Two Poems by Royal Rhodes

Dying Languages Archived

Collecting dying languages at risk
from Mongol tribes, Nigeria, Nepal,
linguists try to digitize in brisk,
efficient ways before we lose them all,
to capture mythic chants like butterflies,
dead and instantly available.
The “nuts and bolts” of cultures lost will rise,
with vocal repertoires made saleable.
Their videos show shamans with their tools
living on the margins, while disasters,
famine, shaky governments of fools
allow the loss, a vacuum newer masters
fill. But words have motion, color, scent,
not categories that we just invent.

Coroner’s Report: 1569

The county coroner’s report
described the victim’s drowning

in the nearby river Salwarpe,
not far from Stratford-upon-Avon.

“By reason of collecting and holding out
certain flowers…’yellow boddles’

growing on the bank of a certain
small channel…called Upton myll pond

…about the eighth hour after noon
suddenly and by misfortune fell

and then and there she instantly died.”

Perhaps, perhaps such domestic details
often with their roots in village gossip

gave the resident playwright gist
to fell his own forlorn, mad heroine

in a brook, while she clutched tight
garlands of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies,

and sang in the still waters “snatches
of old tunes,” until her waterlogged dress

dragged her under to a silent death.

No one bothered to write a play about
those killed by performing bears, or those

dead wrestling, tossing a ball, bell ringing,
or lobbing a sledgehammer for sport.

Only this child, a girl holding certain flowers.

Royal Rhodes is a retired professor who taught classes in global religions, the Classics, religion & the arts, and death & dying. His poetry has appeared online and in a series of art/poetry collaborations for The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. His current project is a poetry/photography collaboration on sacred sites in Italy.

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