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  #1  
Unread 12-02-2019, 07:01 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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wheat text

The Strangers

Plants that only half-possess shapes
flicker as they rise from Darkness.


Darkness spans infinity
and bodies up to the roadside.

As it meets the blacktop, Darkness disperses,
but not before it rattles its autumn-

withered weapons at the bus,
mutters its caliginous threats.

Lights in the distance let us know
that Darkness reaches at least so far;

past these, only the star-barren night
from which nothing is to be extracted

but into which nothing cannot be cast,
if only we cast it. Cramped behind glass,

casting aimlessly about
in Darkness we do not yet know,

we skirt the threatening edge, plunge
deeper into the headlights' glare.


EDITS:

S1 was:
Vague, indefinite plants, placeless
in the System, rise from Darkness.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 12-03-2019 at 08:48 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 12-03-2019, 03:21 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Obviously it's deliberate, but for me the first two stanzas contain, to quote Bob Dylan, 'too much of nothing'. You have 'vague', 'indefinite', 'placeless', 'darkness' and 'infinity' in three short lines and it all feels a bit much.

Starting with "As it meets the blacktop" gets the poem moving, and I do like it from then on.
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  #3  
Unread 12-03-2019, 08:50 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Mark, thanks for your comments. You're quite right about the first two stanzas. I really like S2, and want to keep it as is, but S1 was a problem. I've replaced it entirely, emptying it a bit of nothing, which I hope will allow S2 to work without seeming like too much.
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Unread 12-03-2019, 11:16 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

"System" was really throwing me.

As it is now, I like "bodies up to the roadside" still, but find "Darkness spans infinity" to heavy. I also don't love your first line: no need to mention they only half possess their shapes if they flicker, right?
Plants flicker as they rise from Darkness
that bodies up to the roadside.
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  #5  
Unread 12-03-2019, 11:20 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks, Andrew.

"System" was a remnant from when this poem was going to become other than it in fact became. It is well lost.

I'll have to think more about the poem's opening. In S2, I really do want the sense of darkness rushing from infinitely far away until it presses right up against the road—I'm very hesitant to change that stanza. But perhaps I am being overly stubborn. I'll need to think on it and figure out which it is.

I see your point about S1, though to me the lack of shape is more important than the flickering, so if there's redundancy there, it's "flicker" that is going to go. I do want the poem to open with the inability to make out just what the plants are...
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  #6  
Unread 12-03-2019, 11:03 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I like this. It has a wonderful mystery and suspense about it. The revision of the first couplet is better. I like the verb phrase “bodies up to the roadside.” I also like caliginous being a synonym of darkness: misty, dim; obscure, dark. The last line is inspired. The only question I had about it was, is it the glare of approaching headlights or the glare of the N’s own headlights that they are plunging into? It must be an oncoming car or truck, I would imagine.

These lines:

past these, only the star-barren night
from which nothing is to be extracted

but into which nothing cannot be cast,
if only we cast it.


reminded me of Wallace Steven’s “The Snow Man.”

... Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.


And the last part

Cramped behind glass,

casting aimlessly about
in Darkness we do not yet know,

we skirt the threatening edge, plunge
deeper into the headlights' glare.


Reminded me of “Traveling through the Dark” by William Stafford. Especially these lines:

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing ...

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;


Martin
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  #7  
Unread 12-09-2019, 05:52 PM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks Martin, and sorry for the delayed reply.

I'm still thinking about how best to handle the first stanza. I'm glad to hear that the revision works better. I still think it's not quite there, but I'm mostly happy with the rest.

I intend the bus to be plunging into its own headlights—isn't that what forward motion of a beheadlighted vehicle is?

This can sink down if there aren't major new thoughts.
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  #8  
Unread 12-10-2019, 12:09 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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This is kind of like Bishop's "The Moose" without the moose. It's a mood poem, but the mood is so common (driving through the dark) that the poem doesn't have much to say. "Caliginous" smells a bit of the lamp.
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  #9  
Unread Yesterday, 11:26 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks, Sam—I understand your criticism completely. I may need to rethink this one. I like "caliginous" more than you do, though.
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