Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 03-09-2019, 08:57 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,905
Default The Fall

x
x

Roller Coaster(v.6)

some of us will burn with the speed
of endless departures
and be found and lost no more

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-WS Merwin



When he turned eighty-nine
he winced and said he felt ninety-nine.
We both knew what was coming.
We both were unprepared.
Things just sputtered and stalled.
Everything that could, clogged.
He made it, barely, to ninety.
Falling all the way there

and when he did, the firefighters came
to lift him back into his uneasy chair.
Then just before Christmas, after a fall
they admitted him for observation
and gave me a call: “It’s best for both
of you he stay” they said and kept him.
And it killed him. Or at least
it was the last stop anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed, parched,
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth
and a wild look in his red-rimmed eyes
as if he had embarked on a final roller coaster ride,
a clenching strength coursing through him,
he gripped my hand like a rail
and, open-mouthed, let out a silent wail
in a Felliniesque attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive
before careening through the chaos
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand into silence.


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

Edits
  • S1L1: was, "On the day he turned eighty-nine"
  • Re-wrote S2. It was:
and when he did, the firefighters came
and lifted him back into his uneasy chair.
Just before Christmas, after a fall,
they pulled me aside to say,
“It’s best for both of you he stay”
and they kept him.
And it killed him.
Or at least it was the last stop anyway.

  • S3L9: was "before careening into the silence."


-------------------------
x
Champ (v.5)

When Dad turned eighty-nine and said,
just for a laugh, he felt ninety-nine
we both knew what was coming
we both were woefully unprepared.
And when he fell, as he often did
I would sing, light-hearted, that little ditty:
xxxPick yourself up champ
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.

He made it to ninety. Falling
all the way there. Almost daily
the firefighters came calling
and lifted him back into his uneasy chair.
Things just, kind of, stalled.
Everything (ahem) clogged.
That winter they pulled me aside
and said, “It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him. Or at least
it was the last stop anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth
with a wild look in his blue eyes as if
embarking on one last roller coaster ride.
A strange clench of strength coursed through him
in a Fellini-like attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive
before careening into the silence.
That night I dreamed that old blue eyes
was there, sitting in his easy chair, crooning,
xxxTake a deep breath, champ
xxxbrush yourself off
xxxand start all over again.





----------------------
x
x

Champ (v.4)


When I was young and took a tumble
sprawling spread eagle on the pavement
half hurt half seething with embarrassment
my father crooned a ditty to coax a smile:
xxxPick yourself up, champ,
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.


When Dad turned eighty-nine he said,
just to get a laugh, he felt ninety-nine.
And when he fell, as he often did
my little boy voice would sing:
xxxPick yourself up, champ
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.

He made it to ninety.
Barely.
Falling all the way there.
Almost daily the firefighters came calling
and lifted him into his uneasy chair.
(We both knew what was coming;
We both were woefully unprepared.)
Things just, kind of, stalled.
Things (ahem) clogged.
Little by little, like a bloom spent,
he dried up and away he went.
Then one day they pulled me aside
to say, “It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him.
Or at least it was the last stop, anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed and plastic mattress
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth,
a wild, anti-gravitational look in his blue eyes
embarking on one last roller coaster ride.
A surge of strange strength, a final clench,
coursed through him; a Chaplinesque attempt
to survive the last bend of being alive
and he careened blindly into the silence
a little ditty trailing behind:
xxxTake a deep breath, champ
xxxbrush yourself off
xxxand start all over again.






---------------------
x
x

Champ (v.2 redux)


When I was young and stung
by the bruise and bleed of falling,
my father crooned away my tears
with a song he always sang
to quell the scrape and sear:
xxxPick yourself up, champ,
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.


And that is what I did.

When my father was eighty-nine
he said, half-jokingly, he felt ninety-nine.
And when he fell, as he often did,
my little boy heart would say,
xxxPick yourself up,champ
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.


And that is what he did.

He made it to ninety, barely,
falling all the way there.
The firefighters always came calling
and lifted him into his uneasy chair.
(We both were woefully unprepared).
Things just, kind of, stalled. Clogged.
His shriveling flower on full display
and little by little, like a bloom spent,
he dried up and blew away.
The hollow people in the facility said,
“It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him.
Or at least it was the last stop, anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed and plastic mattress
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth,
embarking on one last roller coaster ride.
Eyes wild, fixed, wide. His whole being
clenched in strange strength --
a Felliniesque attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive,
careening into the silence.
I want to hear Sinatra croon:
xxxTake a deep breath
xxxbrush myself off
xxxand start all over again.



Edits
S3L7: changed "The" to "His"
S3L8/9: was, "and, little by little, like an old polaroid, / he faded away."
Eliminated "take a deep breath" from refrain
S1L5: deleted "of pain" after "sear"
S4L9: was "I want to hear him sing"
Separated "and that is what I did" from the S1 and 2


---------------------
x
The Fall (v.3)


When my father was eighty-nine
he said, half-joking, he felt ninety-nine.
And when he fell, as he often did,
the firefighters always came calling
to lift him back into his uneasy chair.
He made it to ninety -- barely.
Falling all the way there.
(We both were woefully unprepared)
Things just, kind of, stalled,
his shriveling flower on full display
and little by little, like a bloom spent,
he dried up and blew away.
That day the hollow voices in the hall said,
“It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him. Or at least
it was the last stop, anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed and plastic mattress
on one last roller coaster ride,
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth,
eyes wild, fixed, wide, his whole
being clenched in strange strength
in a Felliniesque attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive.
He careened towards the silence
that promised nothing more or less
than an end to what might only be
the beginning, and the peace
of not knowing the rest.



------------------------
x
Champ (v.2)


When I was young and stung
by the bruise and bleed of falling,
my father crooned away my tears
with a song he always sang
to quell the scrape and searing pain:
Pick yourself up, champ,
dust yourself off
take a deep breath
and start all over again.

And that is what I did.

When my father was eighty-nine he said
half-jokingly, he felt ninety-nine.
And when he fell, as he often did,
my little boy heart would say,
Pick yourself up, Dad
dust yourself off, champ
take a deep breath
and start all over again.

And that is what he did.

He made it to ninety, barely,
falling all the way there.
The firefighters always came calling
and lifted him into his uneasy chair.
(We both were woefully unprepared).
Things just, kind of, stalled.
Stopped cold. Clogged.
The shriveling flower now on full display
and little by little, like an old polaroid,
he faded away.
The hollow people in the facility said,
“It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him. Or at least
it was the last stop, anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed and plastic mattress
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth;
embarking on one last roller coaster ride,
eyes wild, fixed, wide, his whole
being clenched in strange strength --
a Felliniesque attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive.
Sinatra sings to me:
Take a deep breath
pick yourself up
brush yourself off
and start all over again.




Edits
  • Title changed to "Champ"
  • More deletions of extraneous words/images, changes to line breaks and less punctuation.
  • S1L4: Deleted specific mention of "Sinatra" at Fliss's suggestion and moved it to final stanza.
  • Deleted the final stanza at Michael's suggestion:
Looking into his new silence
I can see him, come back
rumbling in his old turquoise sedan
dinged up bumper to bumper,
half-smiling eyes, muttering
through his toothless gums,

  • Added line to final stanza:
Sinatra sings to me:
  • S1L1,2: Changed, "When I was a boy, all of ten / and stung by the bruise and bleed of falling," to "When I was young and stung / by the bruise and bleed of falling,"
  • S1L5: changed , "sear of pain:" to "searing pain"
  • S1L6: changed "big boy" to "champ"
  • S1L7: deleted "champ"
  • S3L3,4: changed from, "The firefighters knew him well / and always came to lift him back / into his uneasy chair" to, "The firefighters always came calling / and lifted him into his uneasy chair."
  • S3L11: changed, "The hollow people in white said," to "The hollow people in the facility said,"



-----------------------
x
x

The Fall


When I was a boy, all of ten,
and stung by the bruise of a fall
my mother would croon above my tears,
Pick yourself up, sweetie
take a deep breath, sweetie
dust yourself off, sweetie
and start all over again.


And that is what I would do.

When I was merely twenty-one
And railed against my brokenness,
my teacher heard my words of pain and pled,
Pick yourself up, man,
brush yourself off, man
and start all over again.


And that is what I did.

When I was a father and forty-two
scared stiff, midway, unsure what to do,
my love gathered me in her arms and cooed,
Pick yourself up, darling,
take a deep breath, dear,
dust yourself off
and start all over again.


And that is what I did.


When my father was eighty-nine
he said, half-jokingly, he felt ninety-nine.
And when he fell, my butterfly heart said,
Pick yourself up, Dad
dust yourself off
take a deep breath
and start all over again.


And that is what he did.

He barely made it to ninety,
falling all the way there.
The firefighters knew him well
and always came to lift him back
into his uneasy chair.
Each day loomed like a living Hell
as his steps grew smaller, he was scared,
and the walker just complicated things
(we both were so woefully unprepared).
Then one thing after another in him stalled.
Things just seemed to stop cold, clog
as he shriveled, little by little, away.
A hard knock on the noggin sent him on his way
to the hollow people in white jackets, who that day said,
“It’s best for both of you if he just stayed”,
and so they kept him. And it killed him.
Or at least it was the last straw, anyway.

In the final hour, he rode out on a plastic mattress
in a metal bed, with Oreo cookie crumbs stuck
in the corners of his mouth; one last roller coaster
ride, his eyes wild, fixed, wide, his whole frail being
clenched in a strange strength -- a superhuman
attempt to survive the last bend of being alive.

Looking into his new silence, now
I see I did not know what to do.
Sometimes I can hear, though,
him muttering through
his toothless gums:
“Do whatever you have to.”

And I take a deep breath
and pick myself up
and brush myself off
and start all over again.

Because that is what you do.
x
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; Today at 06:05 AM. Reason: trimming extraneous stuff and sharpening the focus of the end
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 03-09-2019, 05:53 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,955
Default

Hi Jim,

The poem opens in something like popular song mode; I'm very much reminded of the song Que sera sera in the N being various ages and receiving the same advice.

Without actual music and singing, I don't think this really works all that well, especially as much of it is platitudes, and hence also cliche (pick yourself up, brush yourself off etc) and there's lots of repetition, which makes it rather flat to my ear.

Then the poem shifts mode. We leave the song-verses behind, and get to what I'm thinking is the nitty-gritty of the poem. The decline and death of the N's father. Then we return to the song for a final refrain.

Personally, I think the initial 'verses' are rather a lot of set-up for what follows. The reader will be very familiar with the idea of picking oneself up, dusting oneself off and starting again, and so I don't see that you need to repeat it to get the point across. I wonder if you need any of it all. But even if you just started the poem at "When my father was eighty-nine" I think that's enough setup; the reader would get the picture.

But also, in returning to the song, the poem finishes with platitudes. However true they are, you're stating something commonly observed (we just have to get on with our lives) in a very commonly observed way.

Excluding the song-like section that (necessarily?) employs stock phrases (platitudes), the poem also employs a fair number of cliches/stock phrases: "a living Hell", "the last straw", "knock on the noggin", "superhuman effort", "one thing after another"

I reckon lose the song part, both the beginning verses and the final refrain. Try to find another way to say what you want to say about how the N deals with loss of his father. Stick to the concrete details you do have, and watch out for the cliches/stock phrases. Give it another swirl around.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-10-2019 at 08:48 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 03-10-2019, 08:59 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,905
Default

x
Matt,

Well I'll be damned. You're right. Out cliche! Out platitudes!

I've tried to clean house of both and think it is a stronger poem because of it.

Thanks for the guidance, Matt.

Revision posted.

PS: cliches and platitudes are my scaffolding, I suppose. Just forgot to take it down : )

Here is the song this plays off of.
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-12-2019 at 06:58 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 03-10-2019, 04:28 PM
Felicity Teague's Avatar
Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Gloucestershire, UK
Posts: 300
Default

Hi Jim,

It's just a quick response for now, before I head to bed. I started drafting my reply earlier today, but my younger brother turned up unexpectedly, the imp! I'll try to return during the week :-)

I enjoyed reading this, and I like the revisions you've made following Matt's comment. I agree that the decline and death of the N's father is worth bringing out. Now I'm wondering if you could do a bit more trimming, as I think these parts of the poem could be brought out even further. I think the Sinatra refrain might deliver more emotion if it was used just once, at the end of the poem. And you could include a bit of it in your title, perhaps, depending on which version you retain. I like 'Champ', for example.

Best wishes,
Fliss
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 03-10-2019, 04:47 PM
Michael F's Avatar
Michael F Michael F is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: a foothill of the Catskills
Posts: 930
Default

Jim, I think the new version is really good. A gripping narrative and some strong images. If it were mine I’d lose these lines:

Looking into his new silence
I can see him, come back
rumbling in his old turquoise sedan
dinged up bumper to bumper,
half-smiling eyes, muttering
through his toothless gums,


and end on the refrain. That gives it a fuzziness that I really like. Of course that's a personal choice.

Anyway, wow, I like it.

M

Last edited by Michael F; 03-10-2019 at 04:58 PM. Reason: sloppy
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 03-11-2019, 06:15 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,699
Default

Hi Jim,

Lots to like here. Yes, I think with Matt and others that you've really got two poems here - a Que sara sara opener and a grimmer decline poem that follows. Part of the setup, it seems to me, is the first line with its beat: "When I was a boy, all of ten;" that may take the poem in a direction you later reject, and may want revising as well. Big boy doesn't do a lot for me, but champ I hear and can almost touch, I'd keep that. Maybe as a title, as Fliss suggests. Then you could consider taking stuff out of here and saving them for another piece.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 03-11-2019, 11:50 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: *
Posts: 1,514
Default

I think you're appealing too hard for an emotional response, Jim. So it often feels manufactured. Cliche can work, depending on the context. Here it doesn't, imo, because it doesn't rub up against anything challenging. So, I believe the dust off and get back up again stuff only makes this worse, even maudlin. It's possible that I'm missing the big picture and I got this wrong, but get rid of "Champ" anyway.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 03-11-2019, 06:41 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,905
Default

Thanks Fliss, Michael, John, James. You've all, in your own ways, reframed Matt's crits.

Fliss, your encouragement to hone in on the real poem (the end-of-life images I have of my Dad's last months) is where this poem has finally gone. Thank you.

Michael, Thanks for suggesting the cut of the last stanza in the early version of #2 (which I’ve since been chopping away at further). And thanks for feeling what I had hoped for in the telling of it. It’s a tough story to tell, for me. I’m still trying to get it right.

John, I made some cuts/changes you suggested. There was an awful lot of stuff in it that was not part of what I was trying to say, and I’ve cut nearly two-thirds of it so far.
What I am most determined to erase is any sense of over-emotional, sentimental, cliche-driven depiction of what was a tough time. There was no cliche in living it, so there should be none in the retelling of it.

James, your crit pushed me back to looking at it when I thought I had rid it of the things you were still seeing. If indeed you are missing the picture (I actually think you are) it is because of the things that are obfuscating the true emotion and even the revelation that I was experiencing at the time. I hope I’m closer with this revision. I took most of your suggestions and I’d like to know your thoughts about how the changes work to your ear.

Thanks everyone. Revision posted. (I think the ending, which is new, needs work. But it does attempt to say what we at times said to each other as we skirted around the subject of death and afterlife, etc.).

...............

Coming back the morning after the revision and mourning the loss of the nostalgia that I had put inside the poem as a kind of balm... But I still do think it is a better poem.
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-12-2019 at 07:05 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 03-12-2019, 07:07 AM
Michael F's Avatar
Michael F Michael F is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: a foothill of the Catskills
Posts: 930
Default

Hi Jim,

I miss Sinatra. I thought the refrain worked: it stitched the pieces together. I miss the autobiographical detail, which I thought charming and sad, the obvious affection, and how roles reverse. V2 was almost confessional, in a good way. The latest version certainly feels more focused and austere, but for me it has lost the charm.

Just one opinion.

M

Last edited by Michael F; 03-12-2019 at 12:56 PM. Reason: better said, I think
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread 03-12-2019, 07:23 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,905
Default

x
Revision (rv. 2 redux) posted.

As today wore on I revisited what I had wanted from the poem: a modest amount of closure hinged on a few recollections and our mutual love of music and humor. I realized that I lost a good amount of both in revision #3. I had achieved a kind of balance in revision #2 by eliminating the over-the-top cliche/platitude-drenched form (the que sera form). #2 felt right, but I kept editing it down to squeeze out any trace of those things (not wanting my poetry to be known as cliche) and ended up with v. 3 and what Michael so accurately described:

I miss Sinatra. I thought the refrain worked: it stitched the pieces together. I miss the autobiographical detail, which I thought charming and sad, the obvious affection, and how roles reverse. V2 was almost confessional, in a good way. The latest version certainly feels more focused and austere, but for me it has lost the charm.

Thanks Michael for saving what is an important poem for me personally.

I'm happy with it now. Thanks everyone (and thanks again Michael).
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-13-2019 at 07:34 AM.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,959
Total Threads: 19,413
Total Posts: 248,570
There are 156 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online