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  #11  
Unread 05-23-2020, 06:45 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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Invocation. Surely, surely it's the basis of all poetry. Of language itself. Well, it is for me anyway. And when you're little, you know it's the only power you have, the greatest power of all. And when you're old, you just want to be as little as possible again, when you had such easy access to powers of invocation. Summon things, out of pure air!!

Please continue to invoke, dear Sharkey.

Cally
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  #12  
Unread 05-23-2020, 08:35 PM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Very, very good! Make it better.
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  #13  
Unread 05-24-2020, 07:09 AM
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Ed Shacklee Ed Shacklee is offline
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Mark,

This has a Flannery O'Connor feel to it, a kind of inevitable, fascinating dread. Between the "flame like a teardrop," the puffball skirt -- which from my perusal online, no little girl who seems to be verging on not being so little anymore should be given by a stepfather, let alone probably wear -- and the queue in the children's game with "my turn next," it gives me the willies.

I'm struggling with the end: I like the urgency and the panic, but I don't really get it -- it's like being shocked without knowing how your finger got in the socket. Know what? Maybe I'll puzzle it out eventually.

I think I may be misunderstanding this from the middle on down, as far as that goes. Did she lose her twin due to a tangled umbilical cord?

Anyway, powerful stuff. I love the double-edged title, btw.

Best,

Ed
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  #14  
Unread 05-24-2020, 08:20 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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I took "a flame like a teardrop / slides down your thigh" to reference a tattoo, though maybe our hopscotchers are too young for that.

Regardless, I really like this one, Mark. My only nit is that S4L3 is trimeter. This poem is so thoroughly carried by its dimeter rhythm that that hugely trips me up and casts me out of its spell. I could force it into anapestic dimeter, but I had to stare and stare to figure out I could do this—it wasn't intuitive even though every nerve in my brain was prepped to make it so.
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  #15  
Unread 05-25-2020, 05:22 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hello folks,

I’m glad that the puzzles in the poem don’t seem to be detracting too much but are accepted as a necessary part of the effect. I hope it isn’t a cop-out to say that childhood is a mystery, that logic gets blurred in memory and that the poem aims to capture some of that. I don’t want to explain it all away.

I will say that Matt was closest with S5, which most folks seem to be trying to figure out. No child died. My older sister and my younger brother both have middle names (Elizabeth and Joseph) but I’m plain Mark McDonnell. The story I was told is that when I was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and they didn’t know if I would make it, so a priest in the hospital did an ‘emergency baptism’, presumably to save me from Limbo. I have no idea how true, or even plausible, this is and with both my parents gone I suppose I never will.

Andrew M – Thanks. I think the packed lines there encourage a bit of tongue twisting, yes. The metre is song-like, playground rhyme rather than page poem, and children are very good at fitting in a mouthful of words to fit a beat. When I chant it, it all fits ha. Though I don’t know how others are chanting I suppose.

Rick -- I like that the teardrop flame has variously been sweat, menstrual blood, a tattoo, a symbol of abuse, a birthmark. So it is whatever you want it to be. I’m glad it drew you in.

Andrew F – Thank you so much, I think this hit you just as I would have hoped. You say “Why her middle name? If her outsider status is part of the plot of the poem, would last name be more to the point?"

I think knowing someone’s middle name, or them revealing it to you, was an exchange of intimacy. You could just ask your parents the surname of a new family that had just moved into the street (“Oh, that’s the O’Neils”)

Hi Jim – Yes, mystery and eroticism and dread. It’s all there. I can’t believe you remember that poem about the nape of the neck. I see the connection. I did find the backs of girls’ knees very distracting as a child. TMI? Haha.

Playground rhymes and prayers were intimately entwined when we were kids, weren’t they? Sometimes explicitly (“Matthew, Mark, Luke and John/next door neighbour carry on”). We were forever chanting.
In S4 the the girl is being questioned and the italicised lines are her answers. Yes, it sounds like children’s song lyrics, as the whole thing does. A song within the song, I suppose.

Someone else mentioned the line “Who knows your middle name?” as a metrical hiccup. I hear it closest to

"WHO knows your MIDdle name". 2 dactyls?

Hi Susan – I’m sorry it doesn’t grab you. FWIW, for you and others, the darker hints of the ‘stepdad’ line are certainly there, but equally a new stepdad could be just trying to curry favour with his new, moody, approaching-adolescence stepdaughter by buying her some fashionable clothes. That she has a stepdad, divorce being still fairly hushed and exotic for working class Catholic families in the 70s/80s, seemed to add to the character’s mystery and outsider appeal. A lot of this is me thinking about it after the fact. Most of the images just seemed to present themselves and I'd written 'stepdad' before I really knew why

Annie – All those things could be true. Is that too annoying a response? I hope you liked it.

Matt – I’m glad you liked it. You got my intention for S5. And yes, the N wants that privileged intimacy with the new girl (her middle name) but can’t offer his in return, so he desperately offers the story of why he doesn’t have one. I hoped the desperation came through with the fact that S5 and 6, just as the girl seems to be in danger of leaving the game, are the only ones that are emjambed over the stanzas.

Nemo – Thank you. I very much hope it works in the ways you suggest. Even here I feel in danger of over-explaining.

Cally – Thank you so much. I shall try.

Allen – Ha. Thanks. Maybe.

Ed – Innocence and unaccountable dread. I’m happy if you were left with that. I may have addressed some specifics earlier on. Thanks for reading.

Aaron – thanks, I’m very pleased you like it. Jim mentioned the same line for its metre. I don’t know if my explanation convinced you. Now, if you could hear me read it…

Well, thank you folks.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 05-25-2020 at 06:33 AM.
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  #16  
Unread 05-25-2020, 05:46 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Haha, I would definitely have to hear you read it. I was able to get it to dimeter, but not like that (I stressed "your" and "name").
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  #17  
Unread 05-27-2020, 08:47 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark McDonnell View Post
My older sister and my younger brother both have middle names (Elizabeth and Joseph) but I’m plain Mark McDonnell. The story I was told is that when I was born the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and they didn’t know if I would make it, so a priest in the hospital did an ‘emergency baptism’, presumably to save me from Limbo. I have no idea how true, or even plausible, this is and with both my parents gone I suppose I never will.
Mark, I feel very strongly about this.

Let the mystery be for the other stuff, but the reader's experience of the poem will be greatly enhanced if you slip this startling, compelling truth into your author's bio when it's published. (And as an endnote in your collected works.)

I beg you.
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  #18  
Unread 05-27-2020, 09:13 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Mark,

If you want the Limbo part clearer, and given that some read this as the actual death of another child, maybe just tweak it to:

In a Limbo panic
mine got robbed
when my cord got tangled
and the midwife sobbed

which also adds to the sonics with the alliteration with 'midwife'.

Matt
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  #19  
Unread 05-27-2020, 09:41 AM
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Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Not much to say other than it has all the mystery and hidden sorrow of children's rhymes. It is very good.
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  #20  
Unread 05-28-2020, 03:32 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Aaron - Oh no haha. I wonder how others are hearing it, and the whole poem.

Ah Julie - Good story isn't it? Maybe I will! I like 'when' rather than 'if'. 'Collected works' made my night. Silliness. Great song!

Matt - I think I like the quick rhythm of 'a cord' there, and I'm OK with other readings. The poem seems to suit being just on the edge of being pinned down.

Walter - Thank you very much. That means a lot coming from you.

Thanks all.
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