She of the dark battle
enters this downtrodden day

unbidden she steals in
upon the windblown cold,
rides on a window’s rattle
creeps along the weather of dismay.

She wants to grasp, get hold
and sink her talons deep

into the tender places
stir and rouse the vicious
powers of the soul
much better left asleep.

Who can answer why
she comes and sometimes stays

or how to steer a fragile craft
adrift and trembling toward
her perfect reasons
and her empathetic sighs

around the urge to simply and
forever slip away.

61 responses »

  1. Who among us has not experienced ‘the urge to simply and forever slip away’. You have such a talent for expressing the inexpressible!

    And [me being me, so I just have to say it] and yet despite us and Griselda, unbidden and unheard will come she who follows and scatters glitter falls of light that lead us on.

  2. This is poetry in the classic vein, Cynthia. There are so many effective lines that the poem is amazing: “She of the dark battle . . .” “rides on a window’s rattle . . .” “creeps along the weather of dismay.”
    I am not sure you are referring in the poem to Griselda Blanco, the Black Widow, the Cocaine Godmother and the Queen of Narco-Trafficking of Columbia who managed to flood Miami with drugs, but in some ways the poem could fit her.

    I suspect, knowing you, you might be drawing more on Chaucer and Boccacio and the virtuous woman in The Canterbury Tales, the woman who never thinks bad of her husband even when he talks about killing their children, but the spelling is a little different. At least in my old English version of the poem.

    This stanza leads me to that suspicion:

    or how to steer a fragile craft
    adrift and trembling toward
    her perfect reasons
    and her empathetic sighs

    Still, the poem can also be read differently in that Griselda is an outside part of the poet who:

    wants to grasp, get hold
    and sink her talons deep

    into the tender places
    stir and rouse the vicious
    powers of the soul
    much better left asleep.

    But in the end, glory of glories, the appearance of “She of the dark battle” helps the poet

    around the urge to simply and
    forever slip away.

    Magnificent work.

    • I think I will never cease to enjoy your poetical exegeses, Thomas. I am pleased that the possible identifications of Griselda run from Griselda Bianco, the Cocaine Godmother, to the Griselda of Boccacio and Chaucer, because they all do make a certain kind of complex sense, here. I began, though, with the Germanic source of the name, i.e.. ‘gris hild’ meaning ‘dark battle’ after reading the life of Eleanor Roosevelt and her battle with depression–a mood spirit she called ‘Griselda.’ Griselda is somewhat like that downer Winston Churchill called his “black dog”, which I’m sure we all know at one time or another. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on all of this; it means a great deal to me.

  3. I see this as being about the duality of nature, the precariousness of being the target of a bird of prey, life-death, reprieve-kill, freedom-enslavement, beauty-supremebeauty, you know…

  4. This requires a bit of sitting with for me. It’s dark and its vivid imagery is medieval (at least in my mind) and a bit spooky (how does that mood descend so quickly?). But it’s about that sinking feeling that comes on, not medieval, but quite current (and why the hell isn’t it spring yet?) and descriptive of something we all know pretty well. It’s also a bit wild, as Prospero noted and made me think of The Master and Margarita (it’s that witch thing again). Wow, woman! This one is loaded.

    • Wow…The Master and Margarita!… Would you believe I thought this was a small and simple poem about that which we commonly call depression? And here I’m finding through the comments that it has many literary and wild associations… that it is not so simple a poem as it was to me when I wrote it, though I felt it truly and deeply just as I do at this particular time. I really like your “medieval” as a descriptor because that is the kind of dark I was after in the expression. Spring WILL come, Lisa, and then summer…then fall….the robins are taking over my back yard since there’s no longer a dog to intimidate them!

      • It was the imagery I got with Griselda flying in on the cold draft. And slightly more modern, but with an overall sense of darkness. There’s also motion. And it’s so recognizable. In any event, it’s another good one. Spring hastens!

        • I enjoy how you approach poems, Lisa— fully and exactly as they strike you, bringing time and intelligent openness to them, as a reader.

          I do believe a creative act occurs only in reciprocity— that space between writer and reader, performer and audience, musician and listener….

          • I think you’re right. It’s a wonder I survived the hideous approach to poetry in the U.S. which wants to nail down the meaning and leech out any sense of universality or interpretation…Mostly I just find poetry very imagistic, which is why it’s been so interesting learning about the forms on your blog. I just absorbed that before and remembered but never learned what went into it.

    • And now I’ll have to think about a possible poem for Joie de Vivre because even if she doesn’t always get equal time, she is really the underpinning of it all.

      You are such a globetrotter, John. It seems just yesterday you returned home to England from New Zealand, and now you’ve gone back again. I am coming to know–virtually–more about that special place and cherish several blogger friends who live there.

  5. although a poem about ‘the blues” I found reading it energizing and uplifting. Perhaps it was because a dim spotlight was shone on her and by naming something we people can address this something and deal with it. I also really enjoyed Pauline’s comment. Your poetry is very immersing for me and the images that are conjured up stay with me in a pleasant way. πŸ˜€

    • I agree, Sharon. To shine a light on the darkness takes the fear away….to deny and to repress only let it stay. Pauline is a wise woman, indeed.

      Thank you for all your kind words. (And thank you for ordering my book! πŸ™‚ )

    • I always hope Griselda doesn’t stay too long. Your “gnawing and sawing” are good words for it…..I remember a time when I just couldn’t shake her and the gnawing and sawing in the soul went straight to the gut, grew as a tumor, and required serious surgery.

      I’m happy to hear that the poem stays a little while, though, especially somewhere where the computer is turned off.

      By the way, Susanne, I’ve been meaning to ask you: are you familiar with the stories of Alice Munro?

  6. I took ages to respond to this because it made me a bit “scared” with the winter coming on and the window’s rattle. And although I don’t suffer (thank goodness) from depression of sorts, I get an overwhelming pensiveness which strangely brings Griselda back home and a certain creativity. At least that’s how your poem struck me…

    • A little story: I once attended a poetry reading by a local, prize-winning poet named Alan Duggan who read from his published, hardcover book to a very large audience, and, as he read from the podium, holding a pencil in one hand, he crossed-out and revised a line of one of his poems, in the hardcover, published book!

      “Griselda” sits on page 40 of my own book, already published, and here I have made a revision. I changed the word from November to downtrodden in the second line. Why? Because when I wrote the first version, I wasn’t thinking of how the months of the year are reversed seasons in different hemispheres. You, and Pauline, and Yvonne, and Sylvie in your wondrousness have made it impossible for me to assign any universal meaning to the weather at any given time of year, and I wanted to be able to post this poem now, in our Spring.

      I can understand the pensiveness thing. In fact, Spring can bring on as much, if not more pensiveness than Autumn, I think, for some— especially older folks. Maybe we each have built-in seasons, in ourselves which respond in different ways to the different outer seasons. It does seem that we’re “supposed” to like summer and hate winter, for example, and yet some of us feel just the opposite. Anyway, don’t be scared of Griselda; good things can come of just letting her be, until it’s her turn to give up and go away.

      • Oh Cynthia you forgot poor old me from Down Under!!! Nah, kidding. Beautiful poem and if my husband and I visit the US in 2017, would love to call on you, if it’s OK with you πŸ™‚

        • You make me smile…I was once warned never to thank or praise a list of people because inevitably you forget or leave someone out, often someone important! It’s just a case of my elderly memory and the fact that I encounter those others practically every day, while you and I visit a bit less often— our visits being a case of quality, if not quantity.

          How very exciting that you will be coming to the US in 2017! Unfortunately, I live so far off the beaten track that even my friends that I used to see often when I lived in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, think I live too far now for them to visit. None of them have come to call since I moved here to Maine, two years ago, though we keep in touch by phone and email. The town where I live is not near anything that most people care to see, and a long way from things that people do want to see. You are very sweet to want to call on me, and you would be most welcome, but I know there is much else you will want to experience in the limited time of your visit to the US, and this is way out of the way.

          At any rate, thank you for your kind words about the poem. I always appreciate you and your thoughts, Shubha.

  7. oh….as poignant as it is sententious. Sometimes I think you were born to give voice to these sentiments because (I think you well know) so so many labour under the glowering clouds of listless melancholy, unable to name the thing that it is, much less speak of it to another. For many it is shaming, damning, convinced it is their own doing, their weakness, their scourge. But staring into a corner yields no thought no voice no personhood–just ‘it’–the thing that it is, whatever ‘it’ is. And here, you bring it into being, and once named, it can be bested.

    Speaking only for myself (a survivor of childhood sexual abuse of some years’ length) I choose when so afflicted to find every single way possible to luxuriate in it–a buffet, a smorgasbord of depression–wallowing in every poem, film, story, account, opera, legend, until I wring every last drop of its sickly-sweetness so as to feel better if only because Mimi felt worse than I ever did and had to sing arias with TB to boot.

    And then there’s our mentor, Thomas Hardy:

    We here, as yet, each day
    Are blest with dear recall; as yet, can say
    We hold in some soul loved continuance
    Of shape and voice and glance.
    But what has been will be β€”
    First memory, then oblivion’s swallowing sea;
    Like men foregone, shall we merge into those
    Whose story no one knows.

    If I’m to feel down, I may as well REALLY feel down, and in that perhaps understand better what it is which vexes me, and nearly always it is the fear of ‘oblivion’s swallowing sea’, the abyss, the wondering what this is all for.

    And then, as dessert for my enervated spirit, I read Alice Munro, and then find out I’m not alone in my wondering — or Cynthia Jobin, who can take me down and then raise me up again.


    • Your comment brings tears, Lance, of compassion, gratitude, the mixed urges to laugh and cry at the truth of it. “Once named it can be bested…” is certainly the crux of the matter…and singing loud and strong with Mimi and all those others who sense, have expressed artistically (and who might recall a premature loss of innocence that certainly teaches) that terrible feeling of “oblivion’s swallowing sea.”
      Shame, guilt, blame, have no place here. Only recognition, acknowledgment, indulgence of what IS— are the keys to understanding and dispelling the dark. And naming…as we are such creatures who need to name what is true, in order to begin to love. Thank you so much for what you have said here.

  8. Cynthia, as I read I discovered familiar features in your Griselda. Her sisters come over, but I don’t give them names, don’t want to encourage them to stay. Sometimes they do unpack and stay for a season though. Nameless, tolerated, but never loved. (Sigh…)
    My best wishes! xx

  9. Ah Cynthia – beautiful poem again. I have been reading it now for several days (and before in your book) – also researched the name and saw both Griseldas, as Thomas has said above, reflected in different parts. I cannot add to the comments above – you touch the heart and soul. Thank you!
    Oh – do hope Griselda has left the building! πŸ™‚

  10. On first listening, I felt adrift, uncertain. Then I listened again and recognised (or thought I did) the introspective tug within each of us to the darker places in the mind. Beautifully unsettling.

  11. Soulful writing Cynthia, it’s a place many of us know but few talk or write about. Here, gradually through your words, you take us with you to visit this dark space and let our thoughts become our own. I understand, hope you are well. The warmth of Spring will be at your doorstep soon.

    • Thank you for your understanding words, Mary. I do think acknowledging Griselda is probably the best way to send her packing. Would you believe as I sit by my window and type this, the snow is falling steadily in my back yard….Ach!…New England! I was going to ask you to paint me a tulip….but I look at your sweet little gravatar and see you already did, just by dropping by!

      • Here is to Griselda – we’ll salute her today with my glass of protein milk that is raised in her honor! Aw, that snow doesn’t now sound inviting, no not one bit – we just just in from running and are soak’n wet. Later this week we’ll be taking a drive to see the fields of bluebonnets – 40 miles of pure gorgeousness. The area attracts about 100,000 visitors each year – we are trying to find a peak day and one w/o rain. Can’t wait to see them and will post a few pictures to brighten your day. In the meantime my husband and I are busy doing some interior painting (wish it was art, but that will have to wait until we’re done – it is quite a project). Anyway my friend, take care and stay warm on this Monday – warmer days are ahead!

        • Your miles and miles of bluebonnets are something I have always wanted to see….a Texas phenomenon like our fall foliage here in Maine….we get the leaf peepers and I imagine you get the same kind of crowds for the bluebonnets. Enjoy!

          • Thanks Cynthia – there will be several roads along the way filled with Indian Paintbrushes too. An amazing time in TX (we are trying to plan for the peak, but also stay out of harms way with our many Spring storms). Yes like the NE leaf peepers, it is the same here and all are delighted by the shows. Who knows, I might just have to paint one or two scenes!!! Have a lovely week Cynthia.

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