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Old 07-10-2017, 08:10 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Default Kismet

Karma

I.

The basement has scraped away at my cynicism.
Once even the slightest hint of the word
‘homeopathy’, even mumbled quietly then diluted

into a conversation of ten thousand other words,
would bring me out in boils. Yet here I am today
in Madame Periwinkle’s past life regression tent

at the local spiritualist fayre. As I lie on the couch,
she holds a golden conch shell to her ear
like a telephone to another world. It must be a good connection,

because it doesn’t take her long to diagnose
that in my last life I was a snail. How uncanny!
My fondness for my basement. The pieces of chitin

I have sewn in spiral patterns on its curtains. My constant need
to slick back my eye-stalks, retract myself, curl up inside
the lullaby moisture of its walls. All explained.

I voice a single flickering doubt:
But I don’t carry my basement on my back.
She arches a pencilled eyebrow, stares me down.


II.

I ask Madame Periwinkle if there is any hope for me.
She shrugs and suggests Tessa, the Tarot-reader
in the next booth, but adds, “for an extra five pounds

I can tell you this: escape your basement
and you may have the good fortune to be reborn as a slug.”
I tell her that I once disturbed two slugs mating

as they hung upside down in a doorway, suspended
by a rope of thick mucus, both glistening
with lubricant and fully entwined, each

with a phallic proboscis, protruding and probing
blind and worm-like from just behind where its ear would be,
if slugs had ears. “Oh to be so naked

and undefended”, I exclaim, “so close to others,
and yet so unafraid!”. Madame Periwinkle clears her throat.
Embarrassed, I pull up my collar to hide the growing bulge

in the side of my neck and hand over my fiver.
The next day I mention Madame Periwinkle to Bob,
my homeopath. “Did she say you used to be a snail?”

he asks, taking a pestle and mortar
to my newfound hopes, “She tells everyone that”.
A single salty tear slides down my cheek,

melting a deep groove in my face.
“Listen”, says Bob, sensing my disappointment,
“keeping an open mind is very important,

but sometimes a tiny dose of scepticism
can go an awfully long way”.
He reaches for his prescription pad.


Karma (prose poem version)

The basement has scraped away at my cynicism. Once even the slightest hint of the word ‘homeopathy’, even mumbled quietly then diluted into a conversation of ten thousand other words, would bring me out in boils. Yet here I am today in Madame Periwinkle’s past life regression tent at the local spiritualist fayre. As I lie on the couch, she holds a golden conch shell to her ear like a telephone to another world. It must be a good connection, because it doesn’t take her long to diagnose that in my last life I was a snail. How uncanny! My fondness for my basement. The pieces of chitin I have sewn in spiral patterns on its curtains. My constant need to slick back my eye-stalks, retract myself, curl up inside the lullaby moisture of its walls. All explained. I voice a single flickering doubt: But I don’t carry my basement on my back. She arches a pencilled eyebrow, stares me down.

I ask Madame Periwinkle if there is any hope for me. She shrugs and suggests Tessa, the Tarot-reader in the next booth, but adds, “for an extra five pounds I can tell you this: escape your basement
and you may have the good fortune to be reborn as a slug.” I tell her that I once disturbed two slugs mating as they hung upside down in a doorway, suspended by a rope of thick mucus, both glistening with lubricant and fully entwined, each with a phallic proboscis, protruding and probing blind and worm-like from just behind where its ear would be, if slugs had ears. “Oh to be so naked and undefended”, I exclaim, “so close to others, and yet so unafraid!”. Madame Periwinkle clears her throat. Embarrassed, I pull up my collar to hide the growing bulge in the side of my neck and hand over my fiver. The next day I mention Madame Periwinkle to Bob, my homeopath. “Did she say you used to be a snail?” he asks, taking a pestle and mortar to my newfound hopes, “She tells everyone that”. A single salty tear slides down my cheek, melting a deep groove in my face. “Listen”, says Bob, sensing my disappointment, “keeping an open mind is very important, but sometimes a tiny dose of scepticism can go an awfully long way”. He reaches for his prescription pad.

Last edited by Matt Q; 07-13-2017 at 08:01 AM.
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  #2  
Old 07-10-2017, 08:36 PM
Woody Long's Avatar
Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Matt

Top notch.

I enjoyed it throughout and laughed aloud at the end. Memorable characters.

You might consider italics instead of question marks. It could add some clarity to the presentation.

I'm still smiling.

Woody
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Old 07-11-2017, 03:46 PM
Malcolm Thom Malcolm Thom is offline
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Hi Matt,

Whatever it is this poem is doing, it is doing it really well.

I don't "get" where we (reader and writer) find ourselves at the end.

We have a strange story strangely well-told. We are amused (in the best possible sense of the term), but something's missing.

That is, I feel like this narrator is supposed to mean something more to me, as if, in taking the time and bother to craft such a fine piece of writing, the author must have been trying for more than an amusing moment. Maybe it is this "lack" that animates the poem. In this regard, the experience of reading the poem (i.e., this reader's troubled search for something more) mimics the very situation described (the fortune-telling experience).

In many ways I feel like I'm in the basement with the narrator.

Enjoyed!

M.
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Old 07-11-2017, 05:32 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Matt,

I enjoyed this somewhat lighter venture into (and out of) the basement. It's solidly written. It's funny, but still very much laughter in the dark. The homeopathy jokes work: the S1/2 line about dropping the word into conversation is very funny and I like the way the poem ends with another reference, which also wraps the poem up thematically.

I wondered about Madame Periwinkle offering the advice before she'd actually got the fiver (part II S1). Is this a subtle fortune-telling gag? Otherwise I imagine she would be more of a shrewd businesswoman than this.

Cheers.
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Old 07-11-2017, 08:54 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Matt,
I enjoyed this tale. It's intelligent and surprising in all the places it should be. It went in directions I didn't expect, particularly with the neck proboscis appearance. I like the mystery of the ending and find it poignant that the narrator thinks he has either found a home or, as they used to say, found himself, only to have the homepathy doctor disappoint him. It's all good stuff.

I don't think I've ever said to someone that their poem is just "chopped up prose" or any of the other comments those who don't write in established meters hear. My question with this poem though is not that the language isn't poetry but that I don't see what advantage is gained by the line endings and the stanzas. I would think no less of this if it was in a paragraph or paragraphs. It's originality is what makes it special and I don't see that it has any connection to this form. Perhaps I'm missing something? I know I've not given a reason why it shouldn't be a poem exactly and perhaps I wouldn't be motivated to say this if I didn't write fiction as well. Just thought I'd bring it up to think about.

My two cents,
John
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Old 07-12-2017, 10:54 AM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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I agree completely with John:

Quote:
My question with this poem though is not that the language isn't poetry but that I don't see what advantage is gained by the line endings and the stanzas. I would think no less of this if it was in a paragraph or paragraphs. It's originality is what makes it special and I don't see that it has any connection to this form.
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Old 07-12-2017, 12:32 PM
Malcolm Thom Malcolm Thom is offline
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I think the poem (as a rhetorical structure...) is necessary for the full ironic weight of this effort to be brought to bear.

Not unlike how our narrator laconically/ironically relates his futile engagements with homeopathy / fortune-telling...providing silly stories...so the author (Matt Q.) has come to try and find some meaning in writing a poem. The result (our "Kismet" here) echoes the same amused-to-death vacuity.

What's good about this poem is how it subtly engages the reader, I think, in the existential experience of the narrative character (and, I think, the author)...

Once we start asking of the poem if it in fact is one or not, or how whatever's 'in it' might better emerge in a revision or as a prose piece....then we're caught in an existential situation like that of the narrator....we might as well be sittingin a basement or at the fortune-teller's or feeling a bump on our neck...where's Bob!

(note: If you sort of substitute the word "poetry" for "homeopathy" and poet for "homeopath" you get an inkling too, I think.)

M.
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:54 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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This does seem to be a lighter basement poem, and - well, it's not all the better for it, but it's a nice and pleasing change of pace.

Like Woody, I enjoyed it throughout, although I think I would have been just as happy - happier, even, maybe - just with part 1. This may be because of my short attention span, but I genuinely think it's self-contained and self-sufficient.

No-one else seems to think this, which is significant , I think.

No matter. Part 2 is fun as well.

Cheers

David
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Old 07-12-2017, 05:48 PM
Kyle Norwood Kyle Norwood is offline
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I see David's point. I felt the same issue in a different way: when I got to "II," I was disconcerted to find that it was just a continuation of the same conversation as in "I"; it didn't seem as if a new start of any sort was being made. As a thought experiment, I tried running the poem together as a single section without the division into two, but then I felt (at the point where the "II" had been) that the poem was meandering, going on past its peak moment in an anti-climactic way. I do think section I works nicely by itself. I'd hate to lose the mating slugs, but perhaps they could have their own poem.
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Old 07-13-2017, 08:29 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Woody, Malcolm, David, Mark, John, Mary, David, Kyle

Thanks for you comments. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Woody,

I had tried part II with italics, and didn't like the way it looked. There's too much dialogue.

Malcolm,

This is part of a series of basement poems, several of which I've posted here recently (here, here and here), though this is easily the lightest. Perhaps the poem becomes more meaningful in the context of the series and its ongoing themes.

Mark

Yes, you're right, he should probably hand the money over first. I do quite like the way in which him handing over his fiver terminates their exchange, but I'll see if I can do something to sort this out. Or make into a fortune-telling joke.

John & Mary

I've posted a prose poem version, i.e., the original with all line-breaks removed, but my first impression is that it doesn't work as well. That may change of course, as I get used to it. In terms of what the form is doing, well mostly I'm using the line-breaks for pacing, including for comic timing. In the prose version the reader can read ahead along the line and see the 'punchlines' coming, and I can't dictate the pauses. Perhaps that's resolved by my rewriting the prose version, I don't know. I'm not discarding the idea, mind, and I'm glad it was suggested. It's always interesting to have a new angle to try.

David & Kyle

I'd agree that part one is self-contained and self-sufficient. If this were a collection, I'd probably present these as two poems Karma I & Karma II. But the second one would need to directly follow, or closely follow, the first, because it isn't stand-alone and I can't see how to make it so: it depends on the first. That's why I didn't post this as two separate poems a week apart. And I do think the second part complements and expands on the first, so I'm reluctant just to jettison the second half.

Kyle

I think the meandering feel that you (Kyle) get may be because the opening of the second stanza is a bit below par. I'll have a think about what I can do with that, and also if I can make it less of a direct continuation. Maybe lose Tasmin. Maybe have him return the following week. I'm going to think about it.

Thanks again all,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 07-13-2017 at 08:37 AM.
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