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Unread 05-21-2019, 02:14 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 158
Default Meeting


I'd never seen her here without her friends.
Five or more would bring their own cups;
smart young women-- agreeing, slapping hands.
When she'd speak, the others would stop

to lean her direction, she spoke so low.
I liked the way her listening
eyes got deep and pretty with what they knew,
how much some others were missing.

She and her hand-thrown cup came in alone
today. Through the door, no further.
She looked ready to turn and leave again.
She scanned, cup hooked on one finger.

I'd never seen her wear anything new,
but an unwrinkled purple scarf
covered her throat and cupped her pale cheeks now.
As soon as she'd taken it off,

she put it back on. She found a table
for two and kept the door in sight.
Ready to smile or ready for trouble,
whichever it was that she sought.

The loud one beamed out "Hey!" when she arrived
and strode to where the woman sat,
chopping the background noise with boot-heel knives.
She tugged off her purple knit cap.

This one once said, she broke so many cups,
travel mugs (Cafe Earth issue)
were best. Their friends knew to stand for her hugs
and 'oofed' out loud from the pressure.

I lost sight of them while they stood in line.
Then marching, humoring their cups,
the woman guided the loud one outside.
The day was barely warm enough.

When next I looked, the loud one was pacing
in front of where the woman sat.
The woman's lips moved, head and hands shaking.
(Whatever it was, it was out.)

Finally, the loud one came to a halt,
took her cup and took out her keys.
The other's hands had stilled; upturned, they held
the ghost of a thing on her knees.

They took turns pointing where the other looked;
one used her arm, one used her thumb.
(I guessed they were telling where each had parked.)
When the woman stood, the loud one

sidled past her, then up behind her back.
The woman straightened. The scarf
tightened, then slid, then slithered from her neck.
The loud one took it and ran off.

The woman relaxed, then made for her car.
She sloshed her cup trying to skip.
Hurrying, she held it away from her,
looked down and bit her smiling lip.
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Unread 05-22-2019, 11:50 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Posts: 1,475

The more I think about this, the more I like it. How convincingly it gets inside these characters without once showing us anything we couldn't (were we as observant as the narrator) see with our own eyes!

Because N doesn't attribute meaning to anything shown, it might be helpful for me to share the meaning I attribute as I read: N works at or hangs out in a coffee shop. (I had N working there on first reading, but I think I was wrong.) N is very observant and has taken a particular interest in the her of L1. My N is a guy, though I recognize that that's a guess/projection. Throughout most of the poem, I assume N is attracted to her. The closest thing we get to a value judgment is that her meets "the loud one," suggesting that N doesn't like "the loud one." Why? Because she's a romantic threat; N wants to be the one meeting her.

That assumption gets flipped on the last line. Her's pleasure is shown without any suggestion that N would wish it away. N isn't attracted romantically to her or s/he is big enough to be glad for her's happiness anyway. Either way, for N and the poem, as for her at this moment, N's feelings for her aren't important. What is important is this woman N and the poem observe for us.

The only thing that edges me away from liking her is the suggestion that she thinks other people miss things she catches (S2). (The poem seems to want me to like her, and I do: she and her friends care about the environment; she's not loud; she's nervous at this meeting; she's not fashion conscious; purple scarves are pretty cool; I trust N's judgment and he[?] seems to like her.)

It's a challenge to show an encounter between two unnamed characters of the same gender. Pronouns aren't real helpful. The poem guided me through pretty smoothly, though at times I had to take it slowly. The hand-thrown cup could have her's name on it, but I can see that that might feel contrived, and leave the reader with less astonishment at what can be observed.

The one place I really stumbled was
The loud one beamed out "Hey!" when she arrived
"She" was her to me, and I wondered why we'd gone back in time to her arrival. Clearly an aberrant reading. FWIW.

Dunno about the title. It's as self-effacing as N. It suggests a business meeting. If I saw it in a table of contents, it's not the first poem I'd flip to (or click on).

Is non-met the right place for this? The rhyme and meter are loose, but they're there.
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Unread 05-23-2019, 04:07 AM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 158

Thanks for reading and commenting, Max!

I hope to hear from some others, too, before I make an overall reply on Sunday, probably along with some revisions. . . .

Best regards,
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Unread 05-23-2019, 04:58 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: England
Posts: 2,768

Hi Daniel,

I like the casual half rhymes here. The narrative gripped me, made me read slowly and carefully. I think the woman is hiding something with the scarf. Bruises? She tells her loud friend something significant outside the cafe, which agitates the friend. 'The ghost of a thing on her knees' is mysterious. I like that it's the first true rhyme. The friend takes the woman's scarf without permission at the end, and she (the woman) accepts this, smiling. Is the friend saying that she shouldn't cover the bruises? That she has nothing to feel ashamed about? (Though, presumably somebody does)

Not sure if I'm there with this reading. But then the poem does deliberately set up a situation which asks the reader to find significance in small details and body language. It makes me wonder about the function of the N, who is a character in the cafe after all, rather than an omniscient presence. Does he know, or imagine, the significance of what's going on? And if so, why doesn't he tell us, or speculate? And if not, why recount these events in such detail? I get a slight nagging feeling of manipulation or trickery in making the reader play detective like this, especially if the poem is about domestic violence. I might be wrong about this reservation (or, indeed, the content). And the story is effectively told.

A couple of other things: 'slapping hands' (S1) are they high-fiving? Seems an awkward way to put it.

'Ready to smile or ready for trouble,
whichever it was that she sought.' (S5)

Small thing, but does one 'seek' the first? It sounds odd. What about 'ready for smiles'?

'one used her arm, one used her thumb' (S11) I can't work out why they point in such unusual ways (because they're holding cups?) It's hard to picture someone pointing with their arm.

Cups are mentioned a lot. Too much maybe? I found it oddly distracting.



Edit: I'm afraid the 'Cafe Earth' thing grates for me a little too.
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Unread 05-24-2019, 05:37 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Posts: 1,740

This one gets better as it sinks in, though I'm not sure how much is there. But I also understand it's part of a larger work and expect it'll work better in that context.

Mark's interpretation is interesting, and plausible, though the playfulness at the end is strange if he's right. I had initially thought perhaps the scarf was covering a hickey, which fits the playfulness but not the shaking and pacing. Perhaps it's something in the middle, but I'm not sure what. It is somewhat frustrating how little the poem tells us, true to life as that non-knowledge might be.

I have a slight issue with "the loud one", since right at the start of the poem you identify at least four other loud ones. So the specificity here is artificial.

I can't see what this stanza is doing, except to shoehorn "Cafe Earth" into the poem:
This one once said, she broke so many cups,
travel mugs (Cafe Earth issue)
were best. Their friends knew to stand for her hugs
and 'oofed' out loud from the pressure.
It interrupts the narrative thread, and the poem would be better without it. (I'm also among those who roll their eyes each time I read "Cafe Earth", so, while I get that you're committed to it, I'm happier the less it's mentioned.)
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Unread 05-26-2019, 06:17 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 158
Default Preliminary thanks to all.

Not doing a comprehensive reply yet.

Thank you to all 188 people who "viewed" this poem. I don't know if those are what's called "unique" views-- 188 different people. And there's no way of knowing if a "view" means a complete reading, one reading, or two. No tracking of whether this poem got printed out, etc.

It's not as if the "beta-test" ever ends on a poem. It re-starts with each reader. This poem has had other readers outside the Eratosphere. But with a view to getting on to "the bonus round," I will lay some cards on the table, by way of relating an exchange with one of the poem's other readers. I gave a copy to an acquaintance. On a later occasion, this person stopped me:

READER: Hey, Daniel-- that poem was hot! But I have a question.
DANIEL: Just one? Sorry. Okay, shoot.
READER: When the one girl came up behind the other one, to pull her scarf off, did she say anything? I mean, the other one knew it was her, didn't turn around or jump or anything--
DANIEL: Well, she did--
READER: Straighten-- I know, which was hot, too. But did she, the loud one-- did she say anything?
DANIEL: Oh, I think she probably did.
READER: I know you can't tell me, cause that's against the rules, but you know. You imagined it. What did she say?
DANIEL: What could she have said . . . . What do you think she said?
[Pause. FRIEND grins, laughs]
FRIEND: I hope it was something as good as, "When we get to my place, I wanna find out what else you have on that's new, and my favorite color."
DANIEL: Yeah, that woulda been pretty good!

I'm gonna let this thread roll a couple days more. Objections, suggestions, and possible revisions sort of need to be in the context of reverse-engineering from the poem's intent. I hope the exchange above moves the discussion further in that direction.

Max, I really want a better title. "Meeting" has been a placeholder, and in the Cafe Earth context, "Meeting" is way too suggestive of AA, to say the least.

Anyway, I'll look in the rest of this week, till Wednesday or so.

Thanks all!

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Unread 05-27-2019, 07:07 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,045

Hey Daniel, I am a sucker for scene-setting and love a good cinematic feel to a poem, but this one falls short and feels more like director’s notes than poetic language. There are many parts I like simply because you have an excellent eye for small detail that rises to significance as the poem unfolds, but I can’t find much of that in this one, sorry. These are the things that prop up the poem and keep it from meandering into banality:
The color purple
The scarf
Ceramic cups
The two women
But I don’t arrive anywhere at the end. I’m left scratching my head and wondering what happened and what it is that I’ve missed. I go back and still I can’t fully decipher what has happened. Mostly because they took it outside, I think. This is where (and why) I think you should depart from simple observation and inject the N’s view of what has taken place (besides the fact that the N has had way, way, way too much coffee. A good thing, most times, but not this time. For me. Perhaps the N should reflect on why exactly he is so fascinated by this group of women.

I can't decide if the N is a barista or a patron. Or an ax murderer.

Some thoughts
S7: I can’t find the significance in this:
This one once said, she broke so many cups,
travel mugs (Cafe Earth issue)
were best.

Do you even need it? Is it a clue? I hope not. Clues don't belong in poems, IMHO. I don’t think you need the italicized “her”. Let the rhythm of the line provide the emphasis. I also think oofed should be in italics vs. ‘’.

S8:I don’t know what “humoring their cups” means. They are full of hot liquid. I would think they would be coddling them.

S9: “When I looked again” vs. “When next I looked” sounds more casual.

Overall, I think this could be less detailed, briefer, more poetically expressed and more to the point without what feels to be pretense. Your writing, though, continues to fascinate me.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 05-28-2019 at 07:44 AM.
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Unread 05-30-2019, 06:45 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
Join Date: Mar 2019
Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 158

Thanks again, all. I need to wrap this thread up in short fashion, for reasons I need to keep to myself.

When I write a "people-watching poem," I give up omniscience. I select pertinent details, but sometimes the pertinence is that the N/observer noticed something in the act of watching; that detail sometimes ends up being extraneous. The approach in such a poem is to model the act of observation. FWIW.

My intent here was to convey this outcome, based on observed evidence: By the end of this poem, these two women have become lovers. Whatever "extra" status they may have had, besides friendship, going into this meeting, after it, they're together as a couple. Publicly.

Max, I learned to respect the "Metrical" board to the extent that when a poem's "limiting device" is merely syllable count or rhyme, I don't post that poem in "Metrical." This one is merely syllabic and rhymed. If it achieves a certain feel and rhythm, good! Thanks for saying so.

Aaron, in the stanza you question, I count six details that add to the presented evidence in the poem, not just working-in a mention of "Cafe Earth."

And Mark and Jim, I hope what I've added in this thread clears up some of the confusions the poem created and failed to clear up on its own! Yikes. I ran that risk. There are other ambiguities that the poem leaves open, too; but most of them I consider fruitful.

I will be changing the title. No choices made yet, though.

Thanks again to all of you. I'm sorry that this "omnibus" is hardly omni. . . . I don't like giving my generous, thoughtful critters-- as all of you have been-- short shrift. Just time to let this one drift off, now.

Thanks again and best regards all around,
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