Deep Water: “Dying Hen-Clam, Flying Gull”, by Kenneth Rosen
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!
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
Watched by the sea, the shore and the sky cheerfully
Severe frosts, like me.
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
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,
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
Reader–similar — 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.