Original poem reprinted online here: "Corpse Flower, Luna Moth," by Daniel Tobin
More information about the Poet: Daniel Tobin
to say something
wordlessly -- the word we too
can neither speak
And this poem seems like a stream of consciousness song -- that the title, "Corpse flower, Luna Moth" are connected through image and the speaker is trying to find out more through language, image, song, and just thought. But there are hiccups along the way to anchor the speaker to the image as the adjectives to the subject anchor meaning. Also since the lines are so short and the alignment, which fluctuates with each line, have a structural importance, I'm going to fluctuate between the line and the form as a I quote them depending which I think stands out more.
For example, the first stanza I think the usage of the word "corm" grounds the description of the plant and the speaker, for now with the previous lines a bit too focused on metaphor on the onset, "The deep win / of it risen tall above / the buried" And so there's the interplay of plant terminology and, "its ornamental / spathe furrowed though-/ fully," The usage of compound seems "messy" but note how the line after, "to human / warmth" brings in a human element to the poem instead of description of the flower.
I feel the turn in this first half happens in stanza three:
This is more of the visual aspect of the poem and feels more organic because of the dashes to make something fit. Sure, the language is a bit high here, but there is a shift of tone with things broken up -- death and, "allure / of rotting flesh / for the scarabs" again with the human element but this time a turn of the emotions (allure) with a scene (rotting flesh) to describe this flower. and note the play of language, "follow, / hollow" that makes the lines appear more on the language level than on the image.
"all / dark were light unibidden" this generality seems a bit out of place, but keep an eye on "unbidden" the negation factor here.
Although these lines, "love itself / hidden inside / the word" is simple language which bids the reader to look what is hidden with the language and with the flower itself:
Call it life
entrapt with death's
The alliteration at the end creates more of an artifice than anything else for me. This flower is definitely a representation of death through the words and symbols -- difficult or simple.
Theoretically, the second half is more about the Luna Moth, so the shift in tone and image isn't too surprising, "Emergent morning / in the sweet gum triggering," So instead of symbol we get action here of, "green, green / its wings" And the description goes a bit overboard to contrast the Corpse flower section, "fanning translucent" "Angelic / a palm of light / opening"
So at the third stanza, I wondered where is the language and image play? Here is a reverence, the poem somewhat turns for me with, "Hallowed, hatched / each instar inches undercover" Once again the play of alliteration and assonance used differently here -- to add more whimsy than the first section being a little more ironic.
Then the return, "larval, alluvial / out of every cycles shelf-/ life" The same splitting technique, the same encyclopedic language and the key here is "cycles" as though to state that yes, this reverence cycles as well as death. But note how both images are portrayed as singular -- not even comparative. I could say, that up until this point, it feels like I'm reading two different poems with the thin connections of death and "angelic" uses of language and images.
"brief birth flying, flown, thrown / at midnight into beginning" note the play of language and the repetition here again reinforces the whimsy, but also note the language of "brief" coming back as though to say this moment and the last moment are just that -- moments.
"Mouth-less, it appears / something bidden out of the dark, / out of the broadleaf," So, if I remember my animal facts correctly -- luna moths come out of the chrysalis without mouths and cannot feed. They are meant to re-procreate and then die. But note the language returning -- the dark and something bidden -- coming towards. Is the moth the light unbidden that defines the dark? Rather the situation. Again, the connections are there, but the leaps might be too much, and maybe this is the point of the poem.
to say something
wordlessly--the word we too
can neither speak
Remember that "hidden inside the word" well that's meaning and only thought of in the "death" portion. And here, in the whimsy alive until death portion -- that love is not there through words - why? It cannot be spoken or sung. It is the lack of connection, no matter how hard we try through language or image, which can never be connected.