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Old 06-16-2017, 06:07 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Night at the Museum (R2)

At the back of the wardrobe
of my basement life, hidden
behind a purgatory of clothes,
and other relics
of the surface, is a door
that opens into a cave,
a cathedral of glittering crystal.
The floor is filled with Mason jars
that range in size from child
to adult. Within each,
a specimen suspended
in liquid. Each jar sports
its porcelain plaque,
each plaque inscribed,
in shaky script, with a date
and a name. Each name,
the same. Some nights I wander
among the rows of floating bodies,
each one murdered
by its successor. I whisper
to them, imagining
sometimes that I see a finger
crook, or eyes that track
my progress. I must polish
the glass in shifts,
there are so many, full jars
and empties. And always
my reflection flickers past
in the surface of the glass,
and a second set of footsteps
matches mine like an echo.
How long must I wait?
And will I fight?

---------------------------
Changed: "murderer / to its predecessor, whose life / it then usurped" to murdered / by its predecessor, its life / usurped."
Replaced old ending with new one (starting from "And always")
L20: removed "its life / usurped"
L16 : replaced missing "and" between "a date" and "a name".
L5: added "is" before "a door"

---------------------------

Night at the Museum (R1)

At the back of the wardrobe
of my basement life, hidden
behind a purgatory of clothes,
and other remnants
of the surface, a door
that opens into a cave,
a cathedral of glittering crystal.
The floor is filled with Mason jars
that range in size from child
to adult. Within each,
a specimen suspended
in liquid. Each jar sports
its porcelain plaque,
each plaque inscribed,
in shaky script, with a date
and a name. Each name,
the same. Some nights I wander
among the rows of floating bodies,
each one murderer
to its predecessor, whose life
it then usurped. I whisper
to them, imagining
sometimes that I see a finger
crook, or eyes that track
my progress. I must polish the glass
in shifts, there are so many, full jars
and empties. Is it fear
that makes me so jumpy, glancing
ever behind me, questioning
the echo of my footsteps
– or hope?

--------------------------------------------
R1: A modified, demodifiered version. Too many changes to usefully list.


-------------------------------------------

Night at the Museum (original)

At the back of the wardrobe
of my basement life, hidden
behind the drooping clothes
and antiquated sports equipment,
a panelled wooden door opens
into the glittering cathedral
of a natural cave, filled
almost entirely with Mason jars
that range in size from child
to adult. Within each, a silent specimen
suspended in clear, thick liquid.
Each jar sports its porcelain plaque,
each plaque inscribed, in shaky script,
with a date and a name. Each name,
the same. Some nights I wander
among them: row upon row
of floating bodies, neatly arranged
in chronological order, each one murderer
to its predecessor, whose life
it then usurped. I whisper to them, imagining
sometimes that I see a mottled finger
crook, or eyes that track
my progress. I must polish the glass
in shifts, there are so many, full jars
and empties. Is it fear
that makes me so jumpy, glancing
ever behind me, questioning
the echo of my footsteps,
or hope?

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-25-2017 at 05:26 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-17-2017, 04:39 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Hi Matt,
I'll keep reading this and thinking about it but for now I wanted to say there are too many modifiers, adjectives particularly, especially at the beginning.


Quote:
At the back of the wardrobe
of my basement life, hidden
behind the drooping clothes
and antiquated sports equipment,
a panelled wooden door opens
into the glittering cathedral
of a natural cave, filled
almost entirely with Mason jars
that range in size from child
to adult.
There are other examples deeper into the poem but it isn't as heavy as the beginning.
I like what the poem is about but find it tough to like the poem as it is. I think it's a couple of revisions away from finished.
Best,
John
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  #3  
Old 06-17-2017, 05:54 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Thanks John,

I'll see what I can do.

Matt
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Old 06-18-2017, 04:07 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Posted a revision in response to John's good advice.
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Old 06-18-2017, 07:39 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Hi Matt, I like the imagery but don't feel the N's voice has the heft it needs to bring it into the realm of the macabre, which is where it seems to want to go.

I'm baffled as to why you decided to end it the way you did:

Is it fear
that makes me so jumpy, glancing
ever behind me, questioning
the echo of my footsteps
Ė or hope?


It feels too rational.

Someone posted on the GT board a few weeks back asking for examples of horror in poetry for an anthology (I think). Itís gone from the board now, but there was a good response from some of the most unlikely sourcesÖ My point is that youíve conjured up a horrific vision but donít seem to match it with language. It could be that you did it intentionally, but if so, it still doesnít feel fully realized, to me.
Perhaps this will come aliveÖ I don't know why... I want it to make me squirm.
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Old 06-18-2017, 07:51 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Jim,

Thanks for you comments. I'd be really interested to know how you are reading this, to see if it's coming across as intended.

EDIT: I think you have highlighted something that may be a problem for this poem: that the literal /surface level of the poem (macabre, horror) may be a mismatch for the subtext. Definitely something for me to think about.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-18-2017 at 08:47 PM.
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  #7  
Old 06-19-2017, 06:04 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Yes, the revision is better. It allows the very vividly memorable images ('a finger / crook') to breathe and lodge in the mind, without the extraneous detail. The imagery is macabre and kind of horror movie-esque -- a Bride of Frankenstein vibe -- and archetypal enough for you to be able to get the reader to the place where you want them using these smaller brush-strokes.

I'm guessing it's about one's 'past selves' -- the person we were at 5, 10 17, 30 etc -- and how they continue to influence us and build up like a palimpsest. It's effective.
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Old 06-19-2017, 07:19 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Matt,

I also felt this was about past selves. I quite like the revision.

Cheers,
John
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  #9  
Old 06-20-2017, 03:40 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Jim, Mark and John, thanks. I'm glad this is coming across.

Yes, the idea is that these are former selves, who he spends time wandering amongst, and the break on "full jars / and empties" is supposed to point to the fact there will be more: that's he's next. He will change. So, the ending reflects his response to this.

In the context of the other basement poems, it's clear he's a very stuck person. I'd hoped that came across here too, in his wandering and tending to the specimens, but perhaps not. I did wonder about introducing a time gap at the end of the series of specimens, that the most recent one was some years old, to show a lack of recent change, but can't see how to do that without being clunky.

Jim, your point made me wonder whether the horror/macabre motif is the best one for the subject, in that the N's state of mind and his situation is not one of terror or madness, and that's not a state I'm wanting him to be in: more caught up in the past, and both wanting and fearing change in a way that seems creepier to the reader than the N. So maybe it needs a less exciting/horror setting. I'm still thinking about that.

best,

Matt
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Old 06-20-2017, 08:14 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Hi Matt, I must apologize for not thinking/dwelling long enough on this one to place it in context with the other basement poems youíve posted here Ė all of which Iíve liked. Iíve re-read the three that remain on this board (there are more, too, I think?) and think they all have a feeling of isolation that is latent in them Ė just under the surface. (Pun!)
Although this one is more overtly macabre, I now realize that all of them have a hint of it.

--If macabre is even the right word. Maybe they are better described as having a Kafkaesque quality to them. In fact, if one is inclined to expand your vision of past selves preserved in mason jars and empty ones waiting for future ďvictimsĒ, then it becomes almost Poe-like (Fall of the House of Usher).

Itís really a matter of how you place the N within the context of the setting (basement). I had said that perhaps the Nís voice felt somehow out of place in the context of the rest of the poem, but Iíve changed my mind a bit, maybe because of the revision, but I think mostly due to a closer reading on my part. Perhaps a better way to end this poem would be to give us a glimpse of the presently alive self and how it came to be born from the previous self. What precipitates such transformation? Are they really different?

Itís the closing three lines that need revision, IMO. I think the questioning is incongruent with what has come before. It seems too rational. I want it to leave me hanging; leave me thinking and concerned about what is to come next.

It is becoming apparent that the basement is doing things to the psyche of the narrator. Wonderful, wild, dark, imaginative things.

These poems have grown on me. I really love where they are and how they are creating a world that is uniquely yours.

This is not much helpÖ Iíll keep thinking.
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