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  #1  
Unread 05-17-2019, 09:05 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Li-ling, Expecting

Li-ling, Expecting

Sound waves will plumb me, then the doctor’s glove,
rummaging, then the wonder will emerge—
the thick slow head, the body quick and slim.
Where is the father? A maternal urge
darkens my thinking when I think of him:
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Cloaks, daggers—that’s what I am frightened of.
Clearly from now on what I need to do
is shield this little life the best I can.
Zach ran to save us (and he saved us, too)
but he is much too dangerous a man.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Zach, a grunt with orders from above,
will always need to put his country first.
There will be terror on a plane, train, bus—
I know for certain worse will come to worst,
and he will choose disaster over us.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Oh, in my ninth month, push will come to shove,
but where will Zach be when the time arrives?
What if I call, and he ignores his phone?
Because of him I almost lost two lives
today, this helpless future’s and my own.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

. . . . .

(Original)

Li-ling, Expecting

Outside, hoarse howling and the worst storm surge;
inside, no bigger than an apple seed,
life fructifying. Should she have agreed
to what you asked her? A maternal urge
darkens her thinking as she thinks of you:

Our future is what I am frightened of.
Clearly from now on what I need to do
is raise this child as safely as I can.
Zach ran to save us (and he saved us, too)
but he is much too dangerous a man.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Zach, a grunt with orders from above,
will always need to put his country first.
Terror of course will claim a plane, train, bus—
I know for certain worse will come to worst,
and he will choose disaster over us.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Oh, in my ninth month push will come to shove,
but where will Zach be when the time arrives?
What if I call, and he ignores his phone?
Because of him I almost lost two lives
today, the little darling’s and my own.
Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; Yesterday at 02:35 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 05-17-2019, 10:12 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Aaron,
this is almost Yeatsian--I wonder if you can make S1 also end with the repetend somehow, though I can't see how. In any case, this is my favorite passage that you have posted. It is smooth, natural, and yet the repetend gives it a ritualistic power.

Thanks for the read,
Martin
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  #3  
Unread 05-17-2019, 04:27 PM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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This character study increases my desire to see the book as a whole. I agree with Martin it would be nice to add the repetend to S1. You use a delicate touch here, appropriate to the scene, but I think you may want to revisit. S2, which is so delicately handled it is barely more than lightly metered prose. It is good to do the police in different voices, but you don't want to court flatness. If it were a sharp contrast to what goes before (more on the way the storm surge is bearing down on her apartment?) the simplicity might be especially effective, as when humbled Adam, after catastrophe, merely recites Scripture in PL. This passage is not my favorite just because of S2; the metrical drama in S4L1, and the power of "and he will choose disaster over us" in S3 prevent the concern from arising in those stanzas. Also I am satisfied with S2 as a moment in a larger story.

Last edited by Bill Carpenter; 05-17-2019 at 05:17 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 05-17-2019, 06:00 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Just a very quick fly-by to say that this line sounds like tetrameter to me:

Our FUTure is WHAT i am FRIGHTened OF.

best,

-Matt
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  #5  
Unread 05-17-2019, 06:38 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Aaron,

I enjoy reading this excerpt indeed. I have restricted my observations to diction. If I were to be pernickety than I admit that this line gave me at least some amount of pause:
Our future is what I am frightened of.
I find it usually more ideal to give the position of prominence that is the end of a sentence, or a line of verse for that matter, to other words than a preposition. I was less than persuaded that this was a good exception, I am afraid. Not to say that it can never avail, doubtless it can; for instance, where it is proper to double-down on some hyper colloquial or casual tenor. But it struck me as a notch overmuch in this context, notwithstanding that degree of casual diction which is indeed at hand. At any rate, onto a more pressing nicety.

Is ‘Our future is what I am frightened of ’ not a bit of a pleonasm? It has a circumlocutionary ring to my ears as if it used more words than needed to say our future frightens me or the like.

Among many other touches, I fancy the repetition of ‘save’ in ‘Zach ran to save us (and he saved us, too).’

I enjoy the winning refrain ‘Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love’ a good deal, which gains resonance with repetition I reckon.

At first blush, I almost read month and push without realizing that there was an introductory element that ended after the first and before the second word. But the syntactic muddiness of reading month push , however momentary, is a hiccup that can be avoided easily enough. A comma after ‘month’ would set off the introductory phrase ‘in my ninth month’ and cue the reader to the intended syntax, as a foolproof insurance policy.

To conclude, I find this read very satisfactory and handsomely wrought. So much for punctuation minutia.

Cheers,

Erik

Last edited by Erik Olson; Yesterday at 05:25 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 05-17-2019, 10:22 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I like the fact that the “of” rhyme starts on the first line and rhymes with “love” in the last line of each of those stanzas. Incidentally, I don’t mind ending on the proposition. I agree with Erik’s punctuation suggestion in “Oh, in my ninth month, push will come to shove.”

It’s true that S2 is prosier than the others, but I think what saves it and makes it more poetic is L4: “Zac ran to save us (and he saved us, too).” That’s a really good line. She’s grateful to Zac, but that gratefulness isn’t quite enough to comfort her about “our” future. I assume — in fact, it seems pretty clear — that “our” indicates Li-ling and her expected child, and does not include Zac.

The refrain is very good! In S4, “push will come to shove” is excellent.

I don’t know what took place that Li-ling and her unborn child almost lost their lives “today.” I guess I missed a scene, but I’m sure I’ll find out when I read the finished book.

Best,
Martin
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  #7  
Unread Yesterday, 01:58 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Aaron,

Yes, lovely stuff, and the repetend or refrain gives the piece both added intensity and the compelling sensation that Li-Ling is working away at rationalizing a decision already made.
Some thoughts:
I find the first line, "Outside, hoarse howling and the worst storm surge" a bit awkward rhythmically. But you may want that effect.
"Our future is what I am frightened of" is I think my favorite line in the passage, so go figure. I find it resonant.
The repetend, "Sometimes we cannot keep the ones we love," I like. It reminds of Solomon Burke - "Sometimes you get what you want, and you lose what you have" - and The Rolling Stones - "You can't always get what you want" - which is to say it sounds a bit like lyrics. No bad thing after all. It's also a bit Ballad of Reading Gaol-y.
For me, it's this passage that is a bit prosey: "Clearly from now on what I need to do / is raise this child as safely as I can." But prose may fit here, as one tone in the concerto.
This I think is brilliant: "Oh, in my ninth month push will come to shove."
"The little darling" is normally dismissive, which I don't think is Li-Ling's tone.
And lastly, i don't have an easy fix, but the shift from "you" to "Zach" took me a moment to process.

CHeers,
John
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  #8  
Unread Yesterday, 09:39 AM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is online now
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Hi Aaron,

Can anything be done about "fructifying"? It's too clever a break from the diction. Among other problems there is backstage onomatopoeia.


It's very good otherwise. I'm reading a segment from something larger and not feeling lost, but wanting to read the whole.


RM
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  #9  
Unread Yesterday, 10:01 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Gentlemen, I have accepted all of your criticisms and taken all of your suggestions.

I have posted a revision.

Thank you all,

Aaron
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  #10  
Unread Yesterday, 01:53 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

The only part of the original that didn't jive for me was the opening line, because it didn't click as nicely as your other lines did. I read "Our future is what I am frightened of" twice before I caught it, so maybe it's worth a revision, but I like what was there more than what you've replaced it with, which in its specificity somehow feels less personal, if that makes sense.

I think you displayed proper restraint in not having the repetend throughout. I like it less now that it's there four times.

Perhaps I'm alone--the original was really good, but I'm less convinced of the revision. I'd go back to that and tinker with the original opening line, strengthen "Clearly from now on what I need to do / is raise this child as safely as I can" (which is only fine, and compared to the rest stands out for it's mere okayness), and maybe fructifying (since I can see Rick's concern).
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