Deep Water: “Dying Hen-Clam, Flying Gull”, by Kenneth Rosen

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This week’s poem presents an exuberant literary vision of a fight to the death by the sea – narrated by a hapless mollusk. In “Dying Hen-Clam, Flying Gull”, Kenneth Rosen launches puns in Latin, riffs on the French poet Baudelaire and offers, in his own words, a “secret allegorical fable of poetry reading, seagull as reader, hen-clam as a poem. “So there is a lot going on in this poem. But what I love most is just its remarkable imagery, its general sense of drama and the delightfully lively, musical and lively voice of its bivalve narrator.

Kenneth Rosen founded and directed the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference at USM and has published extensively, from “Whole Horse” (1970) to “GOMORRAH” (2019). His poems appeared in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Plowshares, and many other journals, including, most recently, online in Examination of the hole in the head.

Dying Hen-Clam, Flying Gull

By Kenneth Rosen

Hypocritical seagull, my likeness, my brother!

??Charles Baudelaire

I.

Swallow my purple mind

Seagull, make its iodine,

As if the amethyst eloquence of a hen

Could satisfy and please

With his slippery analogy dribbles,

Crying and cracked sighs

As if the words in a mirror had no luck

Pieces, indifferently

Watched by the sea, the shore and the sky cheerfully

Severe frosts, like me.

ii.

Death is the threatening peace of the low tide,

Caught napping high and dry

By the yelping of a plunging seagull

Laughter blurred, skillfully

Caught to break me down

House and house, bald head,

Dome condemned, softening its palm

The grip of the greenhouses on my bowl

Sloppy thoughts on the sloping sea

Limestone rocks to destroy

iii.

With a blow my love of bivalve

Paradox and cartilage hinge

In the name of a last vast burial,

Really delusional silence,

An immortal moment of it, arched

Turquoise and lace

Lapping, the obedient thieves of the sea

Retire, expose yourself

Sunbathing beaches and people like me:

Yes inasmuch as means exemplary,

iv.

A hen-clam is quite the pork. Aspirant

The accomplices applaud

Beating. Others soar with reproach

High up, whining and crying

To protest my assassin with white breasts

Banquet on what once

It was me, shining eyes framing her

Stupidly boastful self-pity.

Where do we go from here hypocritical

Readersimilar — brother?

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Dying Hen-Clam, Flying Gull”, copyright © 2021 by Kenneth Rosen, appears with permission of the author.


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