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Unread 07-01-2020, 03:16 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,710
Default Saxon

(Five miles east of Cippanhamme)

At the confluence of two small rivers,
King Burgræd and his men discover
a discarded shopping trolley, a metal net,
half-submerged, trawling leaves and twigs.

Burgræd orders two warriors into the water
to haul it out and unweave the river debris.
Its wheels are not designed for forest tracks,
but Burgræd will brook no argument:

It must be taken to my smith, he says,
where I shall command it shaped into armour.
The men slide a pole through the cagework,
suspend it from their shoulders like a deer.

Last edited by Matt Q; 07-02-2020 at 07:20 AM. Reason: typo, thanks Cameron.
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Unread 07-01-2020, 03:38 PM
Mary McLean Mary McLean is offline
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Cambridge UK
Posts: 1,145

Lovely image! I read it as a tidbit from the after times. What glorious treasures we are leaving for our descendents.

The bit about wheels seems kind of expositional and unnecessary. You might be able to do more with that line. Or you could try not naming it as a shopping trolley at all and let us piece it together instead from the description.
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Unread 07-02-2020, 06:11 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
Join Date: May 2020
Location: England
Posts: 133

Hello Matt,
I very much enjoyed this and thought it could be expanded a little. Maybe the sonnet form would fit the verse, allow the more descriptive elements of the poem to be expressed in quatrains. I wonder if the last six lines should be swapped around so that the poem ends with the king speaking. "deer" just isn't as interesting an image to end on, even if it carries the idea of nature winning over technology.
I think there should be an r in the word after "pole", at the moment "though" doesn't make sense, shouldn't it be "through"?

A very fine poem, with good sonics especially.
Hope this helps,
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Unread 07-02-2020, 01:17 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,257

This is certainly the time for a poem such as this one. While the non-poet analytical side of me wants to jump up and say there is no chance the society that emerges from the collapse of this one will be like the society of centuries before, the insight and sonics of this one quickly disperse that part of me. I like the use of b, which seems to pop up right when it needs to. I don't see a way to not describe the wheels and how they don't fit the tracks. It will be made into armor, another collapse of the past into the future that is the past. I understand what W.T. says about the sonics of deer but it's a correct image. Maybe it's a choice between image and sound, unless you can think of an image that is more remarkable.

I don't know if this helps much. I do like this and am happy I've read and thought about it.

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Unread 07-03-2020, 08:21 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Posts: 1,790

I like the image of the trolley carried like a deer, but I'm not sure it works as the end of the poem. It feels to me like a punchline and reduces what could be serious and strange to a joke. FWIW.
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Unread 07-03-2020, 09:56 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,634

Hi Matt,

I like the very plain style of this, and the way the strange events are related with no editorialising. Well, apart from the slight wryness to the voice in the self-importance of the phrase "brook no argument", perhaps. The poem seems to depict a, possibly post-apocalyptic, future in which society has returned to some kind of Dark Ages existence. It reminded me of the quote often attributed to Einstein that World War 4 will be "fought with sticks and stones". I like how there is meaning to be found if the reader wants it, but it is very understated: the shopping trolley as a symbol of consumer capitalism, the idea that the leaders in this society seem to have learned no lessons and think immediately of weaponry and tribal defence. But equally, the whole thing is also a piece of silly, Pythonesque anachronistic fun. There's a weird sort of 'comfort in the ludicrous' to the poem, the idea that continuous human "progress" is a myth and might instead move in cycles, and yet life will somehow go on.

I think the shopping trolley carried on the pole like a prize deer is a great tragi-comic image to close on.

I enjoyed it. No nits, as they say.
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Unread 07-03-2020, 12:38 PM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 2,416

As Mark did, I liked this and would change nothing. (It seemed to come from a territory not too far from Geoffrey Hill’s wonderful Mercian Hymns.) And this seemed relevant, too:

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Unread 07-03-2020, 12:40 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,776

Your title brought me in Matt and I enjoyed this conceit and its execution greatly.

In one of our local towns there is a wetland not far from the shopping centre where the shopping trolleys go to die and I have seen their carcases draped with weedy detritus such as you describe. And so to Google where a Mercian King comes back to life in this dystopian devolution where a carcase of capitalism, a thing of no sustenance that is set to be repurposed is carried as though of intrinsic worth. As I said I thoroughly enjoyed.

If you were so minded it would perhaps be of even more interest if this were recast in an Anglo Saxon accentual format.


Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 07-03-2020 at 12:44 PM.
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Unread 07-03-2020, 04:48 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 4,138

Good fun, Matt --- with excellent anthropological and environmental undertones. It reminds me of the Great Take-away Coffee Cup incident in the final season of Game of Thrones. Anachronisms make for great leaps of imagination.

Lovely writing, as always!

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Unread 07-03-2020, 10:20 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,548

I enjoyed this, Matt. It reminded me a bit of The Motel of the Mysteries, but it's doing its own thing, quite nicely.
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