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  #1  
Unread 11-03-2019, 06:48 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Salamander

Salamander

It has been said a salamander is the master of religion. I don't know if it is true. Don't know much about religions. What I do is track my thoughts, beliefs, where they take me. Sometimes I curl back or take a slight detour. Finding what I know isn't chess. Once, for example, I was eating pancakes when the waitress, who had hindered my progress throughout the meal, placed a porcelain llama before me and said: "You need to pay attention to this" and walked away. This irritated me beyond measure. I had looked forward to my last pancake. I am a rotund man—a bull when younger—and now I had a llama that couldn't speak. I placed my fork at an angle across my plate and addressed his presence with what I thought was the proper reverence. I welcomed him into my life, though I knew our pairing was temporary. That is my curse, you see. To look for import in every crease of my life. Oh, how I admire the cat, remote, superior in its disregard for meaning. I used to play the piano. My fingers were flowers that left only a light dusting on the keys. All who heard me were awed. I knew they were foolish. What is there in such feathers? I need to sum this up. I soon lost the llama in a bet with a snarky palooka from Jersey. My piano is gone. Tonight I am remote and waiting for someone to unlock the door. I know no more about the salamander than I did before. If I don't sleep before dawn I'll be bored.

***

Thanks again for reading this. I know the form isn't acceptable to some. It's what I'm able to write now and I don't think of it as a story. That doesn't mean it is a poem to everyone. I do hope there is some value in it outside of the form.
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  #2  
Unread 11-03-2019, 08:21 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I do like the abrupt detours this takes. It's not quite where I expected to be going. I'm also fond of the title - salamanders are interesting creatures, not least in myth and legend.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 11-03-2019, 09:00 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
.... It starts strong but seems to languish in the middle before coming back strong at the end.
The middle, other than representing free-flowing associative thought, does not incorporate coherent imagery to tie the beginning and ending together. There just doesn't seem to be much effort put into it being prose or poetry. It falls between the cracks of both. It doesn't sing, doesn't use much if any of the traditional poetic devices (except towards the end).

I like it very much as a musing. Like John I., I like the abrupt detours. The opening sentence is my favorite line, but I think you lose track of where that was leading you. I think you should resist the urge to allow your mind free reign and harness it at least to the extent that it takes you where you wanted to go at the start. Salamander is a powerful motif. Stay with it (or did you and I missed it?)
x
x
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  #4  
Unread 11-03-2019, 07:03 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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John, I'm glad you like the pacing. I know it has a casual, musing tone. I worked hard on creating that. Thanks.


Jim, thanks for commenting. I'd like to know more specifically what you don't like. As I said above, the casual, musing tone and pacing were worked on. I wanted it to read like something that was falling out of the narrator's mind as you read but that doesn't mean it fell out of my head when I was writing. Each of the elements is intended to be there for a reason. I'm still a little unsure of the piano part. Is that what you were referring to?

Best
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  #5  
Unread 11-04-2019, 06:43 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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I like it, John. I get the feeling that what took so much work was to let it go its own way. I do feel that the individual sentences/lines are constructed with an eye toward poetics, only that the effort has been made to appear effortless.

One of my favorite bits is: "Finding what I know isn't chess." That alone seems enough to address critics of the piece's non-linear progress. The interesting tension that sustains the piece is that this non-linearity is delivered in such a seemingly linear fashion (that's where the prose technique comes in). Another line I love is this one: "To look for import in every crease of my life." In a way it as if this is a map whose lines of travel are those creases. They lead not to one end, but they intersect and curl round and all together they suggest the garment, at least the garment of the moment, the garment of this moment's voice.

I have always enjoyed this kind of writing, and used to practice quite a bit of it in my youth (though it never found a very willing audience). I don't feel the need to parse a thesis, but rather am quite willing to go along for the ride especially when the individual pieces of it are as compellingly relaxed as they are here.

In legend, especially alchemical ones, the salamander was supposed to have the peculiar quality of being able to survive in fire, in flame. Later reductive analysis has posited it was an alchemical symbol for asbestos, but I prefer to leave my symbols with more imaginative leeway. Your piece did not really evoke my own salamandric fantasies, but that is neither here nor there.

What floats to the top of my mind after reading are salamander, pancake, llama. I think that might make a better title, but that is just a throwaway suggestion.

Nemo
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Unread 11-07-2019, 02:21 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John,

I like it a lot, just as I liked your previous 'Blackbirds'. It is quite difficult to give 'workshop' suggestions with something so idiosyncratic ("perhaps the llama could be a giraffe"). I find something very relaxing in the combination of the non-linear jumps and inexplicable events with the matter-of-fact, unruffled tone in which they are delivered. It reminds me of the mind just as it drifts to sleep. Always on the tantalising edge of profundity. The self awareness of "I need to sum this up" made me smile.

Keep 'em coming! Ha.
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Unread 11-07-2019, 07:13 PM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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I think it's terrific, John. I love this kind of quirky, consistent voice - I want to say voice texture. I love these parts especially - and when I say "love" I'm saying "gave me the most extreme poetic delight" -

who had hindered my progress throughout the meal

I had looked forward to my last pancake.

I placed my fork at an angle across my plate and addressed his presence with what I thought was the proper reverence.

My fingers were flowers that left only a light dusting on the keys.

Tonight I am remote and waiting for someone to unlock the door.


The part about unlocking the door opens the door to a whole mysterious world about this character.


***
PS: Leaving notes in the same post as your creative work irks me tremendously. If you must say something, couldn't you save it for the comment section?
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Unread 11-08-2019, 09:32 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Nemo, thank you for reading. I'm proud you like it and are willing to let it speak to you. My goal is to have the pieces I'm writing to speak to me. To discover more and to know less. It is always gratifying to have a piece read and appreciated on its own terms.

Mark, thanks for reading. I'm happy you like it. Your comment about the edge of sleep is perceptive. I've been meditating each day for some time now and perhaps these new pieces are more revealed than structured because of it. Who knows for sure but perhaps.

Mary, I'm grateful you read and enjoyed. "gave me the extreme poetic delight" is a wonderful compliment. I'll take your suggestion about the notes to heart. I guess I was allowing my lack of confidence to protrude.

Thanks again to each of you.

Best
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Unread 11-08-2019, 02:09 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I like the quirk here too, John, and I'd say keep the form. For me, the "It is said" and actually the careful absence of contractions puts me off. It makes the whole too precious, self-conscious, I think. Like if the most arrogant of us, if we lived on a mountain and grew a grey beard, and the locals were convinced we were wise and not crazy. Anyway, I don't think the voice matches the occasion here.
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Unread 11-08-2019, 03:41 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Stop with unlock the door, John.
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