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  #1  
Unread 05-23-2019, 09:12 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Default Town Animals

Revision 2

Ballade of Urban Wildlife


We creep across your lawn,
too sly to catch your ear,
until the moon is gone
and, like the moon, adhere
to primal patterns. We’re
phantoms, edging our way
toward the spoils. It’s clear
your city’s our buffet.

You flip when crows at dawn
nibble your corn. You fear
us when you happen on
a badger or a deer.
You rave when ravens veer
from nest to French fried prey.
You loathe us, yet all year
your city’s our buffet.

When famished bears are drawn
to lidless trash cans, steer
their heavy-footed brawn
up to your well-lit sphere,
giving rise to sheer
mass panic, they obey
strong drives at a frontier:
your city’s our buffet.

Though trucks and cars may smear
our blood on roads, we’ll stay
inevitably near.
Your city’s our buffet!


S1, L3: "edging our way" for "making our way"
S4, L1: "and" for "or"
S4, L2: "on roads" for "around"


Note to Julie: I took all of your suggestions. Thanks!



Revision 1

Ballade of Urban Wildlife


We creep across your lawn,
too sly to shake your ear,
until the moon is gone
and, like the moon, adhere
to primal patterns. We’re
phantoms, making our way
toward the spoils. It’s clear
your city’s our buffet.

Why flip when crows at dawn
nibble your corn? Why fear
us when you happen on
a badger or a deer?
Why rave when ravens veer
from nest to French fried prey?
You loathe us, yet all year
your city’s our buffet.

When famished bears are drawn
to lidless trash cans, steer
their heavy-footed brawn
up to your well-lit sphere,
giving rise to sheer
mass panic, they obey
strong drives at a frontier:
your city’s our buffet.

Though trucks or cars may smear
our blood around, we’ll stay
inevitably near.
Your city’s our buffet!



Ballade of Urban Wildlife

Why roam the Amazon
when you can find us here?
We that John Audubon
once painted without peer
warble in your ear.
We flit and sing away
at dawn or dusk. It’s clear
your city’s our buffet.

Why flip when crows at dawn
nibble your corn? Why fear
us when you happen on
a badger or a deer?
Why rave when ravens veer
from nest to French fried prey?
You loathe us, yet all year
your city’s our buffet.

When famished bears are drawn
to lidless trash cans, steer
their heavy-footed brawn

up to your well-lit sphere,
giving rise to sheer
mass panic, they obey
strong drives at a frontier:
your city’s our buffet.

Though trucks or cars may smear
our blood around, we’ll stay
inevitably near.
Your city’s our buffet!



S3, Lines 1-3 were

When alligators yawn
inside the sewers, then steer
their great cold-blooded brawn

Last edited by Martin Elster; 05-30-2019 at 10:51 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 05-23-2019, 06:19 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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What, nothing about pet-eating coyotes? Those are what the "mass panic" in my own suburban neighborhood is usually about, rather than alligators in sewers (which seem to be an urban legend, anyway).

Actually seeing your beloved Fifi get snatched from your backyard because you didn't realize that coyotes can scale 8-foot fences is a bit different from loathing ravens that spread your food waste around.

I love living so near an open space reserve, and I get annoyed with all the breathless "I saw a coyote!!! Watch your pets!!!" posts to our neighborhood email list. (Come on, people, you chose to live in a semi-wild area, so stop acting like coyote activity is breaking news. And also stop leaving your small pets unattended in your backyards. Not to mention your small children.) Still, even I was pretty rattled when my neighbor a few streets over shared this 12:45am footage from his backyard videocam two weeks ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1WH...ature=youtu.be



It's good to see a ballade here. I'm not sure that the progression of S1-enjoyment, S2-nuisance, S3-fear, envoi is 100% effective yet.

I also have a hard time believing that local birds are aware of the Amazon or of Audubon, or that the animals clever enough to figure out that humans are the ultimate cause of roadkill wouldn't be clever enough to avoid becoming roadkill. So the first-person-plural narration doesn't quite work for me. Maybe other readers have an easier time suspending their disbelief on that point.

Sad update, 5/28: Mountain lion killed after child is attacked in Rancho Peñasquitos canyon

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-28-2019 at 04:27 PM. Reason: Update
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Unread 05-23-2019, 06:52 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Default Caw! Caw!

Martin, I like your rollicking positive spin on the theme, but I also agree that the alligator stanza would be more effective if about coyote's and small pets. But to keep it positive, maybe coyote's and garbage cans. Racoons and garbage are like ham and eggs in my neighborhood.

A Halloween version might include snakes, coyotes, bears, the ubiquitous whaddayacallit, and one legged Yeti. But in a mellow mood, I prefer this one. Since all language is imitation, I see no reason not to attribute human perception to animals and plants.

I regularly feed the crows (my inner Poe) and think they're brilliant. I threw out the bones of a complete roasted chicken once; hours later, the bones, picked clean, were arranged in a circle and four crows, one at top and bottom and on each side arc stood facing the circle as if in requiem prayer. My next poem?!
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Ralph

Last edited by RCL; 05-23-2019 at 07:02 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 05-23-2019, 10:06 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Thanks, Julie and Ralph. I made some changes in S3, lines 1-3, replacing the alligators crawling out of the sewers to bears scavenging garbage cans.

Julie - I know the sewer alligators of NYC are an urban legend, so I wasn’t sure about that stanza, since it diverges from the more realistic scenario.

I originally had second person (addressed to the animals) and I think I might have tried third person. But I like first person narrative the best, even though some readers may not be able to suspend their disbelief.

I totally agree with you about the coyotes and other wild creatures. People who want to live in the middle of the woods or near a natural habitat should not be surprised about seeing or encountering a coyote or a bear or a raccoon. We humans are taking more and more habitat away from vitually every species of life on this planet. That’s downright unfair to all creatures.

This poem is, of course, about animals in the city. There are many, many kinds of animals in cities, and I (living in one) delight in seeing or glimpsing all sorts of animals and plants. A lot of them are nocturnal. This time of year there are many kinds of birds to spot. I’ve seen red foxes on golf courses, and last winter saw a wild turkey strolling down Asylum Avenue. When she saw me, she sprinted around a house to the backyard.

I know coyotes occasionally prey on cats and other small pets (including small dogs) when or if they get the opportunity.

That video clip was a mountain lion (cougar), right? I envy you for living near an open space reserve.

Ralph - I’m glad you like the first person point of view. I took your suggestion and replaced the alligators with bears. I couldn’t see how to fit raccoons, coyotes or other animals in that stanza, so just kept it to the bears.

It’s nice that you feed the crows. Last Monday, I saw a demonstration of various birds of prey. There were 2 screech owls (very small owls), a kestrel, a red-tailed hawk, and a raven. The raven was tailless, having lost it on a fence, but his tail feathers will grow back. All of those birds had injuries, except for the owls, but even they can’t be put back into the wild, since they have imprinted on humans from a young age. The hawk was blind in her right eye, the kestrel had a serious head injury (since healed), and the raven had a broken wing (now healed). The raven imprinted on a woman who raised him from when he was very young, and after he grew up, she (naively) drove him to the woods and left him there to fend for himself. Not smart! He was starving and then injured his wing (twice) and then tried making contact with people, but everyone was afraid of him! He even tried crawling up people’s legs. They called animal control. Some officer said this is a dangerous bird, but finally an officer that had some brains noticed the bird was hurt so brought him to a rehabilitation center. Now the bird is much better. Ravens are just as smart as crows (as you know).

Best,
Martin
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  #5  
Unread 05-23-2019, 11:21 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Martin,
I like this--I think the bears for alligators is a big improvement. Actually, the weakest stanza is now S1--as Julie pointed out, Amazon and Audubon are a bit contrived, but that could be fixed by adding a bit of humor; however, "without peer" is almost McGonagalish. I don't have great suggestions, but I would give S1 a going over.

Aside from S1, the Ballade is skillful and fun. Thanks for the read!
Martin
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  #6  
Unread 05-24-2019, 11:59 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Hi Martin,

Thanks for your thoughts. I stayed up far too late last night thinking about that first stanza. After several attempts at revision, I think I got something that works better. At least at the moment it seems better.

Since both you and Julie thought Amazon and John Audubon were a bit too fanciful, I replaced them with something more nocturnally mysterious but realistic.

I’m not sure exactly why you thought “without peer” sounded strained, since Audubon’s bird illustrations really were unequaled at the time (though, unfortunately, he shot a lot of his subjects before drawing them).

In any case, S1 is now a lot different. Thanks for the prodding, and I’m glad you enjoyed the other 3 stanzas and especially the change from the alligators to the bears in S3.

Best,
Martin
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Unread 05-28-2019, 05:43 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Sad update: Mountain lion killed after child is attacked in Rancho Peñasquitos canyon
I can't victim-blame the child, the parents, or the mountain lion. Just regrettable.

Anyway, not the sort of buffet you had in mind.

I like the new S1, and think S2 would also be better as statements, rather than questions. I'm not wild about "too sly to shake your ear" in S1L2, though. Perhaps "too sly to catch your ear"?

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-28-2019 at 06:12 PM.
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Unread 05-29-2019, 12:24 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Thanks, Julie. I posted a revision incorporating all your suggestions: "catch your ear" for "shake your ear" (L2) and changed all the questions to statements in S2.

The news about the mountain lion made me sad, but what can you do? At least the little boy will be OK.

Best,
Martin
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Unread 05-30-2019, 05:06 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Martin,

This is nicely done, and very tight. I don't have much by way of nits. Just a couple of very small suggestions for tweaking really:

We’re / phantoms, making our way / toward the spoils.

"make" is a fairly general and expected verb, and isn't picking up on surrounding sounds. Is there a more specific (or sonically pleasing) verb to describe how these phantom-like creatures move? I guess 'picking our way' would pick up on the 'p' sounds of "'primal patterns" of the previous line, but there may be something more phantom-like.

Though trucks or cars may smear / our blood around

I just wonder if there's a better use of the foot that "around" is using? When I get to "smear our blood" I've got the picture. And just, " Though trucks or cars may smear / our blood," has more of a (rhythmic) echo of "Though sticks and stones may break our bones". (Also, to better echo this, you could have "trucks and cars". It's a tiny nit really, it just seemed to stick out for me a little. Could very well just be me.

best,

Matt
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  #10  
Unread 05-30-2019, 09:24 PM
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Ed Shacklee Ed Shacklee is offline
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Dear Martin,

It's always nice to come across your stuff. Just a small thought: how about "on streets" (or "on roads") instead of "around" in the last stanza?

Best,

Ed
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