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  #1  
Old 05-29-2018, 12:07 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Default Greenie

Greenie (back to original/final)

for mary meriam, revolutionary

It's a boyhood thing.
We would waste time
on hot summer days
sitting on logs and launching
greenies from the backs of our throats
that hurtled in a wobbly arc at the target.
We’d argue over distance and accuracy
wet our mouths with hard candies
pocketed from the candy bowls of adults
and when our throats got sore
and we couldn’t hack another one up anymore

we’d walk the rust-red tracks along the canal
and put pennies to flatten on the rails
when we heard the Raritan freight train coming.
Sometimes we’d run alongside and jump
and ride the cars like cowboys
holding on with one hand
fearing what would happen
if word ever got home.

When shadows disintegrated and the heat
rippled the air, we went down to the cool spots
along the riverbank to skip stones
and swing silly from monkey ropes
flinging ourselves as far as we could
into the lazy current of the green Delaware.
And then again. And again. And again.
During dry spells we could sometimes walk
all the way across to the other side
like a pack of goofy boy soldiers
of the American Revolution,
laughing and splashing, thinking
Washington never had it so easy.

Heading home we would make a solid plan
to be back tomorrow, earlier than today,
with more pennies and someone swore
not to forget the magnifying glass this time
so that we could angle it against the sun rays
and set fire to tiny villages of sticks and leaves
carefully blowing the wisps of smoke into spark
just like they did at the dawn of time.
x
x



-----------------

Greenie (2)

We would waste time
on hot summer days
sitting on logs and launching
greenies from the backs of our throats
hurtling in a wobbly arc at the target.
We’d argue over distance and accuracy,
wet our mouths with hard candies
pocketed from the candy bowls of adults
and when our throats parched
and we couldn’t hack another one up

we’d walk the rust-red tracks along the canal
and put pennies on the rails
when we heard the Raritan coming.
Sometimes, too, we'd hide and sprint and jump
riding the creaking cars like cowboys
holding on with one hand
fearing what would happen
if word ever got home.

When shadows disintigrated and the heat
rippled the air, we went down to the cool spots
along the riverbank, found stones to skip
and swung silly from monkey ropes,
flinging ourselves as far as we could
into the lazy current of the green Delaware.
And then again. And again. And again.

During dry spells we could walk
all the way across to the other side
thinking we were a pack of ragtag soldiers
of the American Revolution,
laughing and splashing and thinking
Washington never had it so easy.

On the way home we would make a solid plan
to be back tomorrow, earlier than today,
with more pennies and someone swore
not to forget the magnifying glass this time
so that we could angle it against the sun rays
and set fire to tiny villages of sticks and leaves
bending down to blow the wisps of smoke into spark
just like they did at the dawn of time.
x
x

EDIT:
L1 changed from "Back then" to "Way back when" then deleted line entirely
S1L6 changed from "that hurtled" to "hurtling"
S2L4-5 changed from "Sometimes we’d sprint alongside and jump/riding the cars like cowboys" to "Sometimes, too, we'd hide and sprint and jump/riding the creaking cars like cowboys"

----------------



Greenie

It's a boyhood thing.
We would waste time
on hot summer days
sitting on logs and launching
greenies from the backs of our throats
that hurtled in a wobbly arc at the target.
We’d argue over distance and accuracy
wet our mouths with hard candies
pocketed from the candy bowls of adults
and when our throats got sore
and we couldn’t hack another one up anymore

we’d walk the rust-red tracks along the canal
and put pennies to flatten on the rails
when we heard the Raritan freight train coming.
Sometimes we’d run alongside and jump
and ride the cars like cowboys
holding on with one hand
fearing what would happen
if word ever got home.

When shadows disintigrated and the heat
rippled the air, we went down to the cool spots
along the riverbank to skip stones
and swing silly from monkey ropes
flinging ourselves as far as we could
into the lazy current of the green Delaware.
And then again. And again. And again.
During dry spells we could sometimes walk
all the way across to the other side
like a pack of goofy boy soldiers
of the American Revolution,
laughing and splashing, thinking
Washington never had it so easy.

Heading home we would make a solid plan
to be back tomorrow, earlier than today,
with more pennies and someone swore
not to forget the magnifying glass this time
so that we could angle it against the sun rays
and set fire to tiny villages of sticks and leaves
carefully blowing the wisps of smoke into spark
just like they did at the dawn of time.
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 06-03-2018 at 03:13 PM.
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  #2  
Old 05-29-2018, 12:19 PM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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A spin-off from Mary's sonnet?
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  #3  
Old 05-29-2018, 12:39 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Hello, Jim,

I enjoyed this very much. The double meaning of the title is right on.

I would suggest cutting the first line and letting the reader infer that the poem is about boyhood. Also, I would suggest cutting "freight train" after "Raritan." You use "rails" above and "cars" below, so the reader will know that you are talking about a freight train.

Best, best,

Aaron
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  #4  
Old 05-29-2018, 01:27 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Jim, while I am certainly sympathetic to the urge to write this poem, and think it is a strong attempt to write of boyhood, I have to say it isn't my favorite type of poem. The subject is so prevalent it's the first thing many of us think about when we begin writing. It is brutal and humbling to learn our boyhood experiences of fishing and watching trains and such, which mean so much to us, are not fulfilling subjects in the vast majority of poems that attempt to use this subject. It's a bit insulting, I suppose if one chooses to see it so, for anyone to tell a poet the topic of his boyhood isn't important. It isn't that it isn't important, but as the topic of a poem it's like that one novel we are all supposed "to have inside us."

Beyond that, if you do decide to work on it further, it could use line editing. The question isn't the poetry of the language but what it needs to be clearer. For example,

We’d argue over distance and accuracy
wet our mouths with hard candies
pocketed from candy bowls (of course the bowls belong to the parents)
and when our throats got sore
and we couldn’t hack another one up anymore


If you want to keep the run-on sentence, and I don't mind them, you should delete the second "and" and do something such as this

and when our throats grew so sore
we couldn’t hack another up

we’d walk the rust-red tracks along the canal
and put pennies to be flattened on the rails
when we heard the Raritan train coming.


In order to be more convincing, we need to know why they are able to jump on the train. Has it slowed for a stop? Maybe mention that or something to make it more believable and actual and not a fantasy, unless the poem is more fantasy than you've let us see before now.

I'm not convinced you need

When shadows disintigrated and the heat
rippled the air


and instead, start with

Down at the cool spots
along the riverbank
we skipped stones
and flew off monkey ropes,
flinging ourselves as far as we could
into the lazy current
of the green Delaware.


I'd delete the repeating line.

I'd alter the ending to something such as this:

Heading home we made a solid plans
to come back tomorrow,
earlier than today,
with more pennies to flatten
and someone swore not to forget
the magnifying glass this time
so that we could angle it
against the sun rays
and set fire to tiny villages
of sticks and leaves
carefully blowing
the wisps of smoke into flame
like at the spark of time.


I know these are big changes but the critical thing is it's editing prose as it exists now. Perhaps some new line lengths and such can make better use of tools available to make this more poem like.

I hope this helps and doesn't infuriate. I'm sharing my actual thoughts about your work. I don't say I like something as a way to avoid digging into it. You know you can use or reject anything I've said.

***
I just posted this and see that Aaron and I cross-posted and that he has no complaints about the poem's subject or most of the lines. So there you go. An example of the versatility and freedom of posting a poem for review.

Last edited by John Riley; 05-29-2018 at 01:29 PM.
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  #5  
Old 05-29-2018, 05:00 PM
Mary Meriam's Avatar
Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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It's truly wonderful, Jim. I wouldn't change a thing. L1 sets the tone and introduces your voice - I think it's necessary. Your style seems to be to note everything in careful detail, just as a boy might who's learning about how the world works. So I wouldn't cut "freight train" or "of adults." The whole poem is clear to me, and it seems like whole cloth, like a tapestry. Among many things, I love "the green Delaware" - like a Homeric epithet. We grew up in American Revolution-ville, didn't we. Thanks for taking me back there.
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  #6  
Old 05-29-2018, 06:04 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Jim, mea culpa. I am more than willing to concede I may have missed the point here. I am still missing it apparently but will keep reading the comments to try to find out where I went off the tracks.

John
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  #7  
Old 05-29-2018, 06:46 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Jim,

I really enjoyed this. I don't think you need to change a whole ton, just a little tightening up here or there.
It's a boyhood thing.
We would waste time
hot summer days

sitting on logs and launching
greenies from the backs of our throats

in a wobbly arc at the target.
Wed argue over distance and accuracy
wet our mouths with hard candies

pocketed from the adults' bowls
and when our throats got sore

and we couldnt hack another one up anymore
wed walk the rust-red tracks along the canal
and put pennies on the rails

when we heard the Raritan coming.
Sometimes wed run alongside and jump
and ride the cars like cowboys

holding on with one hand
fearing what would happen

if word ever got home.

*

When shadows disintegrated and the heat
rippled the air, we went down to the cool spots

along the riverbank to skip stones
and swing silly from monkey ropes (LOVE "swing silly"!)
flinging ourselves as far as we could

into the lazy current of the green Delaware.
And then again. And again. And again.

During dry spells we could sometimes walk
all the way across to the other side
like a pack of goofy boy soldiers

of the American Revolution,
laughing and splashing, thinking

Washington never had it so easy.

*

Heading home we'd make a solid plan
to be back tomorrow, earlier than today,

with more pennies and someone swore
not to forget the magnifying glass this time
so that we could angle it against the sun rays

and set fire to tiny villages of sticks and leaves
carefully blowing the wisps of smoke into spark

just like they did at the dawn of time.
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  #8  
Old 05-29-2018, 08:22 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Ann, Yes exactly. Mary's sonnet struck the usual strum of breathtaking beauty and so I went off on a tangent about what "greenie" meant to me growing up (spitting for distance and accuracy). Then, as it turns out we both spent our childhoods in the very same neck of the woods, along the Delaware River in New Jersey. So I wrote this poem about the memories it spurred. Thank you Mary!

Aaron, How pleased to hear you enjoyed the story. That means I didn't put too many verbal roadblocks in the way : ) When I wake up tomorrow I'm going to take your two modest suggestions and see if I can parlay that into other improvements.

John, Now look what youve gone and done to my boyhood memories : )

For now, Im going to disregard most of your comments until or unless others chime in with similar concerns.

Would it help to retitle it, "the universal boyhood memory as imagined in my own poetic voice"?
Because that's what I'm most interested in at this point. I've really been vexed by the illusiveness of what I know to be my true poetic voice. I just want to speak plainly, in simple language with my imagination close at hand. I'm tired of that stereotypic siren voice that comes over me and fools me into thinking I should echo it's pseudo bravado. (For example, in this very poem I had at one point decided that I could make a parallel between us boys walking crazy across the shallow waters of the Delaware to Jesus walking on water at the Sea of Galilee. Seriously! I actually had woven that into the end of S3. Thankfully I took that out before posting and stuck with George Washington's crossing of the Delaware and how comparatively easier ours was. I kind of like that because if you grew up where I did, so close to the actual historical crossing point by Washington and his troops and so familiar with the hardships of his troops that winter, and having attended historical re-enactments, etc., it becomes a part of your identity. So I went with George instead of Jesus. It just made sense : )

As for jumping trains, yup, for one summer at least we did it all the time. The freight trains came by slow enough so it was pretty easy. Getting off the train was tough. The swampy cool river bank, the monkey swing and skipping stones, the magnifier -- all were true unvarnished accounts. We knew that stretch of the river in the summer like it was our own backyard. We did what boys do.

It felt good, honestly, not to write about a darker, heavier subject for once. This poem is about a vivid recollection of a typical carefree day of my childhood when I was about ten. There were far more dark days in my childhood than carefree ones. Our family began to slowly disintegrate from as far back as I can remember. I have a few other isolated memories of happiness in my childhood but not many so I'm glad to have salvaged this one.

As for the subject itself and the universality of it, I dont want to unnecessarily be steered away from the nostalgia of it. I would rather stay there and reveal something surprising or find something naturally profound within it. I don't think I did it with the last line, but that was where I was trying to go.

There's nothing all that unique about this poem. It's an ordinary subject. That is unless I can use my poetic voice to speak uniquely about it. That's what I'm trying to do.
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  #9  
Old 05-29-2018, 08:35 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Jim, I never suggested you should write a darker poem, for the record. I said I don't think the one you wrote works. Others disagree and that's cool. I am certainly happy you avoided putting Jesus in it.

My point is memories are memories and poetry is poetry and they are not always the same thing. I don't get it here but, as I said, others do. I do wish someone had written as much as I did on what makes the poem work for them as I did explaining why it doesn't for me because I want to know more about how they come to their conclusion. I'm not arguing but maybe I could learn something with more details.

I had to return, yet again, and make it clear I wasn't trying to alter this into some existential crisis, fake-art poem. I am fine with what your goal is and have written several poems in the same vein.

Best,
John
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  #10  
Old 05-29-2018, 08:38 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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The poem tries to encompass a lot in a little space. It's why I suggested trying to break it up a bit, both into stanzas and potentially into parts. There's an aspect of the poem that is racing along, but sometimes you need or want to slow the reader down so they can enjoy what's in front of them.
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