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Matt Q 10-14-2019 02:31 PM

Inbetween times
 
Seven years is too long

Two-and-half hours, and then a rest.
That is his grind.
These are his days.

Half an hour of lying down,
If he’s at his best.

Two-and-half hours more,
Then half an hour again.
If the day is good.

These are the bars.
This is the cage.
This is his malaise.

.............*

His night sweats
....like a midnight tide
saline, creeping, wet.

.............*

Today he learns another word for fog.
Why should that please him?
But it does.
Smur,
a drizzled mist,
a mix, he thinks, of smudge and blur,
a hint of smear.
He’d like to know a hundred more.
Although it’s fog he has inside his head,
not snow.

.............*

The sweet songbirds of his energies,
he holds them close,
tries not to squeeze.

.............*

What he borrows,
he borrows from tomorrow.
What he repays,
he repays in days.

.............*

Oh, that, he says,
that’s the overfed cat
of fatigue, with its fondness
for songbirds,
which it paws to the floor
with the bluntest of claws,
and grows fat.

.............*

He starts to think of Sartre,
wears a beret, wishes
that his nausea were gentler,
and merely existential.

.............*

The ache is in his muscles, not his bones.
And also in his bones.

.............*

As if some great river had poured
for seven years into a fissure
in the earth, until that river
had dwindled to a stream,
that, he would say,
is how it’s been,

if someone were to ask him.
But they don’t.


---------------------------
New title "A life at intervals" -> "Seven years is too long"
Part 6, "its nausea claws" -> "the bluntest of claws"
Part 7 is new
Part 9, S2L1 now ends in a full stop.

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

A life at intervals


Two-and-half hours, and then a rest.
That is his grind.
These are his days.

Half an hour of lying down,
If he’s at his best.

Two-and-half hours more,
Then half an hour again.
If the day is good.

These are the bars.
This is the cage.
This is his malaise.

.............*

His night sweats
....like a midnight tide
saline, creeping, wet.

.............*

Today he learns another word for fog.
Why should that please him?
But it does.
Smur,
a drizzled mist,
a mix, he thinks, of smudge and blur,
a hint of smear.
He’d like to know a hundred more.
Although it’s fog he has inside his head,
not snow.

.............*

The sweet songbirds of his energies,
he holds them close,
tries not to squeeze.

.............*

What he borrows,
he borrows from tomorrow.
What he repays,
he repays in days.

.............*

Oh, that, he says,
that’s the overfed cat
of fatigue, with its fondness
for songbirds, which it paws
to the floor with its nausea claws,
and grows fat.

.............*

The ache is in his muscles, not his bones.
And also in his bones.

.............*

As if some great river had poured
for seven years into a fissure
in the earth, until that river
had dwindled to a stream,
that, he would say,
is how it’s been,

if someone were to ask him,
but they don’t.

.

II, L1 "Night sweats" -> "His night sweats"
VIII, S1L6, full stop->comma

John Isbell 10-14-2019 04:24 PM

Hi Matt,

I like it. I think you could call it "Another Name for Fog" if you liked. I'd make the last sentence two sentences, with a period after him, and I'm not a big fan of nausea claws as a phrase. It also kind of sticks out here.

Cheers,
John

Matt Q 10-15-2019 05:57 AM

Thanks John.

I'll think on the title. Originally I was writing these with individual titles, and "A life at intervals" was the title of the first poem and seemed to cover a lot of what followed. Maybe there's a better, all-encompassing one. I'm not sure the fog aspect is it, though. And I guess I have the option of numbering them and titling them individually.

Can you say something about your issue with "nausea claws", and why it sticks out? I'm assuming the US pronunciation of 'nausea' is the same, or close enough: In the UK, the first vowel sound is that same as in 'paws' and 'claws'. (I know 'nauseous' can be pronounced differently in the US than the UK.)

I've tried a variety of things with the punctuation of the last one. I'd had a comma after 'been', but I wanted the full-stop there to emphasise the near rhyme with 'stream'. I guess an em-dash would be more correct, but it doesn't stop the line as strongly. When it had a title ("If you were to ask him how he'd been") the poem had ended on "been", which seemed to me to place more emphasis on the word.

best,

-Matt

John Isbell 10-15-2019 06:07 AM

Hi Matt,

Hmm. Nausea claws. Well, it's highly figurative, it kind of trumpets that this is allegory. You lose reality there, and i don't think you need to or indeed have done so elsewhere. That I think is why I find it jarring and stumble over it. I have no objection, I think, to the idea of nausea claws as a description of nausea, I just find it jarring here.

In the last lines:

that, he would say,
is how itís been.

If someone were to ask him,
but they donít.

I think you need a stronger break than a comma after him. I suggest a period. OTOH, you could even go with a comma after been. I believe in keeping punctuation simple when possible, and em dashes or (more precisely) semicolons seem to make assertions or raise the volume in ways that your poem doesn't need. You stanza break is I think all the emphasis you need. Then my ear likes the rhythm your ending will have.

Cheers,
John

Andrew Frisardi 10-15-2019 10:23 AM

I really like this, Matt. The parts generally hold together nicely, and the metaphors are good for making the poem about more than just the N.

A few thoughts I had as I read this the third time around:

In the first part, I think you could leave out “That is his grind,” since it’s implied and told more slant without it.

The second part, the one about the night sweats, might be better close to the end, just before or just after the “The ache is in his muscles” section. Where it’s currently place, it seems like a non sequitur, both in terms of its language in relation to what’s around it, and its laconic content.

In the next section, where I think you’re referring to Aaron N.’s recent use of “smur,” I don’t think you need “But it does,” much as “That is his grind” earlier: it’s already implied.

I especially like the “sweet songbirds” section and “What he borrows.” Really excellent in their epigrammatic power.

The river image at the end is also startling and strong.

I hope some of these comments are useful.

Andrew

Matt Q 10-18-2019 07:59 AM

John and Andrew,

Many thanks for your comments.

Can I ask if it comes across in the first poem that he is days consist of alternating between resting and not-resting? 2.5 hours of being 'up, followed by half and hour of resting lying down, "on a good day", with worse days comprising more resting and less time 'up'?

John,

Thanks for coming back and clarifying. In that part I want to say that nausea comes with the fatigue; it is the claws of the fatigue, so to speak. Is it further from reality that describing his energy as a songbird that could be crushed if held too tightly, or his fatigue as an overfed cat? Regarding the punctuation at the close, I've gone for all commas. I'm not that keen on ending with two fragments, but the again, I'm not completely happy with a comma at the end of S1, so I may well end up taking your suggestion.

Andrew,

I'm very pleased you liked it. I was particularly pleased that you liked the borrow/repay one, since that was the one I was least sure of.

I'd placed the 'night' section second because the first section refers to his days. In terms of the language, it is also the only poem without the word 'he' or 'his', and this had bugged me a bit. I've now changed it to "his night sweats" as the first line, which also seems to strengthen the 'sweats'/'wet rhyme' and is still open to a double reading. I guess it being night might also be a reason for it to come later in the poem. To move it I may need to reorder other parts too: for example, I want to avoid having the two longest poems opening the series. I've spend a fair bit of time fiddling back and forth with the order and most likely still haven't found the best one. I'll give it another go.

I don't know if "this is his grind" is necessarily shown by the rest of the poem, since 'grind' has a meaning of 'work' as well as implying that the situation is 'grinding', and that doesn't seem to be implied by cage and bars, but maybe. There's also a (fairly distant) slant rhyme here with "grind/down", at least to my ear.

I agree, "but it does" tells us something we'd understand without it. I guess for me it's still doing something. Partly rhythmic, partly to do with the voice.

Thanks again, both.

Matt

Jim Moonan 10-18-2019 12:34 PM

Wow. My first thought would be to remove the asterisks and find a way to make this one poem. It would make it more tedious, more futile, more relentless in its grind, IMO. The title fits the first section well but loses meaning in the following sections. Yes, you need a new title.

The river flowing into the fissure imagery is brilliant. Seven years, huh? Hmmm. If you were to revamp this into one poem you might add a line like the one I have below in blue to precede the river stanza.

The night sweats verse is equally brilliant.

I don't know if I would keep the songbird verse and the fat cat verse -- Although if you do you might pair them.

But wow. It has laser-sharp focus on the subject.


Hereís a rough take on a revamp:

Two-and-half hours, and then a rest.
That is his grind.
These are his days.
Half an hour of lying down,
If heís at his best.
Two-and-half hours more,
Then half an hour again.
If the day is good.

These are the bars.
This is the cage.
This is his malaise.
What he borrows,
he borrows from tomorrow.
What he repays,
he repays in days.

The sweet songbirds of his energies,
he holds them close,
tries not to squeeze.
Oh, that, he says,
thatís the overfed cat
of fatigue, with its fondness
for songbirds, which it paws
to the floor with its nausea claws,
and grows fat.

Today he learns another word for fog.
Why should that please him?
But it does.
Smur,
a drizzled mist,
a mix, he thinks, of smudge and blur,
a hint of smear.
Heíd like to know a hundred more.
Although itís fog he has inside his head,
not snow.

His night sweats
like a midnight tide
saline, creeping, wet.

His fullness has run its course and shrivels
as if some great river had poured
for seven years into a fissure
in the earth, until that river
had dwindled to a stream,
that, he would say,
is how itís been,
The ache is in his muscles, not his bones.
And also in his bones.

if someone were to ask him,
but they donít.



Maybe a period after "stream". Maybe no italicization of "that" in the next line. There are two instances when the speaker projects the subject's voice into the poem: In #9 it is mostly words from the subject's mouth. Then again in #11 with the word "that".
I like that inclusion, but not sure how best to represent it.

Anyway, great poetic capture of a point in a life's gradual breakdown.
x
x

John Isbell 10-19-2019 06:14 AM

Hi Matt,

Just reread the whole thing. OK, nausea claws has pretty much stopped bugging me. The whole thing is very nice. I have two thoughts - fix the indented line, and drop “and snow.” I think that stanza and its music are stronger with that appendage gone.
Very nice work.

Cheers,
John

I see spellcheck changed my its to it’s. Evidently it doesn’t trust people to know the difference. Now I feel bad for my judgmental thoughts on all the it’s I see on the Sphere.

Andrew Frisardi 10-19-2019 08:06 AM

Adding "His" to "night sweats" worked wonders, Matt. Amazing how a little change can make all the difference. I like that section there now.

I vote for keeping the asterisks between sections, btw, as for me it adds pause and reflectiveness to the poem's progress.

Mary Meriam 10-19-2019 10:52 PM

Hi Matt, I think Jim's revamp is terrific. I find the discrete sections with asterisks slow the poem down more than it warrants. Though they're very interesting, the sections aren't haiku-ish enough to be read that slowly. But as one long swoop, the poem gains a lot of energy. I like the way Jim re-ordered the sections, especially the songbird stanza. I don't like "nausea" - you don't need it. Your revision adding "His" to "night sweats" is perfect. I like these lines, but they're not in the right place in Jim's revamp:

The ache is in his muscles, not his bones.
And also in his bones.


So it could end like this:


His night sweats
like a midnight tide
saline, creeping, wet

as if some great river had poured
for seven years into a fissure
in the earth, until that river
had dwindled to a stream,
that,he would say,
is how itís been,

if someone were to ask him,
but they don't.


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