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Unread 07-22-2019, 11:23 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,343
Default Vision of Destruction

Vision of Destruction

Xi Tung, a poet of the Silver Age
lionized for his juvenile production
of courtly lyrics on erotic themes,
withdrew into occultism and dreams
after his exile. Late in life, a sage
above endearment and seductive wit,
he wrote his cryptic “Vision of Destruction.”
Here is the fragment that we have of it:

“I sat one morning on a mountainside
and looked out on a marsh near Lake Dongting
and saw in fog there scenes that signified
the end of man, the end of everything.

When ultimate destruction is at hand,
seven will be the signs:
seven will be the ome: First, from the sea out of the sea(A giant squid emerges, dead)
a monster will arise, a prodigy
that, dead, will breed putrescence. Second, land
animals—leopards, bears—will occupy ohe sea out of e sea (Pandas and leopards escape from the Bronx Zoo)
the city of all cities, to the north,
still to be built where man has yet to settle.
Third, a hubristic vulture made of metal outtotoo seatosea(A private jet crashes in Queens)
will shriek, fall out of the indignant sky
and furrow earth with devastation. Fourth. . .”

The page is torn. What are the final four
signs of our not existing anymore?

“. . . balance will be lost; the proud will totter out of the sea (There is an earthquake which causes
and fall; creation, as if giving birth, toout of the seaoutto seaoil to leak into the Hudson and East Rivers)
will groan and open, and the blood of earth
will taint the surface of the sterile sea.
Fifth, then, the disparate elements forgetting
the old taboos, there will be fire in water— tooout of the sea(The oil ignites)
an ominous impossibility.
Sixth, then, the sun, on rising in the morning, tout othe sea(Smoke from the fires causes the sun to red-shift)
will shine blood-red and still be red at noon,
still red at dusk and still red at its setting.
Seventh, when the Untainted One, the last
true Incorruptible, whose voice of warning
has called the signs and told of ruin soon,
is murdered, an exasperated blast
will echo through the New Land, echo through
the Old, pronouncing on the race of men.
There will be nothing anyone can do
but serve as carrion to vultures then.”

The First Omen: Sea-Monster!

Todd Wolniak is twelve years old and way,
way bored. He thinks, like, dude, it’s just, like, wrong,
like, agony, that every Saturday
his dad goes fishing at the Esplanade
in Battery Park and makes him come along.
It’s just not fair. He means, it’s just, like, God,
why waste a whole day leaning on the railing,
watching the richies in their sweet boats sailing
round and round?
round and round? His dad does catch an eel
or two, a couple bluefish, maybe flounder
and bring them home to be the evening meal,
but what’s the use? Why spend six hours or more
trying to catch what’s at the grocery store?

Suddenly there is revving in a reel.
His father shouts, “feels like a hundred pounder!”
The drag kicks in and whizzes, but the tight
line breaks. What could have been an epic fight
ends with his father landing on his ass.
His trusty rod, the KastKing Perigee,
goes flying backward up into the park.

Still looking there, just off the Battery,
for the elusive fish, Todd sees a dark
blotch in the slate-gray brine. A pulpous mass
floats up—a face, it seems, because two eyes,
like dinner plates in coloring and size,
are gaping out of it. Around this head
a whorl of tangled feelers surfaces,
a mess of endless, fleshy grapples, spread
in all directions. Todd knows what it is—
a giant squid, and way, way hugely dead.

Oh, he can’t wait to tell his friends! How glad
he is that he went fishing with his dad!

. . . . .

S3L6: "trusty" for "fancy"
. . . . .

The Second Omen: Jailbreak!

Pelham Parkway, Bronx, at 3 am
is ordinarily not a place of wonder,
but here is “Tweak” McConkel, stretched out under
a Gingko (his provisional abode),
marveling: is he really seeing them—
two pandas shambling up Boston Road?
If he were not near neighbor to a zoo,
he would dismiss them as hallucination.

He shadows their expansive white behinds
up Bronx Park East toward Pelham Parkway Station.
What, have they made big plans to take the 2
downtown to hit a club near NYU?
Nope, they are turning. They have changed their minds.
They want McDonald’s now, it seems. Bamboo
gets old, he figures. Sure, they whiffed a strong
bouquet of sweet, sweet beef all summer long
and now have slipped through their enclosure doors
to stalk New York, reborn as carnivores.

If Tweak had owned a house, he thinks, a bed,
he would be way asleep right now instead
of outside seeing. . . Wait. There’s something wrong:
Hearing a loud shared purr like that of lovers
off to his right, he pivots and discovers
a pair of big cats dappled with rosettes.
No way these monsters could be someone’s pets.
He chuckles at the irony: Haha!
They sure are not the first ones in these parts
to go around dressed up in leopard-print!

While one slinks over and, with massive paw,
roots through a garbage can, the other starts
expressing territorial bursts of pee
on storefronts: Good & Natural first, then Sprint,
John & Joe’s Pizzeria, GNC.

And then a train comes rolling in. The rumble
strikes the beasts as something strange and new
and threatening. While the pandas swiftly bumble
away past Pizza Hut and Planet Fitness,
the other half of the menagerie
lopes left around Tacos El Bronco 2,
tails kinked and bristly. Tweak, unwitting witness
of this the second of the omens, shrugs
and chuckles to himself: Like, who needs drugs?
Real life is crazier than LSD

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-01-2019 at 10:27 AM.
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Unread 07-22-2019, 08:50 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Aaron,

I'd like to take back my concerns about the giant squid. I'd missed the explicit reference to section I of your poem, the omens. No nits from me for the entire first and second section - though i will say, this sounds like Coleridge: "will taint the surface of the sterile sea."
I think I'd change "way" in "way asleep." This isn't Todd and you want to differentiate the two voices. I also am not sure you need the self-referential "unwitting witness" bit. Maybe the omens should just play out unremarked on? Or just feature in titles?
Also, just to say this is splendid stuff IMO.

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Unread 07-23-2019, 08:26 AM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 265


I apologize for commenting on "Sea-Monster!" without realizing its role in a larger sequence.

I see no problem with craft here.

This actually feels like versified flash-fiction, or if I'm being more honest, like a versified comic book. Something about the characters and tone reminds me of a comic book, and I can envision these scenes quite easily in the comic book template. I don't mean this is any sort of denigrating way -- one can say "graphic novel" template to connote a higher art form, but it isn't really that different.

The language seems to lack poetry's essential strangeness. I'm probably wrong. But what I think it would benefit from is best described by E.K. in his preface to Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender :

"...and framing his words: the which of many thinges which in him be straunge, I know will seeme the delightsome for the roundnesse, and so grave for the straungenesse."

The strengths here are the marriage of East and West, the willingness to venture into Biblical thematic territory (ambition), the bold and dexterous use of "skaz" (as I mentioned in the "Sea-Monster!" thread) and allowing in contemporary names and places (GNC, Battery, etc).

In fact, I think I could enumerate even more strengths.

Do you mind sharing your models for this piece? I mean -- is there a poet or poem (or plural) this is modeled on? I can imagine a poem of Yeats doing this. In a much less direct manner, I can hear Frost (with content remaining local). Of course, Milton and Dante are possible precursors.

I pray I don't sound certain. These are just observations and what I hope are both honest and helpful suggestions.

Good luck! I admire the ambition of the project

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Unread 07-27-2019, 08:48 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,343

John, thank you very much for commenting. I agree that "way" should be a hallmark of Todd but I'm not happy with "deep asleep" or "fast asleep" or even "quite asleep" for Tweak. These "omen" sections are part of a larger narrative, and I have chosen at times (as with "unwitting witness") to draw out dramatic irony--that is, the reader and narrator knowing things that a character does not: the animal escape is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Jake, thank you. Yes, my narrative poetry has less of the "strangeness" that we associate with poetry. I see that as necessary to establish setting and develop the narrative. I had to invent the form myself. My major models are Homer's "Odyssey," Byron's "Don Juan" and Yeats' "Wanderings of Oisin." This is the sequel to a book I have already published. If you enjoyed these excerpts, you might check it out:

Thank you both,


Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 07-27-2019 at 08:50 PM.
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Unread 07-28-2019, 03:35 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,447

Hi Aaron,

Are the bolded numbers and bracketed phrases alongside the first section intended to be part of the poem or for our (the Sphere's) benefit alone? If part of the the poem, I'd say lose them, the bracketed phrases spell things out too much, giving away what's to come, hence spoiling the reader's surprise as to how each omen will manifest. For me, they also detracted from the reading experience.

I'm assuming that this part of a book, and that there will be a fair bit more to come after the the description of the omens. I wondered how it would work to give us the seven omens first, without naming them as 'omens'. Then give us the prophecy after we've read the omens, not knowing what they were. That way the prophecy pulls everything together, and resolves the seven omen poem-sections, and perhaps the whole thing is more suspenseful. The reader will also then be able to translate the prophecy as they read it.

In the prophecy section. I don't see the purpose of the closing couplet of part I. The couple seems to set us for the last four being missing: look it's torn, what were the four missing omens? But none of the prophecy seems to be lost.

This line seems to be hexameter:
SEVen | will BE |the O|mens: FIRST, |OUT of |the SEA

I enjoyed reading the new omen, the zoo escape. One point:

He chuckles at the irony: Haha!
They sure are not the first ones in these parts
to go around dressed up in leopard-print!
While one slinks over and, with massive paw,

Haha! / paw -- doesn't really rhyme that much for me. Maybe that's a US thing, but still, how about something like

The irony of this makes him guffaw: ......... or,
He sees the irony and then guffaws: .........(rhyming with 'massive paws'),


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Unread 07-28-2019, 08:37 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,343

Thank, Matt, for your considered comments.

I included the bold face and the parenthetical notes only for the benefit of the Sphere. Eratosphere does not lend itself to the workshopping of longer works, so I thought I would, somewhat heavy-handedly, make the structure clear. These sections will not be contiguous in the book itself but interspersed with other narrative sections. I have decided to finish the structure (the omens) first, then start working on the rest.

At the start of the poem, the only extant manuscript of "Vision of Destruction" is a fragment. Subsequently, characters recover the second half of the manuscript and learn about the final four omens.

I have revised my hex to a pent:

Seven will be the signs: First, from the sea

Sad to say, "ha" and "paw" are true rhymes in most of America. I say "ah" and "awe" exactly the same way.

Best, best,

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Unread 07-28-2019, 10:55 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,257

Aaron: Sad to say, "ha" and "paw" are true rhymes in most of America. I say "ah" and "awe" exactly the same way.

I don't know about that... I pronounce "ah" like "are" is pronounced with a Boston accent. (I was born and raised in New Jersey, not so far from Philly).

If I did pronounce them the same it would be "ah/pa" or "aww/paw".

I think you could opt for "haw-haw!" and it would work.

Btw, I think Matt is right about the bracketed info to the right. You will know when a crit could use the benefit of a larger context and deal with it then. Your other alternative is to write a short summary that prefaces the passages you post for crit that places it in the larger context.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 07-28-2019 at 11:12 AM.
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Unread 07-29-2019, 11:17 AM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Maryland, U.S.A.
Posts: 98

Hi, Aaron,

This is just a fly-by here, but there was one part of the “Sea Monster” section that strained my willing suspension of disbelief. Do you really expect me to believe that Todd Wolniak, upon seeing the squid's corpse, wouldn’t have taken a selfie with it? Really?
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Unread 07-29-2019, 11:46 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,343

Thank you, A. Sterling. I will see what I can do about adding a "selfie." What rhymes with it? Elfy?
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Unread 07-29-2019, 12:19 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Maryland, U.S.A.
Posts: 98

Hmm - well, the first word that came to my mind - oddly - was 'gallimaufry'. A bit slant, though. I bet you could do better.
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