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Old 02-11-2018, 05:26 PM
Tony Barnstone's Avatar
Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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Default American Dreamer Haikus

American Dreamer Haikus--Revised


Midnight is the room
..........where he hunches in the blue
....................spray of TV light
with drink and ice cubes
..........click-clicking like the scrabbling
....................insects in the wall.
And outside the glass
..........in the parking lot, voices
....................in an avid rush
argue, too loud not
..........to be heard by dreamers lost
....................in bedrooms above,
"You were. I saw you!"
.........."Like hell! Without my glasses,
....................the world is a smear
of vaseline. How
..........could I be looking at her
....................when I'm fucking blind?"
The voices makes him wince,
..........thinking of what he once thought
....................indivisible.

He stands with vodka
..........tonic sloshing in his hand,
....................looks out the window
where seraphim with
..........red lights on wingtips chalkmark
....................the blackboard heavens
above the tree line.
..........They are in a controlled fall,
....................like America.
They are coasting down
..........to lights of the darkened
....................coastal city fire
whose muted embers
..........redden the fog with warnings
....................to yield or to stop.
He imagines steel
..........spider legs of satellites
....................splayed out, raveling
and unraveling
..........the hidden web. And the stars
....................above are spangled.

When he finally
..........falls into bed, the dreamer
....................sinks through the mattress
and through the floorboards,
..........and is root-cocooned beneath
....................a roof of dank earth.
He stays there all night,
..........a bobbin bound in a spool
....................of thread, hummingbird
wrapped in packing twine,
..........making little moans, his legs
....................kicking out weakly.

And in the morning's
..........black milk he does not recall
....................what binds him at all,
so he clips seat belt,
..........punches gas, and drives up-coast
....................by dawn's early light,
when--What the hell?--he
..........swerves hard into a gravel
....................lot so not to hit
an ostrich sprinting
..........straight at him down the road's
....................yellow center stripe.

And there is no voice
..........from the air or the flaming
....................bush to explain why.
But he watches till
..........the ostrich is just a ruff
....................of bronzed tail feathers,
a feather duster
..........that puffs out in distance like
....................twilight's last gleaming,
then he crunches off
..........across the gravel, enters
....................the café, and chats
over sausages
..........with the Lithuanian
....................priest whose five brothers,
partisans, were lost
..........fighting Nazis and Russians
....................in the deep forests.
"The earth of our land
..........is blackened with blood and tears,"
....................he says in heavy
accent, "So I come
..........to America. This land.
....................Now these young bastards
march in Charlottesville,
..........with their dumb tiki torches,
....................with their Blood and soil?
Ach. I could just spit."
..........And he does. He spits right on
....................the cracked wooden floor.

He tries not to think
..........about it too much. He tries
....................not to think. He tries.

The eggs hemorrhage
..........into the toast. Peacocks screech
....................in a pen behind
the café kitchen.
..........And there are no rings of fire
....................no wheels within wheels,
no hallelujah,
..........no four score and seven years,
....................no I have a dream,
no fiery gospel
..........writ in rows of burnished steel,
....................there's no answer here.

Midnight is the room
..........in the drear Seaside Motel.
....................Midnight is the room
where he leans into
..........light of the magic box that
....................helps him kill his mind.


-----------------
American Dreamer Haikus


Midnight is the room
..........where he hunches in the blue
....................spray of TV light
with drink and ice cubes
..........click-clicking like scrabbling of
....................insects in the wall.
And outside the glass
..........in the parking lot, voices
....................in an avid rush
argue, too loud not
..........to be heard by dreamers in
....................the bedrooms above,
"You were. I saw you!"
.........."Come on. Without my glasses,
....................the world is a blur.
I mean, how could I
..........be looking at a waitress
....................who I couldn't see?"
That one makes him wince,
..........thinking of what he once thought
....................indivisible.

He stands with vodka
..........tonic sloshing in his hand,
....................looks out the window
where seraphim with
..........red lights on wingtips chalkmark
....................the blackboard heavens
above the tree line.
..........They are in a controlled fall,
....................like America.
They are coasting down
..........to the darkened lights of
....................the coastal city
whose muted embers
..........redden the fog with warnings
....................to yield or to stop.
He imagines steel
..........spider legs of satellites
....................splayed out, raveling
and unraveling
..........the hidden web. And the stars
....................above are spangled.

When he finally
..........falls into bed, the dreamer
....................sinks through the mattress
and through the floorboards,
..........and is root-cocooned beneath
....................a roof of dank earth.
He stays there all night,
..........a bobbin bound in a spool
....................of thread, hummingbird
wrapped in packing twine,
..........making little moans, his legs
....................kicking out weakly.

And in the morning's
..........black milk he does not recall
....................what binds him at all,
so he clips seat belt,
..........punches gas, and drives up-coast
....................by dawn's early light,
when--What the fuck?--he
..........swerves hard into a gravel
....................lot so not to hit
an ostrich sprinting
..........straight at him down the
....................yellow center stripe.

And there is no voice
..........from the bush or the flame to
....................explain to him why.
But he watches till
..........the ostrich is just a ruff
....................of bronzed tail feathers,
a feather duster
..........that puffs out in distance like
....................twilight's last gleaming,
then he crunches off
..........across the gravel to the
....................café, where he chats
over sausages
..........with the Lithuanian
....................priest whose five brothers,
partisans, were lost
..........fighting Nazis and Russians
....................in the deep forests.
"The earth of our land
..........is blackened with blood and tears,"
....................he says in heavy
accent, "So I come
..........to America. This land.
....................Now these young bastards
march in Charlottesville,
..........with their Blood and soil, with their
....................dumb tiki torches?
Ach. I could just spit."
..........And he does. He spits right on
....................the cracked wooden floor.

He tries not to think
..........about it too much. He tries
....................not to think. He tries.

The eggs hemorrhage
..........into the toast. Peacocks screech
....................in a pen behind
the café kitchen.
..........And there are no rings of fire
....................no wheels within wheels,
no hallelujah,
..........no four score and seven years,
....................no I have a dream,
no fiery gospel
..........writ in rows of burnished steel,
....................no answer why.

Midnight is the room
..........in the drear Seaside Motel.
....................Midnight is the room
where he leans into
..........light of the magic box that
....................helps him kill his mind.

Last edited by Tony Barnstone; 02-14-2018 at 03:10 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-13-2018, 11:55 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Location: New York, NY
Posts: 3,097
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Tony, I am glad to see you posting here again.

This is an ambitious piece and you develop the themes well. You also avoid the usual democro-poetic clichés—the sorts of things one tends to find in inauguration poems.

I am uncomfortable with a number of the soft enjambments, on prepositions (“to,” for example) and articles (“the,” for example) because the piece seems to slip from syllabic poem to lineated prose at those points.

This stanza is very powerful:

The eggs hemorrhage
..........into the toast. Peacocks screech
....................in a pen behind
the café kitchen.
..........And there are no rings of fire
....................no wheels within wheels,
no hallelujah,
..........no four score and seven years,
....................no I have a dream,
no fiery gospel
..........writ in rows of burnished steel,
....................no answer why.

To fix the four syllable last line I would suggest ending with something like:

no hallelujah,
..........no four score and seven years,
....................no I have a dream,
no fiery gospel
..........writ in rows of burnished steel;
....................there’s no answer why.

or

....................here’s no answer why.

or

....................there’s no answer here.

Best,

Aaron
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  #3  
Old 02-14-2018, 06:01 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 1,827
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Lovely. I like the various birds that appear here - the ostrich does sterling duty - the hummingbird in wire. I love the descent of the seraphim. Out of the meander emerges Charlottesville, and quite right too. You lead us nicely to it, through Lithuania. I like how the Star-Spangled Banner features, in washed-out fragments.
My only two thoughts - I was a bit bored by the explanation of the waitress. Just for that moment. And Celan's "black milk" - I'm thinking you want that. I'm not sure how many readers will catch the "Todesfuge." Maybe some other hint?
Anyway, yes. Lovely and sustained.

Cheers,
John
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  #4  
Old 02-14-2018, 12:30 PM
Tony Barnstone's Avatar
Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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Posts: 646
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Thanks, John and Aaron.

John, I have scoured the Celan for other images to life -- the grave in the sky, the man who cultivates snakes -- but so far I don't see where they quite fit in without losing my flow. The original title of the poem was "Black Milk" In the end, I might just leave it as a subtle call-out for those, like you, for whom the Celan poem is one of the great ones out there. Oh, and I tried to make the parking lot argument a bit more visceral. Maybe that might help.

Aaron, thanks--it's interesting, because I conceive of each haiku as one line of poetry cut up into a William Carlos Williams triadic line, so I didn't worry TOO much about heavy enjambment, but I do see your point--it would be nicer if I could make each fragment have the integrity of a full line. So, it was a good exercise. I went through and eliminated those internal enjambments that would strike me as clumsy at the end of the line and I think the poem is improved. I appreciate you holding my feet to the fire. I don't want to get lazy!

All Best, Tony
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  #5  
Old 02-14-2018, 10:00 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Location: TX
Posts: 1,827
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Hi Tony,

I think you're likely right to leave black milk simply for those who catch it. It's a pretty striking image, I think anyone who's read the Celan will remember it.
I like your revision to the dialogue passage. It's certainly more edgy!

Cheers,
John
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