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  #1  
Unread 07-02-2019, 07:50 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Default Drovers

Drovers

I hear the mother in the apartment
above, crying
out to whoa the horses. Her sons
nicker through the rooms
of rainy afternoons. Her pleas splash
in the wide rivers, dry
in the grasses. Matamoros glistens
from the south. Margaritas all around. Chips
and salsa. A handsome server.
Her stomach slouches over
what two sons have made of it.
Stretch marks like stampeders’ maps
of Mexico. Her children trample
my ceiling. They are hardened
drovers. All day, they drive cattle
across Texas, the Dakotas, any place
where quiet might be.

Last edited by Ashley Bowen; 07-03-2019 at 03:00 PM. Reason: I had "knicker" for "nicker," which is one of the sounds horses make.
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  #2  
Unread 07-03-2019, 01:47 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Ashley,

Hmm. I love the Hardyesque title. There's quite a lot I like in the poem too. I think I'd cut "Chips and salsa," which to my mind detracts from the fine sentence fragment "Margaritas all around."
Matamoros is just down the road from me.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 07-03-2019, 05:55 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I enjoyed this vignette, Ashley. I've never heard 'knicker' used as a verb like that before. Does is mean 'rampage'?

I wonder if some of the line-break decisions are making this unnecessarily stilted, perhaps. For example

I hear the mother in the apartment
above, crying
out to whoa the horses. Her sons


So the break on 'crying' makes us momentarily think she is actually crying, perhaps, as in weeping. But then it's revealed she is 'crying / out to whoa the horses' (italics here maybe?) I wonder if this helps or adds anything? Similarly, I don't see what 'chips' gains from being stuck on the end like that.

I had a little play, to give you an idea of what I mean. Feel free to scoff and reject obviously; personal taste comes into this a lot with free-verse. I haven't changed anything but line-breaks (and italics).



I hear the mother in the apartment above,
crying out to whoa the horses.
Her sons knicker through the rooms
of rainy afternoons. Her pleas
splash in the wide rivers, dry in the grasses.
Matamoros glistens from the south.
Margaritas all around. Chips and salsa.
A handsome server. Her stomach
slouches over what two sons have made of it.
Stretch marks like stampeders’ maps
of Mexico. Her children trample
my ceiling. They are hardened drovers.
All day, they drive cattle
across Texas, the Dakotas, any place
where quiet might be.
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  #4  
Unread 07-03-2019, 10:40 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I picture the N in an almost-empty restaurant close to the US/Mexico border. It's a rainy day in a dusty town. The first part of the poem focuses on the sounds coming from the upstairs apartment with children playing and a mother trying to rein them in. The second part moves to the N eating and drinking in the restaurant, observing the server, a handsome woman whose stomach is showing. It reveals that she has had children. The third part I am guessing conflates the two preceding parts and imagines that the mother of the children upstairs and the server in the restaurant are one in the same person. That's probably not what you intended but -- for now -- I like that image : )

The atmosphere is dreamy in the sense that it largely takes place in the mind's eye of the N and pans quietly back as it ends. Finally, I see the N as something of a rover who has drifted into town and found this place to have lunch and drinks and imagines (with the help of Margaritas) that the boys playing upstairs are drovers herding cattle across prairies. So the N is a rover describing drovers. Pretty cool thing to have happening.


Some Thoughts
  • I might kick knicker up to end L3. It feels that your line breaks are important to this, though, and I would not change any others... maybe not this one either. But as Mark said, the use of knickers as a verb and by ending a line with it it might enhance that.
  • The lines I can't quite make sense of (though I know what you mean) are L8-9:
Her stomach slouches over
what two sons have made of it.


I don't know if it's "slouches" or that it doesn't make grammatical sense... How could her stomach slouch over her stomach?

Maybe "the pouch of her belly hangs over / what two sons have done to it". I don't know that it makes it any clearer, though.
  • The line that follows it, however, is fantastic:
Stretch marks like stampeders’ maps
of Mexico.
  • Mark played around with the line breaks. If I were to play around with the formatting I might divide into three stanzas with the second stanza beginning indented:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMargaritas all around. Chips
and salsa. A handsome server.
Her stomach slouches over
what two sons have made of it.
Stretch marks like stampeders’ maps
of Mexico.
  • Then end with a third stanza:
Her children trample
my ceiling. They are hardened
drovers. All day, they drive cattle
across Texas, the Dakotas, any place
where quiet might be.


There's so much going on that is condensed and conflated. Thanks for the enjoyable read -- and forgive me if I've carried it too far with my interpretation : )
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 07-03-2019 at 01:05 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 07-03-2019, 01:19 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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I hear an analogy by N that the upstairs family is raucous Mexicans, count the clichés, and disturbing him/her/them/they. The analogy disturbs me.
__________________
Ralph

Last edited by RCL; 07-03-2019 at 01:21 PM.
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  #6  
Unread 07-03-2019, 04:49 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Oh, well I didn't get any of what Jim and Ralph got here. I just thought the N was in their apartment listening to the upstairs neighbours, who presumably they have encountered in the hall perhaps, and imagining the domestic chaos going on. I thought the margaritas and chips and salsa were in the woman's apartment and the 'handsome server' a piece of crockery: she's trying to have a little Saturday night quiet grown-up time with a drink and snacks while her boys run riot. I felt an affectionate sympathy from the N. I definitely didn't get what Ralph got, but maybe there's stuff my English ears aren't hearing.
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  #7  
Unread 07-03-2019, 04:56 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I'm guessing that wasn't Ashley's intentions, Ralph. I think the jump to the restaurant? is distracting. Too abrupt.The belly over the stretch marks is accurate, Jim. I don't want to explain that. I don't think this is there yet. For me, it's good notes. I do like the close.
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  #8  
Unread 07-03-2019, 07:30 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
James: The belly over the stretch marks is accurate, Jim. I don't want to explain that.

I think you did... Anyway, I understood what Ashley means but questioned the exact phrasing. I think the image as poetry is striking.

Btw, Ashley, my reading takes wild liberties with what is written so I wouldn't put too much stock in it. I'm weathering one of those periods when I see only what I want to see...
x
x
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  #9  
Unread 07-03-2019, 11:35 PM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Ashley,

This poem reminds me of James Wright, the deep images and horses/football players in Ohio (Martin's Ferry?).

For me, the ending is the strongest part -- "where quiet might be," which is paradoxically so resonant!

This has good bones, it does. But it feels very rough.

"I hear the mother in the apartment
above, crying
out to whoa the horses. Her sons"

The lines above would benefit from pithier phrasing and maybe different line breaks...

"Above the rain, a mother cries
to whoa the horses
upstairs. Nickering through break-
fast, lunch and rooms into
the evening, her two sons splash
her puddling pleas..."

I'm just considering a different arrangement for those bones.

"Matamoros glistens
from the south. Margaritas all around. Chips
and salsa. A handsome server.
Her stomach slouches over
what two sons have made of it."

This sounds like a fantasy life juxtaposed with real life (inside the head of mother); it could probably be clarified whether my reading is correct or not.

"They are hardened
drovers. All day, they drive cattle
across Texas, the Dakotas, any place
where quiet might be."

If they are horses at the start, maybe something new should take place so N can say "Now they are hardened / drovers..."? Or just a change of time -- "By evening, they are hardened / drovers."

I think this works because the metaphor is there and plausible. I just think the crafting could elevate it significantly from its current state. Trying out different iterations with the bones you have.

You could probably expand on this too though -- what is N's relation to the family above him/her? What does N do in response -- eat a hamburger? Call her mom? Break up with her boyfriend? (N became a woman there...)

Food for thought. HOpe this helps!

Jake
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  #10  
Unread 07-03-2019, 11:46 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Hahaha, ok, Jim. I like that image, Ashley, how you use that, quite a bit and I think my previous post was harsher than what I intended. Maybe it's because their location, for me, kind of bounces around? It seems like they're being served chips and salsa and margaritas in their apartment (which would actually be a pretty good thing). Or maybe it's just me.
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