October 20, 2015

Written by Danny Fahey

For many years now I have been using Grace Paley’s Drowning poems as an exploration of image/metaphor etc and the use of Dramatic techniques to present the poems in a theatrical form. I start teaching one of the poems (i.e. Drowning II) with the line “this is how the camel I am drowned”. But I have this weird habit of twirling words around in my head so what I see/read/ and what is to be seen are not necessarily the same.

So the problem was, as a student pointed out, the poem does not start with the line “this is how the camel I am drowned”. I checked the book of Grace’s poems that contained the drowning poems and…sure enough…there is no camel in that second drowning poem. It was a shame because I had made all these links to drowning and journeys and such that linked the camel into the idea of drowning (desert images etc).

In response to all that work and to my strange error, I wrote these two poems. I hope you enjoy them.

Editor’s note: the original Grace Paley poems are subject to copyright and therefore not included. However, the poems can be accessed online.

Drowning (I)

(for Grace Paley)

If the sand   could be    swallowed

would that    empty    place    within

find itself curving back into a solid

and home,

that recedes in the light of day,

be finally re-found?

If the night,   that hollow    we step    within

and try to    hide   all the damage

we have done,

could be devoured and made    to turn again

into light    would we feel the    sun run    free

in the tired rivers of our veins?

And if my hand    could    hold    the right pen,

if the ink    ran    into all the proper    places

and the lines between   remained    balanced    and sober,

would I finally find all

the images

and sounds

might fall still the way a leaf tumbles down to the floor

and creates a sea of silence for the many lives

of the creatures that burrow and scurry

beneath the ocean of trees?

Might I,    finally finding my    inside

had been turned     out

and drowning then in the sight of what should be hidden,

be set free?

Drowning (II)

(for Grace Paley)

this is how the camel I am drowned


under a vast sky, painted with the hand of

an artist so blue

the heart’s red earth shatters


in clouds of words


a vista of rolling waves

that capture the wind

curve first this way and then


in the waves, footprints, turn first this way and then


and distance is measured in tears shed


drunk at night

a treasure discovered in the depths

of the hidden cave

then the words and glory

turn to sand

fill the throat and mind


the tongue


a trout landed

and drowning in air.

One Response to “Drowning”

  1. […] Fahey, Nazanin Ghodrati and Talitha Fraser who respectively in Reflections of a Perfect, Drowning, The Brick Choir and Untitled  present a defamiliarised version of the everyday struggle from the […]

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