, Henderson, you have me immersed in guns and death and then spring chickens on me?

Thing is, I have a stubborn fondness for Mary Ruefle, born of my 2014 Pushcart encounter with her poem “During a Break in Feeling”, tackled with the help of some Modpo friends, and her erasure poetry. So I had at least some understanding of what she might be up to here.

Her words might change meaning retroactively; or, non-words or obscure words might suggest more common meanings through close spellings. What does it mean, “to be friendly / with nothing dubbed”? Dubbing is a film technique to translate a film from one language to another; it’s also a process of naming and entitling, as with dubbing a knight, with an old and obscure meaning of “to dress or adorn”. A “chick with legs and yellow hair” could describe a teenager walking by, rather than a literal chicken, giving a slang and somewhat casual sense.

Oh Lord Almighty, creator of
all things beautiful and sick,
who prefers another life on top of this,
who are you to judge?
When Adam and Eve vanished
solemnly into the dark,
shrouding themselves in the forest,
I was timid and nibbling and
stayed behind, betrayed only
by the plucking of my beak
upon the ground you so graciously
provided (thanks).

That’s a good point; it was only the humans that were kicked out of Paradise. Orthodoxy does not consider that animals have free will to obey God or not; this might seem reasonable until you’ve tried to get a cat to eat the special food you bought for her. In any case, it’s a nice little scene.

I spent a fair amount of time looking for some interpretation of “noth” (hampered by the ubiquity of Chris Noth), but in the end decided nothing was a good an inference as anything. As for “margent”, that applies to the flowery borders, the margins if you will, of a document, giving yet another sense of the chick being outside the margins, but still under the care of the Lord of the Margent, and who’s to say it’s worse off, or not as valuable, as we humans are.

In the end I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing here – this Pushcart isn’t going so well for me so far – but I still have a fondness for Ruefle, whether I understand her or not.

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