FIDDLEHEADS

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Now that all the windows are open, letting
kindly breezes into the house instead of
shutting out the merciless winds of winter

fiddles are playing.

Under ground they’re sounding their strings on fingers;
bows with horsehair stretched to the frog are twinging
whining, sighing strains to a demi-semi—

quavering rhythm.

There, by pebbly pool is a patch of shaded
sod where tiny scrolls have begun to pop up
green and coiled as fine as a bishop’s crozier—

fiddleheads! Listen…

chthonic music deep in the earth is playing
waltzes, grand cadenzas, spiccato, thrusting
spirals, pushing songs to the sun, see? Hear them?

Maybe it’s me.
.
.
FIDDLEHEADS

73 responses »

    • Thank you, MoSy, especially since you’re good natured enough to be confronted with spring poetry when you are in autumn….definitely a prompt to hit the bubbly. But I’m glad the Musician You liked this one!

  1. I too had to look up chthonic, a GREAT word! I could hear them growing and reaching thanks to this poem. The image of the tiny scrolled fiddleheads is wonderful and you’re right, they do make you think of a treble clef.

    • This is the only time of year that fiddleheads can be found in grocery stores, here in Maine. They are a truly delicious delicacy in salads or served as you would asparagus. Supposedly they are also very nutritious (except for the bracken variety which are poisonous). I like them gently boiled or steamed until tender and served with lemon butter. Like eating music…thanks, Sue.

  2. Furled ferns unfurling likened to stringed instruments! That’s a delightful image – I can hear them too. To my ear they sound like Erhu.

    • Thank you, Brad. I’m glad you can hear them too. And your suggestion they might sound like that haunting Chinese two-stringed “fiddle” is inspired. By association it brought back a childhood memory of digging the earth with my little shovel, and my grandmother’s asking “Are you digging a hole to China?”

  3. Well Cynthia, to begin with, as you would say to me (sometimes 😊) “Bravissimo!”

    But I am beginning to feel a tad uneducated! I had to look up ‘chthonic’ and I have never come across fiddleheads! But now I have so that’s a good thing isn’t it? I feel your blog is becoming the education I missed when “The Road Not Taken” would have been the preferred one! 😊

    • Thank you, as always, Chris. You make me smile. We all have different sets of things we know about, bookish or otherwise, but pretty soon you’ll be so smart you will be insufferable! All kidding aside, you, as a connoisseuse of vegetables, would probably like fiddleheads…a bit like asparagus but more “grassy”…and full of vitamins! 🙂

      • I rather like the idea of being insufferable 😊.(Maybe I already am; I will have to consult the family!! I tried to get hold of some fiddleheads but they have to come from California and they are out of stock anyway. Would this be perhaps because it’s the end of the season? Anyway it would be good to try them sometime.

        • I was adding a P.S. to my reply here, and the whole dang thing disappeared. What I wanted to say—besides the fact that California doesn’t seem the ideal place to grow fiddleheads, but rather New England, Canada, the Himalayas—was that you might consider growing your own ostrich fern plants, if you have a shady, moist area in your garden. They spread by rhizomes, underground, and make a nice backdrop, too, for hosta and bleeding hearts. In a couple of seasons you can harvest your own fiddleheads (they’re probably outlandishly expensive in specialty shops) every spring, if you leave a percentage of them for sustainability. ( And they really do go well with mushrooms. ) 🙂

          • That’s WP for you! Well actually the ones online were very expensive but I thought Id treat myself for the experience. But I will take you up on your suggestion, or should I say my husband will take you up on it! And I love mushrooms so watch this space as they say. 😊

  4. Your poem makes me think of the loud sound of the cicadas that are our sound of summer, and in the warmer months. Nature has its own orchestra. Delightful poem Cynthia.

    • Those grasshoppers can get very loud around here, too, in the summer, and they also remind me of violin players, the way they rub one wing on the other to make that sound. Thank you, Barbara!

  5. What a joyful poem — I love it Cynthia. Puts me in mind of Persephone but there’s fresh and personal observation. I like the shape of the stanzas too which draws the eye down to the details. 🙂

    • Thank you, John…I hadn’t thought to include Persephone, but of course she’s there in the mental mix, especially considering the fact that this is an exercise in English sapphics…I pulled the fourth line of each quatrain out to stand alone, and am pleased you noticed that effect!

  6. Fiddlehead, fathead, potato, potaeto, tomato, tomaeto! Let’s call the whole thing off! (sung to the inexpugnable melody of row, row row your boat).

    “Maybe it’s me.”

    Yes, once those nursery rhyme jingles get into your head, you are doomed.

    For those who are confused or enjoy chatting about chthonic music (the resting place for all jingles), try this…
    https://exiledprospero.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/myths-and-better-myths/#comments

    • Having dealt with potato eyes in an earlier poem this year, I now await tomahto season.
      (Tomaytoes are the hot-house ones at the supermarket). And you are right about the invasion of the jingling mind-snatchers, especially as one is rowing further and further, gently down the stream.

      It certainly IS you.

      • Of course potatoes are better chthonic subjects than tomatoes, but I hear one of the giants in agro-monstrosities is inventing the subterranean tomato. It will be black and taste like Veal Scallopini. I love science.

        • I am witlessly laughing so hard I don’t know how to come back with this one, dear Prospero….

          (will the tomato be square, in order to be more efficiently packed for transportation?)

          still laughing….

  7. Fiddleheads, oh Cynthia I haven’t seen one since I left Maine – the curly pop up from the earth, bitter in taste but sure signs Maine’s Spring has arrived. Yes, the music, in fact the whole orchestra has erupted below the top soil and breaking ground – love the “sound of music” through your words. Happy weekend to you ~

    • The University of Maine has put out a bulletin warning people about Bracken, and how the fiddleheads of that species are noxious. Most of the ones around here are Ostrich Feather ferns, and LadyFerns, which are fine to consume. I cannot garden anymore, so here,where I moved just last year, the perennials are going wild. Just the other morning I looked out on the front lawn and a lone daffodil was growing up through the grass….probably from a bulb dropped there by a scavenging squirrel last fall! But everything must be lush now, in Texas, so I hope you’re enjoying…and you have a good weekend too!

      • Hi Cynthia – sounds so good to read that you finally have flowers and signs all around that snow and ice is done for another season and color is now decorating the land. Sweet! How precious of the single Daffodil to pop up ~ Interesting about the Fiddleheads – I wouldn’t know the difference between one version and the next, only know that they tasted too bitter for my liking. Color in Texas is truly gorgeous – can’t get enough of the wildflowers and their brilliance in color, our roses are done with the first bloom and some have started into second, and well all is kind of taking off. We are about 6 weeks to 2 months ahead of Maine – it would be hard to go back to that environment just because of the weather. Have a wonderful weekend too!

    • Hello Léa! The fiddlehead is actually the early spring shoot of a fern,(Lady fern, Ostrich feather fern..) and it is coiled like the head of a fiddle, a curlicue, a bishop’s crozier. But it doesn’t stay that way very long. It gently unfurls to become the graceful set of fronds we know as a fern! It’s edible, considered a delicacy..like escargots, only green, and a vegetable. I was just imagining all the fiddles playing down there, under the ground and shooting up to give us their fiddleheads… 🙂

  8. Another lovely poem! I often associate tastes and smells with high or low pitch sounds and since there are so many smells in spring…i hear the music, too, especially while biking to work in the morning on the trail where spring is very actively unfurling. Sadly, I am now sick with a spring cold : ) but this poem is cheerful.

    • I guess you are blessed (or cursed) with synesthesia, Anna, as am I….smells are sounds, sounds are tactile, letters are colors..etc. I’m glad you hear the music. Biking to work must be a joy. Spring and summer colds are the worst! (Somehow it seems more appropriate to have a cold in the winter 🙂 ).
      Take care. Get well. Enjoy! Thanks for visiting.

  9. There was such joy in this poem, and for me a complete mystery as I had never heard of a fiddlehead (I’ve looked them up now). The poem is like a time-lapse film of plant growth and filled me with delight.

    • As fiddleheads are so familiar to me, I guess I didn’t realize how unfamiliar they were to so many others. (..but no longer: a bonus of the horizon widening of the blogosphere!). I also guess the poem works in spite of that. I like your time-lapse film remark; it reminds me how imagery might also be working in a poem that seems primarily about sound. And yes, the joy. Thank you, Hilary.

  10. It seems everything is singing and playing sweet music where you are – what a lovely thought – the earth and all its new birth in celebration!! 🙂 So I guess all your snow is well gone? We haven’t quite reached this song of earth mode yet in the UK – we’re getting there….s-l-o-w-l-y! I shall be looking out for some of those scrolls – brilliant way to describe the unfolding!

    • Ah, Suzy, Thank you. You might find the scrolls wherever ferns usually grow. But be careful…some of them are not good for you…As little Shirley Temple sings in “The Good Ship Lollipop,”…”you’ll awake with a tummy ache!” Yes, the snow has gone, finally, and the world is turning from white to brown to green. I bet it’s lovely in the UK just now, too. I hope your up-coming break is full of re-creation. 🙂

  11. Ah, Cynthia, your poems really are an education for me! 🙂
    At first, I thought I was reading a more ‘technical’ piece, a style I had yet to learn; with the eleven syllables and the separate fourth line of five, which created a nice balance – until the last one of four – mmm, blown! 🙂
    Then, not knowing what fiddleheads are, I was relating literally to the top of a fiddle; the scroll, pegs and tightened strings of the violin with the pent-up promise of your spring – until I came to the end of the third stanza – mmm, blown again!
    I must admit to being a little lost – violin scrolls growing from the ground is just not a simile I can relate to or imagine you would write!
    Then I had the privilege of reading your followers comments, and your answers – all became clear; and your poem sung to me from the depths to the heights! Another beautiful piece with words that are musical notes unto themselves (whether demi or semi!), sounding imagery, vibrating to the beautiful promise spring brings! As was said above – Bravo!
    (now to find some fiddleheads in Africa! 🙂 )

    • Your comment today, Rob, is so much fun for me to read.

      I see you caught the sapphics—not the easiest for us iamb- prone versifiers… as they require all trochees and dactyls. And I always like to put in a non-conformist variation. With “Maybe it’s me” not only did I violate grammar rules, (should be “maybe it’s I”) in favor of popular idiom, but I gave it a more solid end- feeling, by cutting the prescribed final trochee to one accented beat. I think it’s fun to start with a form, and then tweak it, if it seems to get too “formal”. 🙂

      I’m particularly glad to read what you say about the music and imagery, as I know of your close relationship with music. And those fiddleheads….if ferns are grown where you are, there will be fiddleheads. They’re only there a short while, in spring, or whenever the fern is just beginning to develop its fronds, and of course only in moist, shady places. Don’t know how that works in Africa. But thank you for a delightful comment!

      • Happy you enjoyed the comment – hoped you would! Love the way you ‘played’ with all the techniques! Non-conformist indeed! 🙂
        We will definitely go fern hunting but will probably have to wait until spring – will check! Thanks for your reply! 🙂

  12. I love the idea of a coming upon a whole string quartet of ferns in a dell in the woods–such a great image. Thanks!

  13. I enjoy not only the fiddle play
    😉
    but the way you alliterate in OE patterns (e.g. pebbly pool, sighing strains, and songs to the sun lines). Although, I am entirely ignorant of poetic forms: Perhaps the forms of the lines I cite match some requirement of the form you followed for the poem?

    Eh. Who cares? (In Lenny voice): “It sounds purty! I like it it a lot, George!”

    • Hello Babe! The alliteration you cite kinda sorta just happened, without following any particular form. The line structure/metrics are following what’s called the sapphic (after Sappho) stanza in English, with a tweak of my own. And you’re right, who cares, as long as it sounds purty?(I have been following your saga on your site with interest and empathy. You are a wonderful writer. Forgive me for not jumping into the fray of extended comments….with chronic pain and limited energy I am becoming a woman of fewer and fewer words…..maybe that’s why I stick to poems! 🙂 )

      • 1. Alliteration:
        How interesting that it is coincidental! Or, is it? You are a highly-educated woman, in the sense that used to mean something DID you study OE poetry at some point? Here is my favorite line (my own translation) from “The Wife’s Lament”, which, although disappointingly cheating and using consonant alliteration–more rare in OE–shows the pattern I meant:
        “Bitter barricades with briers rampant,”.

        2. The Compliment:
        If I were capable of being struck speechless, this would be the second time recently someone’s comment would have done so:
        “You are a wonderful writer.”
        To have you, Cynthia–You, an amazing wordsmith, with no equal I’ve ever seen, call ME a wonderful writer–I honestly cannot make sense of it. I am proud of some pieces, but see most of my writing as repetition of the same tired adjectives and turns of phrase. I think it is more that my stories are so different. I have an unusual life. Not the most tragic, but perhaps one of the most classically comedic. (Insert normal laughter escalating to maniacal howls here, as the gentlewo/men in white approach with that special-sleeved jacket.)
        o_O

        3. Chronic Pain:
        May I ask what the location is (are) and source is of your pain? Is it RA? I am sorry that you suffer so. Pain is the thief that can take away everything and everyone we have, including our own selves.

        My own pain level is so low most days now that I have nerve ever paying attention to it–esp. when I remember how it could have stayed, had I not been diagnosed and gotten treatment.

        I was a total baby last night being kept awake by a sore leg, when I am endlessly grateful I no longer commonly have that deep soul-destroying hip arthritis where you cannot lay on your back, sides, or stomach without wishing someone would just please, oh, please, PLEASE bang you hard in the head with a typewriter to help you get to sleep and escape.

        I cannot imagine being in your shoes, Cynthia. I don’t think I could bear it. I admire you even more, now that I know this about you. To create the beauty you do, and carry it into the lives of your readers, while suffering such ugliness, I believe meets one of your three canonization prerequisites. I shall have to know more about you, however, before I can submit your name to the Holy Let-Us-See.

        • Canonization? Send in the clowns! In Catholic grammar school it was made clear to me that I was the only child in the class who did not have a patron saint. “There is no Saint Cynthia, that is a pagan name.” For a while then, one learns to hate one’s name, and by association, oneself. But since I don’t care about saints anymore, I can enjoy the humorous prospect of becoming the first Saint Cynthia. Problem is, one of the criteria is proof of having performed miracles…..too bad. Thanks anyway, Babe. 🙂

          • I missed my humor target, I see: The canonization rules used to require 3 miracles–I think it’s down to 1 now. Your first is already performed, hon–that’s what I meant by all that blah-blahing I was doing back/up there.

            That “saint’s name” stuff–oh, brother. That you suffered from it is inexcusable. In our (non-)family, it was not suffering that was caused, but merely disappointment and anger. Macy Girl wound up with a name on her birth certificate other than the one my mom had chosen, and it wasn’t known to my parents until the priest announced an unchosen name at her christening. The nun at the Catholic birth hospital, when told Macy Girl’s name, decided, on her own, to write down a different name, because the chosen name “wasn’t a saint’s name”. Turned out she was wrong. Not that it should have mattered.

  14. “. . . There, by pebbly pool is a patch of shaded
    sod where tiny scrolls have begun to pop up
    green and coiled as fine as a bishop’s crozier—”

    how sweet is this…how very tender. ours have unfurled now….but there’s nothing quite like the anticipation when glimpsing their tightly-wound-oh-so-green crowns coming up from the brown earth. Lovely, lovely words you craft.

    • Hi Betty…it’s a treat to see you’re reading here, and I’m glad you enjoyed the fiddleheads. I totally understand the catching-up thing, and hope to get over to your blog again soon!

  15. You blog is a delight. I relate to your observations. I, too, wandered the hallowed halls of lit crit until the grand professor of comparative literature declared from on high his dais: “Can you imagine that some people read a story ONLY for the plot?” Okay. I get it. There is more to examine in a work of art. However, in a society plagued by illiteracy, I am thankful that somebody reads—if only for the plot. I checked out after selling my first back page.

    I love your poem “Fiddleheads.” Meet the Fiddleheads in my family (a bluegrass band with a funky twist on pop). Catch their sound amid the North Georgia Mountains.

    http://randomstoryteller.com/2013/10/07/what-the-hecks-a-fiddlehead-3/

    • So happy to meet you, Catherine! What little I’ve so far read of your blog has convinced me to follow it….I love your sense of humor and the way you write. This video of your Fiddleheads is a real treat. Some of the landscape even reminds me of my own familiar scenes here in Maine, though I’m sure the weather is very different, most times of the year. Thank you for reading and browsing the old blog!

  16. Thanks for following my blog. What you write about poetry is terrific. I think a lot of bloggers who try their hand at this genre would find it very helpful. I’m excited–I may pass through Maine on the way to Canada this summer. I’ve only changed planes in Bangor. It’s fun to listen to your podcasts. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to podcasts to some of my posts. Writing IS meant to be heard. Hope that is up and running in June.

  17. This is delicious! I especicially loved this piece of wonder, “Under ground they’re sounding their strings on fingers;
    bows with horsehair stretched to the frog are twinging”
    You are a magician!

    • A nice surprise to see your comment here, Cindy! How you manage to keep up so well with the gazillions of blogs you follow is a lovely mystery. I’m glad you liked the twinging and all. Thank you as always for your encouraging words!

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