tar baby

“His mind’s all black thickets and blood”
Jim Harrison (Songs of Unreason)

I sit with him
he is covered in black treacle
not the viscous sweet gum beaten from the cane
that runs, for the best of times,  into the old rum stills
just the tarred impediment to movement
he has come begging for distraction, inspiration
a long escape ladder for the elephant trap
of his molasses mind – but I shun that kind of touch
and despite all the dumb insults
he knows we have to lick him clean

[tar baby refers to any “sticky situation” that is only aggravated by additional involvement with it]

Touching on the therapy of depression for Jilly’s pick of Jim Harrison quotes as poetry prompt : Day 23 of 28 Days Unreason

24 Comments on “tar baby

  1. Oh, that is so excellent! Terrific language and imagery, and the tar baby of depression is a perfect metaphor!

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    • thank you for your very nice appreciation
      p.s. quite coincidentally a few of us went with rabbits – I saw Brer Rabbit and the briar patch, rum and depression – never know what is in these these Harrison quotes

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  2. I remember Bre’er Rabbit and the tar baby too. I didn’t know the connection with depression, but ‘molasses mind’ sounds about right. Good metaphor.

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    • No suggestion of depression in old Brer rabbit – no matter how dire the circumstance, he wriggled out of it. Tar and molasses do remind me of depression – that dark and sticky helplessness – but I take a spoonful now and again of the real thing

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        • never heard it’s good for the blues but it does have quite a lot of goodness in it
          “Black strap molasses and the wheat germ bread
          Makes you live so long you wish you were dead
          You add a little yoghurt and you’ll be well fed
          On the black strap molasses and the wheat germ bread.”
          Disney – Alice in Wonderland – 1951

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  3. This nod to Uncle Remus is inspiring. Depression is a sticky situation indeed. As a therapist, i suppose you have to cleverly avoid the same fate as Bre’er Rabbit! Good one!

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    • thank you Vivian – strange places Uncle Remus pops up in.
      And no I never touch the tar baby else it would be like a non-swimmer trying to save a drowning person!

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  4. I love this depiction of depression, and the therapy that it demands.

    I struggled with that final word, but there is something demanding in this poem, I think, and it’s hard to keep yourself intact and not give in to that dangerous,sticky embrace. Lots of echoes and whispers in this poem, pulling in Brer Rabbit (of course), but also sugar plantation slavery (for me, anyway), and the cleansing lick of the mother cat.

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  5. I know what you mean about clean – there is a sense of cleansing though when we have come through depression and mother cat is just the one to do it! Glad you picked up on the demanding part – that is half the battle.

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