Tuesday, July 11, 2006

"Herm" by Keith Harvey

This is a photograph of a herm as it finally developed in Greece.

A herm as we discussed in several postings on Hermes was a marker. Originally, it was a pile of rocks, sometimes piled into a phallic shape, that marked a direction or a distance. As time passed, the Greeks refined and concretized the image to include the likeness of the god Hermes with a phallus scuplted into the base. The herm dramatically illustrates the mythic process. The inner psychological image and characteristics of the travelling god was thrown or projected onto the stone markers until an image, shared and discussed by the countless travelers passing by, concretized. Once concretized the image acted pictorially on the conscious mind of all future travellers, thereby adding to the inventory of stories and images associated with Hermes.

In a recent addition to my cycle of poems on Adam and Eve, the herm makes an appearance.

The Herm

Covered in crow feathers,
he danced on one foot
shaking his dried gourd,
singing a love song
until she disappeared
behind the yellow horizon.
He tired,
sank onto salt grass,
and listened to the cicadas’
vibrations rise and fall
like frothy waves.
On the second day,
he watched
a murder of crows,
so socially astute
that he felt an ache
like hunger,
circle and gambol
in the western sky.
On the third day,
he gathered stones
into a motley heap
and wove feathers
within the crevices
like fingers interlaced.
He inserted a twig,
its green point aiming
at his feathered back,
as he jiggled west,
chanting softly,
punching each step
with a comic slap.
On the fourth day,
she found the stones
and grunted
as she shifted the newborn
to her left hip.
As her magic,
she deposited
a sparrow’s wing
and a wasp’s nest,
before following
his crow feet prints
on red sand.

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