A poem: “Pyrrha,” by James K. Baxter

My husband’s aunt is very literate and excellent, and she sent us this poem she found in her collections, by the (apparently crazy and controversial) New Zealand poet James K. Baxter.

When you give your dog a name as strange as “Pyrrha,” it is equally strange and wonderful to stumble upon a mention of that name–even if the context has positively nothing to do with your dog.

For what it’s worth, here’s a strange poem with our dog’s name on it.

This Pyrrha? (“Pyrrha and Deucalion,” by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione.)

Pyrrha
By James K. Baxter

As kites rise up against the wind
Out of the past I summon Pyrrha,
Girl of plaited wheat, first
Mentor of love revealed in dying.

She has come back with a burning-glass
To whom once my thoughts clung
Like branches under weirs tumbling:
That freedom led to the lion’s jaws,
A mind riddled by illusion.
The autumn sky is hers, a flooding
Trick of light on bars of broken cloud.

The streetlamp tells me where she lived.
Re-entering that square, untidy room
Where cups lie mixed with fingerbones
I find her again. Forehead too full,
Opaque blue eyes, bruised archaic smile
Dug from under shards. Pleasure,
A crab gripping the spine;
A mouth lent, not given;
Hair like marram grass, that made
On the short sofa, a burglar’s tent.

Rib from my side, Pyrrha,
I who was young am older,
The wound healed, the flush of seed dry.
You cried once: “I am drifting, drifting.”
Self-pitying, too often drunk,
I did not see your need of comforting.
Pestle and mortar pounded us
Early to a dry volcanic dust.

Happy puppy
Or this Pyrrha?

She might be our “first mentor of/Love,” but I can assure you that she is NOT “too often drunk.” Our Pyrrha at least has that going for her.

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2 thoughts on “A poem: “Pyrrha,” by James K. Baxter

  1. Considering she’s responsible for repopulating females on the Earth according to the mythology, I guess I can say, hopefully your Pyrrha is the mother of your love for dogs. lol

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