It would be fun to try and put together an anthology of poetic riddles – a modern Exeter Book. This idea has crossed my mind more than once, but all I’ve managed to produce is the following poem (included in my collection Capturing the Hive, which has a kind of insect motif). I confess I am only half-satisfied with it. The problem is, there are two kinds of poems, and the ones that come from many hours of slow, deliberate construction and revision, like this one, are just never as satisfying to me as the ones that spring full-grown from the authentic wells of inspiration. (See the New Year’s squirrel poem for an example of the latter.)
Who’d have guessed the very riddle of a face
pivots on the possibility of a neck?
In your scientific campfire tales
mine is the face of Icarus.
You gave me a ghostly
popped-balloon body & a wild alias–
M.I.A. at Roswell, New Mexico.
Be careful what you call alien.
Too bad your psychics & cryptozoologists
didn’t come to me first. Perhaps my mode
of transport disappoints: no sleek discus, no warp-
driven spheroid, but a flying ship
straight out of Jules Verne – rudder, portholes & all.
Not the sort of future
you’ve come to expect.
Still, if I’m as mantic as you say,
what crystalline possibilities
these lidless eyes suggest, yes?
together with the pair of scalpels
held reverently at the ready as if
to petition, to witch for water,
My emerald city stretches
over half the summer
& I promise you there’s no manikin
on either side of the curtain.
Now tell my name.