Waiting for Fireworks in Windy Chill

Image courtesy of srboom.com
Image courtesy of srboom.com

Much ado about nothing.

Let the wind find an occasion, any will do.

It’s bitter: we draw close to escape the freezing bite.
But then, the magic. Each time the lights are flung upwards, we revert to child’s stares, gasps of pleasure, chorus of ‘Aaaahs’. The last two minutes impossible to fathom in gathering of smoke-clouds.

I’ve never been without them.

At first they were empty ritual, a sweetener to parades. Post-prandial cognac to stadium choreography to mark the soporific afternoon of a people so inured to bread and circuses they could gasp no longer.

So I suppose resistance would best describe me – indifference… until…

A chill descends on the city one night in December.
Machine gun rhythms in streets howling with wind, with sirens, with rage.
Walls came tumbling down, words recaptured meaning, crying for happiness seemed normal and fear disappeared for a while. Crowds gathering, kissing strangers.

Then more popping sounds. Not fireworks these: snipers. Each sound could bring you to your knees.

I shiver in my nest of contentment.
So now I put those darker fireworks most firmly in a box. And go out with my children to mimic their awe.

I’m posting this as a response to the prompt over at dVerse Poets, where Kathleen Everett has us writing wind-inspired stories. In my memory, fireworks are not summery displays of gaiety, but hanging around waiting for something to happen, wind-chill factor rising and rising.

Poetic Experimentation: The Reduction

At dVerse Poets today, Anna is encouraging us to experiment with poetic forms and language. I’ve chosen to ‘minimise’ or ‘reduce’ the unyieldy sauce of an old but previously unused poem.

I found my old lovers on Facebook.

They all had wives and kids>

Remarkably unpining after my charms,

nor did they realise what my fecund ideas

might have done to their lives.

Instead of world creation

bland holiday snaps.

Instead of creativity, those endless quiz results.

One had gone to seed

cow-like in pasture

happy in his ruminations,

aside from the fray.

Once angular faces now rotundly benign,

with eyes that flashed danger

now dulled by routine

and contentment.

 

The reduced form of this is as follows:

Old lovers on Facebook,

all partnered, with kids,

no pining for my charms,

or fecund ideas.

Creativity reduced to quizzes.

Rumination in pastures.

Dangerous angles rotundly benign.

Routine contentment now ruling their world.

 

 

 

 

Editing Poetry: Some Examples

Each poem is only as good as its last (or should that be ‘latest’?) incarnation. Elizabeth Bishop would spend years polishing her poems, making them briefer in the process, packing them with hidden meaning and memorable imagery.

But do we sometimes over-edit things? To test out this hypothesis, I’ll share some of the transformations one of my poems has undergone. I’m still not quite happy with it, but really do want to/need to  write it.

The first version of ‘Who Am I? (Third Culture Kid)‘ appeared quite early on in the life of this blog. I was initially quite proud of it, felt it was honest and heartfelt, and it got some positive comments. Then I took it to a poetry workshop and received lots of comments and suggestions, which made me realise it was not as clear or as precise as it might be. I felt it needed more ‘explanation’, so instead of cutting, I added to it. Here is the second version:

Moving on, I think –
what a blessing!
Head down, prepare
for exit, re-entry, again and again,
glad to stay moss-free,
rolling past the moved-upon
with a wave, a whoopee!

But ultimately revenge is theirs:
for they sprout roots, link up, form tissue
richly alive with shared hours and tales.
Shortcuts roll glib off their tongues,
always creating and leading their own trend,
while the mover is running to catch up,
to fuddle in the language of past generations,
never quite getting the nuance or slang.
I fear we are a shade disappointing:
we stammer, we marvel at the wrong thing.
Our plumage exotic, not enough erotic,
our glamour too alien when you want to preen.
Askew, inefficient, never quite sufficient,
alignment and meekness passed us by.
So easy to shoot at, never enough time
to grieve. Nor find reason or season to rhyme.

So I’ve learnt to hide my real thoughts
my own thoughts
my solitude

Who am I?
I am all that is half-forgotten,
all the places in which I’ve left my heart,
all that is preserved in the mud.
I’m done with digging!
I dare not show you all my layers
for fear the rubble may bury you.

See that flying line of geese? There’s one just off,
destroying the symmetry…

But it too has learnt.
Above all, this:
a short answer to the question:
‘Where are you from?’
just enough humour to colour it harmless.

Unsurprisingly, this was too verbose, too prosy, forcing things down the reader’s throat rather than startling them with an unexpected insight. I tried to experiment a bit with lines and punctuation, in a vain attempt to ‘spice it up’. I suppose I was also aiming for a contrast between cultures – the more oral, ‘hip-hop’ verses alternating with calmer, almost erudite verses. Here’s that opening stanza again in this version:

Moving on                                          what a blessing!

Head down/ prepare

for exit, re-entry                              again and again

glad to stay moss-free//

rolling past the moved-upon

with a wave                                        a whoopee!

Thanks to my poetry tutor, I began to understand some of the poetic bad habits I had picked up along the way. It wasn’t the layout on the page that was the problem, nor the topic itself. There was a kernel of truth there that people could connect with, but I needed to find a way to ‘tell it slant’.

My current attempt has reduced the poem to just the following lines:

Who am I?
I am all that is half-forgotten,
half-mourned, misunderstood.
I am all the places in which I’ve left my heart.
All buried deep inside,
calling halt to excavation.
I am all I dare not show you
for fear you will drown
in my impure
clinging mud.

Not sure that this is going to be the final version, though… 

Jousting for Attention

Walk up, walk up, fair knights and ladies! Meeting in battle today for the first time ever are two poems of very different composure, manner and attire. The first, inspired by a verse from a ballad by that incomparable bard Sir Timothy of Br’ian, is serious and moody. A knight of darkness, riding to the rescue of damsels in distress. The second jumped fresh as a daisy from a line from Lady Claudia’s Book of Adventurous Deeds: sweet, rambunctious and all white fluffiness. They are competing here for your favours. Which one will get your vote?

From kidswindow.co.uk
From kidswindow.co.uk

 

1) One day you stop filling in cracks

with smiles, guts and vapour.

One day the paint becomes too heavy for the wall.

One night your eyes unblink in reddened wakefulness

and never come to rest again.

One morning your boots start walking all by themselves.

 

2)  Time is a thin line on a cat’s back.

When you most want to tickle it awake

and grab it by its fleeting softness,

it scampers away in offended silence.

Yet when you blissfully ignore,

pace forth in multitasking skullduggery,

reluctant to waste a drop…

it curls into a placid ball

and purrs contentment into your impatient lap.

 

These two poems are in response to our ‘medievally themed’ week at dVerse Poets Pub, where we are bidding fond farewell (but not adieu) to Claudia and Brian, our founding parents. Do come over and join the celebrations! [I have marked the lines from their poems in italics.]

Brian claudia

Letter from the Future

I wish I could tell you it’s all sunshine.

But you’d never believe or take joy in that.

You need cloud cover to hide the pockmarks on your path.

 

You should be here.

 

You should see

how all you feared came to pass

 

and you lived anyway.

 

How lessons took too long to be learnt

smarted with salt-rub on blistered skin

then washed in emulsion of sepia tints.

 

You should if you could…

but you wouldn’t and you won’t…

keep your eyes unfocused, looking beyond the prize,

capture all the slapdash details

which add up to a beautiful life.

P1020258

 

Over at dVerse Poets Pub tonight, we are imagining receiving a letter or poem from our future self. What will we know/have learnt/be willing to share? What does the future look like?

Snowed Under

PoeticsSnowedInMantle’s too obvious

and blanket reeks of cheap vodka and sweat stains.

Sheet refers to black ice, the treachery of slipping.

So what word should I use

for wintry timing of our springs?

Each fresh puff of indignation

frays the quilt that dampens ardour.

This cloak and dagger business

has quenched my refrain far too long.

Are there shoots beneath the freezing?

Stones left unsplit from jaw-biting cold?

One thing I do know:

it’s not a comforter.

 

Join us for some wintry poetry – as literal or as metaphorical as you like – at dVerse Poets Pub tonight!

 

 

Open Link Night: One Word Epitaph

It’s the end of the month and Open Link Night over at dVerse Poets Pub. Join us for fun, laughter and good vibes – as well as plenty of poetry from all around the globe.

 

One Word Epitaph

gravestoneBorn here, grew up there. Moved a lot, not sure where home is.

Done with town life, biz junk. Had my phase of punk.

First man too mean, next too green, third took the cream.

Tribes ran off, so did my book.

Got left on hook, no laugh, no shame.

All I want: my sons, my pen and friends.

A book to read in fruit tree.

Sweet cat on my lap.

Good meal with friends.

Stiff drink at end of day.

Walks on hills, rolls in hay.

Snow and skis, come what may.