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Unread 03-14-2019, 09:21 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,945
Default Smoke gets in your dreams

I dreamt I took back smoking

I dreamt I took back smoking
..and I held her in my arms.
I knew that she might kill me;
..I’m a sucker for her charms.

It’s true that she is dirty,
..but it’s dirty that I craved.
I offered her a smoke ring,
..on which I’d had engraved:

I need you in the morning I cough up memories,
and I need you in the evening
..when I find it hard to breathe.

I wanted her inside me I drew her softly in.
I promised not to leave her
..for some sweeter-tasting sin.

She seared me with her slave-mark she slid across my lips.
I woke to find she’d chained me
..and she’d stained my fingertips.

I missed her in the morning I coughed up memories,
and I missed her in the evening
..when I found it hard to breathe.


S1L3: comma->semicolon

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-15-2019 at 02:48 PM.
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Unread 03-14-2019, 09:34 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,520

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci" ?

Before I'm off to bed I'm posting no nits, just general praise. The conceit was clever and engaging but also worked fine. There are a few places I may come back with some suggestions, but this is a keeper as was your roundel.
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Unread 03-15-2019, 02:15 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 4,713

Excellent, Matt. The ballad meter works so well for this, and the conceit is clever and true to experience.

Editing back to add that I wrote "ballad meter" without really thinking--this isn't 4-3. The Keats reference and the indentations had me expecting that. In fact, I'm wondering now why you indent, since trimeter is used throughout.

As a former 2-pack-a-day smoker, I found myself doubting only the promise not to leave for a sweeter sin. I always have found that sins work great in combination, the more the merrier, so wouldn't it be more not to leave for being "good"?

I'll be back to look more closely at how you put together but, as Andrew says, this is clearly a keeper.

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 03-15-2019 at 02:24 AM.
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Unread 03-15-2019, 09:00 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 7,783

Hi, Matt,
This is really ballad meter, but you've disguised it by moving the fourth beat to the following line, where it gets disguised as an anapest. I'm not objecting. All kinds of effects can be achieved by techniques like that, and I think it works here. My main objection is that I think you could find a better title that doesn't repeat the first line. Something about a lovers' reunion perhaps? In S1L3, either a semicolon or a period at the end of the line would be useful to avoid a comma splice.

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Unread 03-15-2019, 09:37 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,893

I join in the praise. I will rely, as I usually do with poems that read as "complete" to me, on other's crits: Susan's suggestion of a semi colon to end S1L3 is excellent. It feels much more like a semi colon than comma or period.

Interesting thread title vs. title... funny vs. haunting

I agree with Susan that you could improve the title. I don't know that "reunion" is it, though... Maybe something like "Rendezvous" or "Tryst".

But the ballad rhythm and conceit is perfectly suited to the relationship.
Put it to music. I feel it as a cross between Mississippi blues and L. Cohen. : )
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Unread 03-15-2019, 11:12 AM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 17
Default Thanks

Hey, Matt.

I'll be back this evening with more to say, once I've been able to spend the time I want to with this poem. Just shoutin' out (under the influence of other discussions). . . so much "poetry" I read disappoints me, because I'm unsophisticated enough to assume that a poem's existence is a claim by the author: "I have talent. This thing I made will reward your time."

You deliver on that "handshake" (in computer terms). This one, as did the roundel, makes me smile again and again.

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Unread 03-15-2019, 12:59 PM
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Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Location: Arlington, Virginia
Posts: 1,388

Matt —

I join in the huzzahs.

If you do fiddle with the title, maybe Smoke Rings.

As I recall, blowing smoke rings is kind of like dreaming.

Tweaking S1:

I dreamt I took back smoking
..and she held me in her arms.
I knew that she might kill me,
..but I’m a sucker for her charms

L2 - gets the she in quicker. & "smoking" holding the N is more like the unfortunate situation of the weed and a smoker.

L4 - gets around the comma splice nit & is more idiomatic.

— Woody

P.S. The title: there's also Smoke Dreams.

— W.

Last edited by Woody Long; 03-15-2019 at 01:13 PM. Reason: added the postscript
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Unread 03-15-2019, 02:13 PM
R. S. Gwynn's Avatar
R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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It's the same ballad meter as "As I Walked Out One Evening." This is a SERVICEable piece of light verse with a bit of Henley for spice.
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Unread 03-15-2019, 02:45 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,945

Andrew S, Andrew F, Susan, Jim, Daniel, Woody, and Sam

Many thanks everyone for your comments. I'm pleased this is going down well.

Andrew S,

I didn't know the Keat's poem, so thanks for the link.

Andrew F

Yes, the "sweeter-tasting sin" part is the bit that's been bugging me, though I like the sound of that phrase. I'm looking for alternatives, or maybe a way to go with something like "how sweet the taste of sin".


You're right, a semicolon is the appropriate punctuation; I've changed it. I'd played with a few puntuation options. But what I'd really wanted there is:

I knew that she might kill me,
..but I'm a sucker for her charms

Which I can get to work when I read it aloud, but I don't know if I actually get away with metrically, especially so early in the poem. Though, maybe I can? Woody just suggested it, so I guess he thinks so

And you're also right that I could do better the title. I'll get thinking.


Mississipi blues meets Leonard Cohen? I like the combination.


I'm pleased you like it, looking forward to your thoughts on your return.


In my first draft I had a 'but' there, then, as I said above I thought if it messed with the metre.

I see what you mean with "she held me in her arms" -- it has the subtext of addiction, but I think it's too early in the poem for that message, which comes in the penultimate stanza.


I don't know Henley, I'll check him out. I guess a difference between the metre here and Auden's is the extra syllable at the beginning of the even-numbered lines. But yes, feminine endings on the odd-numbered, non-rhyming lines.

Thanks again all,


Last edited by Matt Q; 03-15-2019 at 03:04 PM.
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Unread 03-15-2019, 07:05 PM
Daniel Recktenwald's Avatar
Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Location: Louisville, KY
Posts: 17
Default With gratitude to Prof. Steele

Okay, preface to my three-part format: One of my working, thumb-nail gleanings from Timothy Steele's All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing: a poem's rhythm = the stone arch; a poem's meter= the wooden armature on which that arch was composed. Once the last stone's in place, the counterbalancing forces and gravity hold it in place. It's all about the "Ahh . . ." effect, suspended in air, and what other loads that arch can bear. The stones needn't be uniform, not every arch needs a keystone (strong caesura).

Please pardon the conceit.

Dolphin leap to another artform: in Kurosawa's film Dreams, (an anthology of short films), there's one in which a mountaineer is lost in the snow trying to regain his base camp. As he rests and fights against sleep, a beautiful young Japanese woman comes to him, like some Shinto goddess. I'll leave it to you to see it-- but this poem brought it back to me.

1. Praise.
Again, props on sharing the very relatable psychology of addiction. I've had drinking dreams since getting sober; I've had smoking dreams during my horrible relapses into smoke-free life. You clearly know of which you speak and convey it well. I especially appreciate the sinister eroticism, the re-surrender to a dysfunctional relationship. the S4.L1-2 sexual reversal is true, and hot, and creepy.

I find the poem rhythmically delightful as written. I'm not going to pick any metrical nits. I've seen this and one other poem of yours, Matt, and read some of your crits in other threads. But I'm already confident that if you had wanted to make this poem an exemplar of common measure, you're more than capable of it. So the benefit of my doubts went in the direction: Matt Q is doing this intentionally, avoiding the 8's and 6's . . . What is he up to . . .?

One specific answer my readings offered: S1L2: the repeated subject "I" makes line two almost an exclamation, as if there's a ghostly exclamation point at the end. That jibes with the "Oh, shit-- I dreamed I started smoking again!" feeling. (Which I'll take up in my Questions / What If's.) I won't flog the point, but everywhere the meter seems easy to "normalize," I took it as part of your intent, and the intent I got: the poem is so close to ballad meter that the effect is like an artistic photograph taken just out of focus. It enhances the dream-weirdness for me.

2. Questions.

S5.L1. The only line that snagged for me on the literal level. The "slave-mark" suggests branding, which a cigarette (or a joint) can surely do, but it's out of place with every other aspect of this reunion-- which is seductive because it's so pleasant. When I had "smoking dreams," I didn't dream that I burned myself on the cherry with fumbling fingers; much less on the lips (S5.L2).

Also on the literal level: the ballad territory you're working in is narrative territory; the consistent past-tense reinforces that. But is the dream over? S1 leads me to believe that the N has awakened and is relating this dream. If that's the case, something in me wants to know more of how he feels about the dream and about smoking now that he is awake? (In my experience, I've awakened feeling guilty! Then relieved that it was only a dream. Then I'd have my Caliban moment from The Tempest,: I would weep to dream again!)

So Matt, it's kind of a "choose your own adventure" situation: If the poem begins with a wide-awake N who relates to us the dream and leaves us IN it: fine. The way is wide open to expanding what you choose to convey about how such dreams are; that would require some more from the N in his waking voice-- which you may feel mars the tone and mood of the poem. The mood of the dream is extra-normal and beautiful in its strangeness. I don't think anyone wants the dreamer's conscious mind editorializing or doing color commentary on the dream. Only you know what you want to do.

I don't really crave some kind of resolution on did the N start smoking again, or did this dream make the following day's non-smoking harder or easier. . . . Just throwing out some curiosity as a person who's had dreams like this one.

3. What If's.

Hot-take alternatives, for what they might be worth:

(the downside of her charms). Yes, with the parentheses.

for some less deadly sin. (but that's regular trimeter)

S6: Depends on what adventure you commit to, but the current stanza leaves me unsatisfied.
*Could She speak?
*Could the N tell us that he had an intrusion of lucidity and that while dreaming he started resisting-- only to have her grapple with him? (I'm not trying to suggest you go write four additional stanzas! LOL.)

It's such a pleasure entertaining the possibilities. I'll be eager to look on as you make your choices, Matt. I know they'll be pleasing.

Thanks for a great read, and a really fascinating piece. Reading, scanning, enjoying and thinking about it has been a good "pilates workout" in the poetry gym.

Best regards,

Editing back-- I "woke" up to S5L3. If indeed, our N wakes up and feels chained, his fingertips [not literally?] are stained . . . . The indefiniteness of the ending is more bothersome to me than I thought at first. I may have to plead guilty to failure of negative capability: I want to know what happens to this N, vis a vis smoking: Will he fulfill this dream in waking, start smoking again? Was this dream an "ah-ah-ah . . .you're not as free of me as you thought" from Her?

Last edited by Daniel Recktenwald; 03-15-2019 at 11:06 PM.
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