Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"A Dance" by Caroline Knox


Bouki fait gumbo,
Lapin mangé li.

Bouki Wolof for hyena;
Verbs are French: fait, mangé.

Gumbo Native American or Bangena
= Okra = filé = "dried powdered young sassafras leaves,

discovered by the Choctaw Indians,"
says Miriam Knopf in Around America:
A Cookbook for Young People.

Compair Bouki, Compair Lapin =
Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit.

"The hyena may have made the gumbo,
but it's the rabbit that ate it"—a distich of power
and viable Marxist grumbling?

Compair Aesop fait (get Greek word for "tale")
Compair LaFontaine fait fable.
God gives, but He doesn't share.

Compair Aesop fait fable.
Compair LaFontaine mangé Aesop.

Even gumbo z'herbes in a starving time, desperate cooking, meager soup.

Compair Marianne Moore traduit LaFontaine,
Compair Joel Chandler Harris fair storybook,
Choctaw Indians mangé gumbo.

Author's Note - "Bouki fait gumbo, lapin mangé li is a Creole proverb.  The Knopf book was published in 1969.  Most material in the poem comes from lectures on the American frontier by Joyce E. Chaplin (lines 1-6, 12-14, and 20).  'God gives, but He doesn't share' is a Haitian proverb cited by Paul Farmer in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains (Random House, 2004)."

Source of the text - Knox, Caroline.  Quaker Guns.  Seattle: Wave Books, 2008, pp. 4-5 [poem] and 67 [author's note].

TJB: Driven by analogies, salted with exoticisms, this poem of sound-stew advances through thoughts & facts almost as if without a poet at all.

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