An odd convergence of thoughts and imagery appears. That which appears in this Larkin poem (a hedgehog jammed into the lawnmower blades), that which I conjure up when I think of the Czech poem “Half a Hedgehog” and the dual thought of a Nemerov poem referring to “power mowers” and a book I read that dealt with language misunderstanding/mishearing (in which someone had misunderstood and written the term “paramour” as “power mower”).
Oddly, as irreverent as it may seem, I discovered this poem the same day as someone close to me lost a very close friend suddenly. I was preparing it to include here when I heard the news of this shocking death, and suddenly these words had new and urgent relevance: “the first day after a death, the new absence/Is always the same; we should be careful/Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time.”
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.
I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:
Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful
Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.
“Your need a paramour/someone to pluck your eyebrows for…”
Years ago (my god, how many of my stories start that way?) my ex-boyfriend (a French guy) was reading a book – I don’t remember what the book title was nor what it was about but suspect it had something to do with language misunderstandings/misheard words and expressions. He came to me with the following quote, “Meanwhile, Richard Parker Bowles, brother of Camilla’s ex-husband, Andrew, said that from the beginning Camilla approved of Charles marrying Diana while she remained his power mower. (Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch, Jan. 1995)” and could not understand what “power mower” was meant to be. It was “paramour”. I still laugh about this sometimes.
I need a power mower!
Would perhaps the understanding of this word have been different depending on the accent of the speaker? I have said it before and will keep saying it – I could listen to a nice Scottish accent every day and love every second of it. Different accents, voices, languages have the power to do something to us, affecting us on a chemical, physiological level, it seems. I suppose this explains why I want to tell people to shut up so often. Haha. Sometimes it is definitely just the sound. I don’t understand more than five words of Hungarian, but I could listen to and not understand any of it and still want to listen to it all day. I love the rhythm and sound of the unfamiliar words strung together melodiously. (It is not always the case that the language we do not understand is heartwarming. The same aforementioned French guy had no love for the incomprehensible Scottish accents we encountered on holiday in Scotland. I had to act as interpreter although he would politely stand there nodding in a reassuring way as B&B hosts told us stories as we got settled in. Only later did he tell me he had feigned understanding and needed translation (truer to say that he demanded, “What in the hell was she talking about?”).