Monday 25 March 2013

Iron Birds

Some audience reaction after a recent reading suggests that "Iron Birds" from my booklet needs an explanation. Unless you know about Cargo Cults, "Iron Birds" will be tricky, so here's an info-dump: when technologically advanced cultures visit more primitive, isolated ones, they often give presents. After the visitors leave, a religion might develop in the hope of getting more presents, based on rituals - building imitation landing strips and planes, or imitating the behaviour of people with walkie-talkies, etc. The title alludes to the primitives' impression of planes. Some isolated poetry writers are being compared to Cargo Culters. The poem begins

You lay out words to tempt them,
another poem about poetry.

Later they're mockingly told to "Murder the medicine men. Empty your shelves." (medicine men are the wise men, the lecturers; shelves can have both food and books). At the end the hopeful visions of vapour trails are compared to scratch marks fading on a lover's body.

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