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  #1  
Old 06-14-2018, 10:09 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Another Attempt

Interstate

By Jackson, you called and said,
I'll be too drunk to drive.
Hell, if I do my very best
I could be blind by Shreveport.
I warn you, son, you whispered,
everything's losing its shape.
The sky cracks like knuckles all day.
Now my dog has decided I'm no friend.
I can't outrun the end much longer.
But my boy ain't no coward. Fly down,
see your old dad, we'll take a ride
to see my new grave.

The plane bounced along a gyrating sky.
The stewardess hung over me like a flesh angel.
You're just a boy, she said, and your face says
you're sweet. Don't fear the tumult outside.
I told her it's more dangerous down below,
where everyone wore a bullseye.

In Jackson, I stood outside the Dust and Ash Hotel.
Your traveling dog, he was a German,
said he knew you loved me but I was too late.
I didn't want to step through the door, he said.
Who knows what you'll be on the other side.

Come in, you yelled. I smiled at the dog,
said I can't. Your hound is guarding the gate.
It was a hell of a predicament, you agreed,
there was always one asshole
who wouldn't get with the plan.
You shot the dog and we moved on.

I drove while you snored. The car sped
inside a song once sung. Beyond dawn
morning mist gave way. At dark,
you took the wheel. Night ripped open.
I flipped dog-eared corners, watched
new universes boom, felt my own animal
swim inside. Wondered how the dog had died.
Was it a final explosion like rage behind the eyes,
or was it warm soup, with soft bread,
a glass of cold milk on the side?

***

I've had this in various versions long enough to say it's been a long time. I don't remember if it started as a poem or as prose, or prose poem. It's been both and revised and revised. I have never been able to entice an editor with it. I think it's too odd. I don't mind saying this actually happened. I was 17 and hadn't seen my father for years and this is what he calls and says. I flew to Jackson and it was bizarre. More bizarre than I can say.

I'd like to know how others feel about this. I like it but can't entice an editor. Any suggestions? Or is it just rubbish? Let me know. I've written tons of rubbish but can't decide this is one of them. I like it.
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  #2  
Old 06-14-2018, 06:11 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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John I like this very much I have made some suggestions below in bold.

Interstate I feel that the title is too bland a virtual placeholder. Something like:
The Death of Cerberus
My Father Shot his Dog



By Jackson, you called and said,
I'll be too drunk to drive.
Hell, if I do my very best
I could be blind by Shreveport.
I warn you, son, you whispered,
everything's losing its shape.
The sky cracks like knuckles all day.
Now my dog's decided I'm no friend. the elision is needed to be true to the voice
I can't outrun the end much longer.
But my boy ain't no coward. Fly down,
see your old dad, we'll take a ride
to see my new grave.

The plane bounced along the sky. 'gyrating' seems a poetic stretch
The stewardess hung over me. it is enough
You're just a boy, she said, and your face says
you're sweet. 'Don't fear the tumult outside.' The verbal register feels wrong.
I told her it's more dangerous down below,
where everyone wore a bullseye. I absolutely love this.

In Jackson, I stood outside the Dust and Ash Hotel.
Your traveling dog, he was a German,
said he knew you loved me but I was too late.
Your dog was German and he said
you loved me but I was too late.

I didn't want to step through the door, he said.
Who knows what you'll be on the other side. This stanza could be clearer without losing its intensity. I love the Cerberus touch.

Come in, you yelled. I smiled at the dog,
said I can't. Your hound is guarding the gate.
It was a hell of a predicament, you agreed,
there was always one asshole
who wouldn't get with the plan.
You shot the dog and we moved on.

I drove while you snored. The car sped
inside a song once sung. Beyond dawn
morning mist gave way. At dark,
you took the wheel. Night ripped open.
I flipped dog-eared corners, watched
new universes boom, felt my own animal
swim inside wondered how the dog had seen death.
Was it a final explosion like rage behind the eyes,
or was it warm soup, with soft bread,
a glass of cold milk on the side?

This poem has life, overall it does not strain for effect but does affect.

Enjoyed the journey,

regards,

Jan

Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 06-14-2018 at 06:17 PM.
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  #3  
Old 06-14-2018, 10:45 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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In retrospect John I would go for a generic dog. German leads off into areas that are not germane.
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Old 06-15-2018, 01:01 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I think there's a lot of good stuff here, worth bringing into the world. I do also think it's a bit jagged, and will try to return from a computer with specific suggestions.

Cheers,
John
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  #5  
Old 06-15-2018, 08:59 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Hi John,
Picking up on John I.'s "jagged" comment, many times your poems strike me as prose poems that are truncated into verse form.
Left alone to flow free leaves the voice clearer, more intimate. Less (unintentionally) affected. IMO.
(I should say that I'm having trouble lately on the crit end of things. I'm struggling to come up with suggestions to improve what I'm reading. All I can muster is an up or down response. Or, more maddening, a mix of up and down, as with this one.)

Is there room to create a hybrid? A blend of verse and prose? If I were to take a shot at revision of this poem with that in mind, this would be it:


By Jackson, you called and said, I'll be too drunk to drive. Hell, if I do my very best I could be blind by Shreveport. I warn you, son, you whispered, everything's losing its shape. The sky cracks like knuckles all day. Now my dog has decided I'm no friend. I can't outrun the end much longer. But my boy ain't no coward. Fly down, see your old dad, we'll take a ride
to see my new grave.

The plane bounced along a gyrating sky.
The stewardess hung over me like a flesh angel.
You're just a boy, she said, and your face says
you're sweet. Don't fear the tumult outside.
I told her it's more dangerous down below,
where everyone wore a bullseye.

In Jackson, I stood outside the Dust and Ash Hotel.
Your traveling dog, he was a German,
said he knew you loved me but I was too late.
I didn't want to step through the door, he said.
Who knows what you'll be on the other side.

Come in, you yelled. I smiled at the dog, said I can't. Your hound is guarding the gate. It was a hell of a predicament, you agreed, there was always one asshole who wouldn't get with the plan. You shot the dog and we moved on.

I drove while you snored. The car sped
inside a song once sung. Beyond dawn
morning mist gave way. At dark,
you took the wheel. Night ripped open.
I flipped dog-eared corners, watched
new universes boom, felt my own animal
swim inside. Wondered how the dog had died.
Was it a final explosion like rage behind the eyes,
or was it warm soup, with soft bread,
a glass of cold milk on the side?


Your voice is authentic. I'm just wondering if you've found the right format.

As I said, I'm in something of a personal quandary these days with crit. I now notice I haven't said a thing about the content. I'll come back later.
x
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  #6  
Old 06-16-2018, 01:33 PM
Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
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Location: Earth
Posts: 239
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Hi John,

Has any editor ever explained why they're not really into this poem?

You seem to have a talking dog in stanza 3. I find this fascinating, but it might not suit all tastes. I'm not sure how to help, really. Perhaps you could rethink your intended audience? Alternatively, I do think this has the makings of a very interesting short story.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #7  
Old 06-17-2018, 11:01 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hi Jon. It's a good read. I think there are two things going on here: the good straight story, well expressed, and your attempts to poeticise it. I like the first, but am less keen on the second, so I have - presumptuously - set out below what remains if you cut the second element out.

By Jackson, you called and said,
I'll be too drunk to drive.
Hell, if I do my very best
I could be blind by Shreveport.
I warn you, son, you whispered,
everything's losing its shape.
Now my dog has decided I'm no friend.
I can't outrun the end much longer.
But my boy ain't no coward. Fly down,
see your old dad, we'll take a ride
to see my new grave.

In Jackson, I stood outside the Dust and Ash Hotel.
Your traveling dog, he was a German,
said he knew you loved me but I was too late.
I didn't want to step through the door, he said.
Who knows what you'll be on the other side.

Come in, you yelled. I smiled at the dog,
said I can't. Your hound is guarding the gate.
It was a hell of a predicament, you agreed,
there was always one asshole
who wouldn't get with the plan.
You shot the dog and we moved on.

I drove while you snored. The car sped
inside a song once sung. Beyond dawn
morning mist gave way. At dark,
you took the wheel. Night ripped open.
I flipped dog-eared corners, watched
new universes boom, felt my own animal
swim inside. Wondered how the dog had died.
Was it a final explosion like rage behind the eyes,
or was it warm soup, with soft bread,
a glass of cold milk on the side?

I like it! And I ended up removing very little.

Cheers

David
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  #8  
Old 06-18-2018, 10:33 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Location: North Carolina
Posts: 3,915
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Thanks to each one of you for reading and commenting. There seems to be a bit of consensus around S2, which has never been my favorite stanza. I will think about dropping it as well as consider the other suggestions.

Much appreciated.

John
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  #9  
Old 06-19-2018, 11:50 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Location: England, UK
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Hi John,

I've come back to this a few times. I found the dialogue a bit confusing at first. Because there are no italics or speech marks, it's not always obvious, where it starts and stops. For example

By Jackson, you called and said,
I'll be too drunk to drive.
Hell, if I do my very best
I could be blind by Shreveport.

L1-2 is clearly the "you", the father. However, is L3 still the father or the narrator? The way it's written suggests the latter, but I think you intend the former. Also, as you use what can look like indirect speech, the "I" could read like it refers to the narrator. The father rings and says: "You'll be too drunk to drive". And you do also mix in indirect speech, for example: "It was a hell of a predicament, you agreed". So anyway that didn't help when I read it. I had to stop and reread and puzzle. I got there in the end, but still, maybe there's a way to make the dialogue clearer?

I guess in terms of revision I'd be looking for compression, losing any unnecessary elaboration. Maybe in S1, this

By Jackson, you called and said,
I'll be too drunk to drive.
Hell, if I do my very best
I could be blind by Shreveport.
I warn you, son, you whispered,

could become:

By Jackson, you called and said
you'd be too drunk to drive.
I warn you, son, you whispered,

I don't see that S2 isn't doing very much in the context of the poem. I'd suggest losing it. Do we need to see him flying there? But if you keep it, I think there's a tense mismatch at the close. "it's more dangerous down below, / where everyone wore a bullseye". So either, "it was more dangerous" or "everyone wears a bullseye" would seem to match up.

In S4,

I wonder if you need these lines:

there was always one asshole
who wouldn't get with the plan.

Couldn't he just shoot the dog?

The final S is my favourite. I wonder only about "night ripped open" since it's not elaborated on, and a bit grander (more grandiose?) than the rest of it.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-19-2018 at 11:56 AM.
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  #10  
Old 06-20-2018, 02:30 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Thanks, Matt. You've tipped me firmly to remove S2. I didn't realize it troubled me before but it did.

I will fix the second-person confusion. There are a lot of "yous" flying around.

I like that final stanza the best as well.

Thanks for your great help. I always welcome it.

Best,
John
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