Last Thursday night was the sixth Bridge Poetry Series reading, featuring several Wisconsin writers reading poems about a piece or pieces in the Chazen Museum of Art’s current exhibition. It was a great reading and, despite the deep blustery cold, well attended. I am a fan and frequent practitioner of ekphrastic poetry, so I was delighted with the invitation to read, though I was worried when I first stepped into the exhibition. It was full of very strange and disturbing pieces, and I felt very at odds with much of what I saw (this isn’t a criticism, just my initial reaction to the works). I wondered how the couple who owned the work and was lending it out lived with these objects surrounding their daily lives. But eventually I came up on “L’Amante.” The Lover in question here is a hare, immaculately sculpted by Beth Cavener Stichter. The sculpture is remarkably animated—realistic in its form, but with these etchings over its skin, fish, bees, flowers, as if it had emerged from paintings of a fairy tale.
Here it is:
And so, to me, the sculpture became the Rabbit God. The Rabbit God is a character I invented in an earlier, as yet unpublished poem concerning Bugs Bunny. I was pleased to bring the character back and let it speak this time. Here is the poem that came from this effort:
The Rabbit God in Its Repose
—Beth Cavener, “L’Amante”
I am, as they say, the One Who Fucks.
All the blessed bunnies flow from me.
I take my portion of every flower
And berry bush you plant. The tip
Of each carrot nibbled off in my name.
I am not easily dandelioned,
I shield my children from the Red-Horned Hawk,
Who would drag them to its nest in the sky.
There is a burrow that will never flood,
The bluegrass throne, the seat of my kingdom.
I, the Rabbit God, have foregone
My shredded cedar bed, embracing stone,
As is my destiny as a god,
And etched the stories of my kind
From my twitching nose to my fluffy tail.
I have assumed this shape,
Made into image, perhaps
Unchanging. I am still the milk
And the honey, still the dodge
And the leap, my ears full
Of whispers from over the hill.
This is the work, this the contradiction:
Look at me look so alive.
Even as stone I know you long
To touch me, and I dare you.
My thanks to Susan Elbe, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Sara Parrell, and Katrin Talbot for inviting me to take part, and to my fellow poets who shared their work. All the poems are posted on the Chazen’s web site: go give them a read.