The angler knows the stream, exactly where
to cast the line. The fish in turn suspects
what offers food disguises danger though
it’s urged to search the spot. The two engage
in grueling fights, dead baits don’t care who dies.

The eagle soars above the peaks, from there
the glen can be embraced, her sight detects
and surveys tiny preys so far below
but she just follows till she’s sure. No rage
or rush. No raptor looks as cold and wise.

Off-season hot winds lay the plateaus bare,
the ice and snow are gone, no shield protects
the upper slopes, so many cracks will grow.
The mountains trapped inside life’s turning page
are crumbling while the sickened valley cries.

The tireless dance goes on while shades prepare
to shroud the hall. The guiding light defects,
the beaten footpaths fade, no signs will show.
Eternal peace and no more war to wage.
At last no need to tell the truth from lies.

And all along I range, I sit, I stare,
among what’s bright and what’s obscure, affects
my brains, impedes my stride, becomes my foe.
I want that soothing grass to be my stage,
the finite prairies under boundless skies.

 

Alessio Zanelli is an Italian poet who writes in English and whose work has appeared in over 150 literary journals from 13 countries. His fifth original collection, titled The Secret Of Archery, will be published in 2019 by Greenwich Exchange (London). For more information please visit www.alessiozanelli.it.

 

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23 Responses

  1. Martin Rizley

    Very interesting imagery– the “tireless dance,” if I read you right, is the ongoing “dance of death” between predator and prey (the fisherman, eagle, and hot winds locked in a death struggle with the fish, the tiny animals in the glen, the “crumbling mountains,” and the “sickened valley.”)

    Am I correct in interpreting the final two quatrains as describing a final oblivion that yourself anticipate– even desire? You feel yourself to be the prey of things bearing down upon you that “affect your brains, impede your stride, become your foe,” bringing confusion and causing you to look at the grass-covered burial mound (your finite prairie) under boundless skies as a welcome, “soothing” stage that brings an end to struggle (“eternal peace and no more war to wage”)?

    If I have interpreted correctly the meaning of your poem, let me say, on the one hand, that I appreciate the striking imagery you have used. It is so gratifying to see a poem with structure, form and imaginative imagery that actually communicates something in these days of so much meaningingless fluff passed of for poetry! Second, I want to encourage to hang in there, despite whatever pain may have provoked this poem, and keep writing. I have found writing poetry writing to be a great catharsis in difficult times.

    Reply
    • Alessio Zanelli

      Hi Martin,
      thank you for your words of praise.
      Most of the things you say are correct, only, it’s not quatrains, but cinquains.
      The poem actually is a “triple five”, being made of five cinquains of iambic pentameters. The toughest task in writing it was the rhyme pattern though: in fact, it is “stanza-based”, i.e. correspondent lines end with the same sound in each stanza.
      As to the subject matter, the poem deals with both environmental and existential issues at the same time and, you’re right, I kind of anticipate a final oblivion, over the grass of those “finite” prairies stretching under “boundless” skies, an inage symbolizing man’s awareness of his finitude and transitoriness in front of the universe’s infinity and permanence.

      Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie

    Eloquent, Elegant, Moving. The pas de deux between death and life becomes more meaningful and profound as we age, as those we love pass away, and as we suffer through various trials of injustice, injury, or illness. Like Dylan Thomas we can, “Rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” or, when “the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done,” we can choose to “go gently into that good night.” This poem acknowledges the universal struggle to preserve, protect, and sustain life while also acknowledging its inevitable end. In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift’s protagonist visits Luggnagg, where certain individuals, called “struldbruggs,” are born with a mark indicating that they will never die, but live forever. “What a blessing!” thinks Gulliver. “No,” comes the reply. “It is considered to be a curse, for they age as all do, growing feebler in both body and mind until all thought, all pleasure, all joy, deserts them.” I suppose it all depends on how you look at it. Life can be both exhilarating and tediously tiresome. Death can be both an enemy to resist and a welcome guest to receive gladly. I believe this poem raises these issues in a way that is both graceful and dignified. Personally, I believe that life is meant to be good and that death is not necessarily the end of it. This is an honest poem which addresses an important subject in a thoughtful, well-crafted, and intimately personal way.

    Reply
    • Alessio Zanelli

      Hi James,
      I’m honored for your rewarding and most pertinent review.
      You seized the “spirit” of the poem, of its existential connotation.
      Cheers.
      AZ

      Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    One minor suggestion: In your second stanza, “preys” is an error in English. The noun “prey” is a collective plural, and cannot take /s/. Other collective plurals of this sort are “sheep” and “deer.”

    If you remove the /s/ your English is then perfect, and the meter of the line is unaffected.

    Reply
    • Alessio Zanelli

      Hi Joseph,
      thank you for your nice comment.
      I’d thought of “prey” as plural, but Merriam Webster (and other dictionaries) shows that both forms are acceptable, in particular “preys” works like “fishes” (different species of fish).
      Cheers.
      AZ

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Many modern American dictionaries are based on “descriptive” ideology, and therefore they make latitudinarian allowances based on the improper usage of unlettered speakers.

        I assure you, there is no plural noun “preys” in proper, received English.

  4. Amy Foreman

    This is a strikingly different and thought-provoking poem, Alessio. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

    Reply
  5. Mark Stone

    Alessio, Hello,

    1. I agree with Dr. Salemi that “prey” is both singular and plural. I’ve heard people say “prays” and “praise,” but never “preys.”

    2. In line 22, I think “among” works reasonably well. However, when I think of when “among” is used, it is usually in reference to several things or many things, not just two things (such as “what’s bright” and “what’s obscure”). For example, one might say: “Were there any children among the survivors?” Or one might say: “There are three musicians among my friends.” But I would not say: “I ate dinner among my brother and sister.” If you wanted to make a change, one option would be “amid” in place of “among.”

    3. In the last stanza, “affects” is the verb and “my brains” is the object. However, it’s not clear to me what the subject is. In other words, what is it that “affects my brains”?

    4. The meter is flawless; the punctuation is strong, and the imagery is vivid. The rhyme scheme is novel and interesting. I like the internal rhyme and alliteration in line 19. And I’m pleased that there is no enjambment between the cinquains (just a personal preference). Nice work!

    Reply
    • Alessio Zanelli

      Hi Mark,
      thank you for your comment.
      Here are my replies:
      1) certainly “prey” is, strictly grammatically speaking, the correct form, but “preys” is also used and listed in dictionaries; I don’t expect poetry to have to pay its respects to “orthodox” language all the time…
      2) I used “among” because “what’s bright” and “what’s obscure” can be collections of things, and not two single objects.
      3) I know it may seem unclear, but the subject of “affects”, “impedes” and “becomes” is “what” (is bright, is obscure, affects my brains…). I didn’t repeat it for the sake of meter.
      4) There are enjambments between the lines, but not between the stanzas (I don’t like that either).
      Cheers.
      Alessio

      Reply
    • Alessio Zanelli

      That said, should the poem ever be reprinted or included in a collection, I’d keep “among” but turn “preys” into “prey”.
      AZ

      Reply
  6. Monty

    Well, this is an immaculate piece of work, Alzan; deliciously deep, and adroitly written: in the sense that you’ve seemingly managed to write it exactly how you feel it (which I don’t always feel when reading some poetry). I also found it to be cleverly illustrative; and the rhyme-scheme to be particularly imaginative.

    Regarding the ‘preys’ thing: I don’t usually refer to dictionaries unless I’m writing something myself; but off the top of my head, I feel that it’d sound perfectly normal to me if I heard someone say: ‘This creature preys on that creature’ . . and perfectly abnormal if I heard: ‘This creature prey on that creature’, so it surely must be acceptable – by law. And as such, I was a tad alarmed to hear your desire to change it to ‘prey’.
    I disagree with ‘fishes’ being a term for different types of fish; I’ve always known it to be just ‘fish’. But it could be said that: ‘This man fishes for a living’ . . just as ‘This creature preys on that creature’.

    I feel that Mr Stone is correct in saying that ‘among’ wouldn’t be the right word to depict only two things; but it seems clear to me that you’re talking of ‘ALL that’s bright’.. and ALL that’s obscure’.. hence ‘among’ is the right word.

    Unless someone on the other side of the pond once felt fit (as is their wont) to discard with one of the letters from an established English word; I think you’ll find that ‘grueling’ is spelt ‘gruelling’.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Mr. Salemi’s reference was to the incorrect use of “preys” as a collective noun rather than its use as a verb which is, as you point out, acceptable. “The bird of prey preys on many species of prey.” or, as Henry Higgins would have put it, “The prey in Spain falls prey-ly on the prey.”

      Reply
      • Monty

        I should tell you, James, that I can sometimes become so engaged in the comments on these pages . . that I can momentarily lose sight of the poem over which they’re being made – this was one such occasion. Consequently, I allowed myself to forget the context in which ‘preys’ was used in the poem. So I just had another peek . . and of course yourself and Mr Salemi are both spot-on: it don’t work in that context.

        It’d only work if it read something like: ‘And surveys distant prey so far below.. ‘.

        Can I ask if the hyphen inside ‘preyly’ was your own (maybe for illustrative purposes); or Mr Higgins?

    • Alessio Zanelli

      Hi Monty,
      thank you for your nice words.
      It’s “grueling” in the USA, and “gruelling” anywhere else where they speak English…
      Cheers.
      Alessio

      Reply
  7. Alan Sugar

    Passionate and profound. “To Be or Not to Be” revisited. I revisit it often: the quest for that ultimate equilibrium. For me, this tireless dance is life itself.
    I wish for you a moment or more of that place on earth. A quiet grassy bank where you might stop to watch the cold rushing stream rush on. Forgive any typos.

    Reply

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