If I Were a Defiant Animal . . . (Palinode)

I’ve been busy writing and promoting. My ‘soft’ horror story, “Muzzling the Monster,” is out in book form with some other excellent hobbits’ people’s stories.

But in the meantime, a sort of narrative manifesto in the form of a palinode.

Palinode: According to the Poetry Foundation, a palinode is “an ode or song that retracts or recants what the poet wrote in a previous poem.”

And now, in response to the world today and in homage to WordPresser and poet Robert Okaji, whose much more deft and studied poetical works you can find here . . .

If I Were a . . . (defiant animal/goddess/dolphin/force)

for Robert Okaji

If I were another kind of defiant animal than me, I think I’d choose to be a well-kept black cat. I’d be haughty about my rich, luxuriant fur and take every opportunity to let the sun follow my lead, basking in its admiration like the goddess I clearly am.

If I were a goddess, I might be the goddess of writing. I suppose that’s a good deal better than saying one is the goddess of ducks, sugar, or figuring out how people tick. I would not be Athena, patroness of the arts in ancient Greek theology, but I’d definitely like to be petty and jealous. Then I’d be more like a human than a goddess, wouldn’t I? My salvation would be in my animal symbol or familiar. I could be (or I could at least charm) a dolphin—a friendly, curious, and helpful creature.

If I were a dolphin, I’d rescue kind but hapless sailors and children blown out to sea. I’d guide the migrants’ boat to a safe shore (and hope compassion would prevail to not push them back in). With the help of my pod, I would be a force of benevolence and intelligence in a chaos-besotted universe.

If I were a force of benevolence and intelligence, even in a seemingly chaotic universe, then I would realize it takes an endless link of like-in-kindness human beings and that our mutual efforts generate the light necessary to turn sorrow’s tide of tears into a band of colors. United despite our different degrees of retraction and flow.

Then again, I could just sit silent and still.

No one would notice the wavelets starting to nip blanched toes dug-in to their patch of sand.

Until the waves became a commotion of voices, defiant animals shouting no more!

What will you do to defy the status quo today?

For a trio of Bob O’s recently published palinodes, go to Otoliths e-magazine.



13 thoughts on “If I Were a Defiant Animal . . . (Palinode)

  1. Thanks Leigh, I like the word “Palinode” its got a nice ring to it and its just what I have been looking for. I can think of a few things I can “palinode” (is that the right thing to say?) but changing the status quo is harder though it would be soft for it to remain. Any way congratulations and good luck with your published story!

    • Zteve, I was not familiar with palinode(s) either, until I read Bob’s three poems. It’s possible I came across it somewhere, since I have a degree (basically) in 19th/20th C. poetry/literature, but I don’t recall it. I’d say several things. Take a look at Bob’s poems published at Otoliths. He does them differently (and much more lyrically) than I’ve done here; I’ve written villanelles [the Poetry Foundation has a glossary, so you can look up lots of forms, if you’d like!] before (which repeats a line from a previous stanza), so I took inspiration from that form here, too. I didn’t springboard from an existing poem of mine; it’s more that I built on the final thought in the previous stanza. The example that Poetry F’ndn gives is that, apparently, at the end of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer apologizes for the “sinnes” and frivolity of the previous work. As to word usage, you could probably use palinode as a verb. I’m a descriptivist, not a prescriptivist, nowadays, so I say go for it. The (English or any other) language is strong enough to be malleable! Thanks again for stopping by, Zteve. P.S. Oh, I know you write a lot about animals and, I think, plants at Tellurian Studies. Soooo, I saw a fascinating story today, google New York Times, about the carnivorous venus flytrap becoming almost extinct in North Carolina (my home state, so I’m biased to noticing stories about NC; maybe it’s no big deal). Who knew plants were “poached” too?

      • Thanks for sharing. I always find something interesting at your site and now I have found palinodes and Bob’s writing so thanks! I had no idea venus fly traps were being poached – shame. Some people will poach the eyes out of your head if you are not watching!

  2. I like the idea of doing something to change the status quo today! Very impressive Leigh. I didn’t know what a palinode was and I’m not aware that I’ve every read one, so you’ve introduced me to something new, with your usual deft wordsmithery and imagery.

    • I’m not sure I ever read one either, until Bob Okaji’s three were published this fall. It feels a little like a villanelle, though, which I did write one of back in grad school that seemed to have turned out good. Thanks for the encouragement, Andrea, as always! Wishing you a wonderful week of creativity and lucid dreams.

  3. Leigh I love the linking and building on one goodness to the other. I of course especially loved the vision of you as the dolphin guiding migrants to the shore. As our Syrian family approaches their one year anniversary in Canada that tugs some special heart strings for me. Beautifully written.

  4. Congrats! Leigh on getting “Muzzling the Monster” in the Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires.
    I loved the piece “If I were…” specially the opening sentence “…another kind of defiant animal than me…”. I loved the way each paragraph is leading with the idea from the previous para. Nicely woven, Leigh. 🙂

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