Emergent Verse | Song of Herself
- Published: May 31, 2023
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
I wonder whether Walt Whitman’s timeless lines above from “Song of Myself” were stewing in Nancy Mellon’s mind, or unconscious, when she composed the following poem:
An Ode To Me In COVID Isolation
What a Lovely Bag of Bones, I am
So Fragile — yet so Sturdy
My Skin— like unpeeled fruit,
Holds secret smells inside—
Some Good, Some Bad,
My Skin— so soft,
wraps round my inner stones.
inside my loverly bones.
A curling ribbon of thought,
Sings an ode, to the gift,
Of my lovely bag of bones
On a cold winter night,
Beneath a downy quilt,
I snuggle up
in the content
With the greatest humility, Nancy accompanied her submission thusly: “Hi Ed, here is my poem. I am not a poet but I do so love words. Cheers, Nancy.”
Many Yellow Springers will recall Mellon’s long association with Yellow Springs Arts Council. She is also, along with Corrine Bayraktaroglu, one of the knit-bombing Jafa Girls, locally renowned for enwrapping tree branches, among other stationary objects, in yarn. And now she’s gifted us with her delightfully effusive poetic outpouring.
I couldn’t agree more with Nancy’s assertion that she loves words — also wordplay and the language of exultation. Without the title, “An Ode to Me” would be an unqualified hymn to joy. Then why bring up the pandemic most of us want to forget? I, for one, am grateful she does, placing her exuberance within a context of the suffering we all endured the last three years. For me, her message is enriched: even deadly disease must not prevent you from enjoying life inside your “loverly bones,” a wonderful phrase capturing the poet’s contagious humor.
Nancy’s words are often concrete and sensory: “soft and springy” skin and “stinkeee” smells — all three e’s apparently necessary to make her point. Plus, she deploys metaphor to good effect, with “skin like unpeeled fruit.” I’m not sure exactly what Nancy had in mind with “inner stones,” but the phrase suggests to me the seeds of vital, on-going life. Whitman would so approve.
The poem’s setting returns me to the fear I felt at the onset of the pandemic back in March of 2020. Nowhere was our vulnerability more evident than in the body, where the virus could so easily lodge, sicken and kill. Remember when we feared that it spread through contact before finding it was spread through the air?
However, rather than let the pandemic’s enforced isolation get her down, Nancy literally goes inside herself to find inner strength, manifesting in “prancing and dancing” rather than self-pity, anxiety or depression. Her surprising conclusion — that she’s “content in the content of me” — inventively employs a word as both adjective and noun in the same breath. It’s a satisfying climax, and so true. Although at the height of the pandemic, we sacrificed socializing with all but the few inside our “bubble,” we still had our own company. With or without a pandemic, I want to follow Nancy’s excellent example: to appreciate, rely on and enjoy myself more.
When I asked to see more of her work, Nancy responded with the four delightful haiku below, written, she said, “for the haiku event that was part of the Japanese 10-day event that the Arts Council helped Antioch College put on.” They, too, demonstrate her love of wordplay, surprising subjects, sensory language and effortless humor. Enjoy! Also, Happy Spring, perhaps the most poetic of seasons.
Water Closet Notes
Trumpet Sounds! Percussive Blatts!
A Tuba in Pants
Black Velvet Night Walk
A Field of Floating Glitter
Dazzled by De Light
Dog Says To Owner
In Training To Be Puppy
Peeing is Profound
Rocking on the Porch
Summers Treasure — Miles of Books
*Send me your poems at email@example.com.