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Unread 04-14-2019, 01:13 PM
Felicity Teague's Avatar
Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Gloucestershire, UK
Posts: 304
Default Free verse 2

Satanic mass II: post-diagnosis

That night
I return to Rectory Woods,
standing amidst the beech trees
and attending mass again.

The mass is a blood pool,
thick with black matter
and I must dredge it now.

I wade in
aged 12 and gangly,
arthritic knees clenched in Tubigrip,
left elbow stuck at 96 degrees.

Helen from Occupational Therapy
has provided a dredging device,
a metre-long ladle
with a bright red ergonomic handle
and a cavernous silver bowl.

Using my right arm,
I scoop and scrape
until blood drains from the beeches,
but each time I bring up a bowlful of black matter
it slithers back into the pool.
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Unread 04-16-2019, 04:45 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,966

I like the macabre in this, as I did in the first. I'm glad the first Satanic Mass poem is still afloat here on the board. I think you may need to do some work up front to allow the reader to better orient themselves to the scene without the need to know this first Satanic Mass poem to allow it to have full effect. You might start off with something like:

I am back in my old haunt again.
Back in the Rectory Woods again.
Still clutched by.....

Something like that
It doesn't have to specifically refer to the #1 Satanic Mass but it does need context. Or perhaps a change of title would help... Or maybe you should combine the two into one...

The whole thing, as was the first, has a duality to the mood it creates: on the one hand there is a distinct sterile, antiseptic feel in terms of the reality of the condition --and on the other hand an eerie, dreamy, haunting feel in it's description of the speaker's mental state of mind. I think that duality is universal to anyone who must cope with chronic illness.

On the few occasions where I've felt this duality there is always a remembrance of being in somewhat of a state of shock; a detachment from what is happening; an out-of-body sensation about what is physically taking place. I have fortunately come through those dreadful episodes fully recovered. In this case, the speaker is dealing with a chronic physical situation that is robbing her of her ability to live free from the chains of the condition. That is never said directly here but I can feel it. There is a stoicism to it that puts my heart in my throat. It is E.A. Poe-like in that regard.

The escape to the Rectory Woods is haunting visual.

Stanzas 3 and 4 could be flipped.

I don't hear a diagnosis. I see something of an intervention, a treatment, a therapy, but am in the dark about what it is exactly that has the speaker is coping with, is doing with the ergonomic handled ladle thingy and it is a creepy (in a Poe-like way) exercise the speaker is engaged in. I think you should consider more detail. Really go full-in on the malicious nature of the ailment. Just a thought. Make it more stormy. Bring the dread to a head. (Sorry. I've been in a ridiculous rut with rhyme lately. And assonance. Practically every word either rhymes or alliterates. It's like I've turned into a rapper. No! Not that! Anything but that!)

Anyway, I like it because it's a raw, difficult thing to write about and you/the speaker's personality shines through it. Life is lived as much interiorly as it is exteriorly. Maybe more. Quoth the raven: maybe more.
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Unread 04-16-2019, 11:16 PM
Mary Meriam's Avatar
Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: usa
Posts: 7,188

Hi Fliss, this is an amazing poem, the kind of poem that creates its own language, and seems to be written in stone. Each word reverberates with nuance and fairy tale echoes. The horror and pain seem amplified by the speaker's effortless voice. I've read it several times, and it always amazes me. Well done!
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Unread Yesterday, 01:30 PM
Felicity Teague's Avatar
Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Gloucestershire, UK
Posts: 304

Hi Jim and Mary,

Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment :-)


Thanks, Jim. I thought about editing 'Satanic mass' to show that as 'I' and this (inserted underneath) as 'II', but I'm not sure whether that's permitted on the 'sphere. Anyway, I do intend for the poems to be read as one, so I'm pleased you suggest that approach.

I find your thoughts on the mood very interesting. Do you think I need to clarify that I'm describing a dream in II, or is the duality enough for the reader? I ask because I don't know. I like to merge everything – reality, research, imagination, dreamworld – because that makes up for what I've lost. Before I became severely arthritic I was rather more engaged in the real world, let's say. These days I find it difficult to step outside myself and try to figure out how a person unlike me is going to set about understanding one of my 'poorly poems', as I like to call them, hehe.

Yes, chronic illness is a bit of a shock. I cried and cried when I was diagnosed with arthritis aged 12. But then I felt bad about making my family sad, so I sort of steeled myself; it was just what I had to do. I like 'chains' because it puts me in mind of Dylan Thomas, 'I sang in my chains like the sea.' I don't know if I've got the right meaning, though. I don't think I fully understood 'Fern Hill' when I encountered it, during my Eng. Lit. A-level. Well, perhaps I'll look at it again. Anyway, I'm pleased you came through your dreadful episodes, Jim :-)

Thanks for 'haunting visual' and I'll think about flipping stanzas 3 and 4. In my dream, the dredging device just appeared out of nowhere, once I'd waded into the pool.

Yes, Occupational Therapy is a type of treatment, in its way. With arthritis, as loss of mobility sets in, everyday tasks become increasingly difficult. That's when a person with arthritis (or similar condition) can self-refer to an occupational therapist, who typically comes up with a few aids to make things easier and help the person maintain independence. That said, my mum bought me my first aid, which was a 'grabber', a long-handled device that can be used to pick stuff up off the floor. Not liking the word 'grabber', I decided to call it a 'pick-up stick' instead. Well, this might not be the place to embark on a history of my experience with OT; besides, I'm sure you get the gist!

I agree, it's pretty creepy. I might have mentioned I like Poe, so I appreciate 'Poe-like', hehe. Thanks for suggesting additional detail. As it happens, the poorly poetry does include this sort of thing. I've posted it on a website called 'The Mighty', for chronically ill persons, but you don't get critique there, just hearts and people hoping you're okay. Well, that has its place, I think, when you're feeling a bit down and you need a little boost. I like 'dread to a head'. In fact, I wrote a rap for The Mighty and they published it, would you believe. But I wouldn't post it here :-)

Thanks also for 'raw' and 'difficult' and 'shines', and really everything in your last paragraph, Jim. 'Maybe more' indeed :>)


Thanks to you too, Mary. I'm delighted you like this poem, and I really appreciate your taking the time to read it several times! This is the type of writing that comes most easily to me, so it's great to know that it comes across as effortless. I enjoy writing metrical things too, but when I want to write the truth the rules often take me away from the truth and then I feel dishonest. That might sound a bit daft, but I don't mind :-) :>)

I'll be back as soon as I can with reciprocal comments!

Best wishes,
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Unread Yesterday, 03:29 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: *
Posts: 1,541

I dunno Fliss. I keep reading this as tongue-in-cheek. And I'm sure I'm wrong about that. Right? I liked the first one much more. I don't think I've ever liked a movie that had a colon in its title and perhaps that made see this a certain way.
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