Swiss Narcissus

April 21, 2018
Today marks three full weeks of Na/GloPoWriMo!
Today, we have a new interview for you, with Antoinette Brim, whose newest book of poetry, These Women You Gave Me, has been published by Indolent Books. Brim is a Cave Canem Foundation fellow, a recipient of the Walker Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. You can read some of her poems here and here, and you can check out our interview with her here.
And now for our (optional) prompt. In her interview, Brim provides us with several suggestions for generative writing exercises, and we’d like to challenge to today to tackle her third one, which is based in the myth of Narcissus. After reading the myth, try writing a poem that plays with the myth in some way. For example, you could imagine that imagine the water is speaking to you, the narcissus flower. Or you could write a poem in which the narcissus berates the Kardashians for stealing their neurosis. Or a poem that comments on the narcissism of our time, i.e. beauty and body obsession, etc.
Happy writing!

Swiss Narcissus

Narcissus, on a Swiss mountain-top, below a glacier,
gazed at his reflection in the mirror of a lake.
So enamored with self, grand, much at stake,
he thought he was a country contemplating self:
mountains, valleys, meadows, pristine streams, the odd elf,
larks, lynxes, blossoming trees, wild-flowers, evergreens;
inhabitants law-abiding, hard-working, always on time,
herders of honey-brown cows milking double cream,
he couldn’t stop adoring himself in this great design.

Created his coat of arms, center milk-sheen,
four-petal Edelweiss, blooming upward, down, sideways,
surrounded by field of bright red blaze,
life-blood, poppies frame fields of wheat, maize,
he could not cease admiring his beauty sublime
up there on his mountain top below the glacier-line.

He was desired, coveted by all,
many in love with him, he surrendered to none,
love-of-self held him away, alone,
until Ekho, he’d shunned, nymph of a near-by brook,
echoed his name, over and over, shame
rang across gorges and ridges: Narcissus, Nar-cis-sus
till he could bear it no longer; shook off haze
lifted eyes, one look, saw a maze;

so shocked was Narcissus by hunger, disease,
victims of war, disaster, despair,
he turned inside out; new coat of arms, please:
blood-red at core, reach out in four directions
through field of white, light tames the dark,
new fire, new spark, away from own reflection,
from inward to outward, love of self to love that’s fair
for wounds to heal, from war to peace;

creates: chocolate melts sweet in mouth,
watches tick, stay exact, on time,
in spring, to end winter, a butter-gold flower
celebrates Narcissus’ power, his will
to change his heart, the daffodil.
To delight the nymph who freed him from scorn
he plays mountain echoes on his Alpenhorn.

2 thoughts on “Swiss Narcissus

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