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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Prose Poem: 284 words
By Lavinia Kumar

“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them, and that is eternity”

—Edvard Munch*

The iron shackle clamps one leg, its short heavy chain nailed to a boulder. The old brown bear slashes his front paw through the river, snags a large trout. Jolted back toward land, he slowly eats.

Sated, he sleeps, dreams he climbs stone steps to a house of humans, rests under a porch, protects the women. Sometimes dreams take him to his favorite winter cave before others claim it. Other dreams are filled with red mulberries, or a honey feast. But he wakes to his heavy leg.

At times, he imagines his soul free—once even as a man, an elk hunter, who walked among grasses and trees certain that sun and moon always push and pull, that water is below, and air above. He is a proud free soul.

His body is sad. Each day he tries to reach deeper river pools. But fish swimming upriver become few, until he finds no more. He dreams no more. His body is taken by earth, ants, lichens. Tiny white Canada Mayflowers grow.

His soul roves. It escapes mean earth, wanders above woods and forests, roars at hunters and campers. It treks to earth’s rivers, encourages trout and salmon to swim over weirs and dams. Unsettled, it rests and ruminates for untold time on clouds.

Until it resolves to spread its essence—into fingers of craftsmen who carve in stone, in wood. And so it is we see statues of bears loving to sit, to roam, to catch fish. We see tall red cedar totems of bears overlooking the land, bears that bestow a spirit of ancient wisdom.



*Publisher’s Note:

The title is a variation of a poem by Edvard Munch, as translated by Francesca M. Nichols:

Up from my rotting
carcass flowers
shall spring up—
and I shall be in

Appears in MM T 2547 (fol. 060-A41), within a portfolio of writing, drawings, and graphic prints by Edvard Munch, a compilation of concentrated and aphoristic variations of earlier prose poems and philosophical texts related to art: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Source: Edvard Munch’s Writings. Digital archive, published by the Munch Museum. Link retrieved on 14 April 2024.

Lavinia Kumar’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

latest book is Spirited American Women: Early Writers, Artists, & Activists (2022), short prose biographies of nearly 90 amazing pre-Civil War women writers, poets, publishers, painters, artists, abolitionists, early suffragettes, and activists. Ms. Kumar is also the author of three poetry books, most recently No Longer Silent Women: The Silk and Iron of Women Scientists (2020), and four chapbooks, most recently Beauty, Salon. Art (Desert Willow Press, 2019).

Author’s website: https://laviniakumar.net/

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