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Unread 03-05-2024, 10:46 AM
Rick Mullin's Avatar
Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 8,964
Default Expression, Sunset

A crown, which I trust is acceptable as it's one poem. Because of its length I set it apart in the Deep End.

(Sunset) or The Death of Venus

The products of combustion are contained
in brickwork vaults designed by engineers
adept at solitude, their fire explained
in darkness. Our intrepid gondoliers
inspect the morning from a high balloon
recording trace emissions in a code
reengineered from signals in the war.
No reason for the Peaceful Valley to explode.
In fact, we needn’t worry anymore
about the Human Epoch, which is soon
or maybe later to dissolve in light.
The constellation Pisces will unwind
its net of epithelia and kite
in two directions leaving us behind.
The pond was deathly still this afternoon.

The pond was deathly still this afternoon
as William pulled his shopping cart behind
a backstop in the park. A powder moon
accompanied his daydream in the blind
and covered up his song like no tomorrow.
They say it never comes. Yet there’s a scene
in William’s history that proves he’s way
ahead and wrapped in polyethylene.
Tomorrow is a glass on yesterday
where nothing happens. We’re inclined to borrow,
singing hardship forward in a line
with gladness, twining elements of drool
and drama that inscribe a 69,
a Yin and Yang, a chiral molecule
impervious to all the moon can sorrow.

Impervious to all the moon can sorrow,
frozen mountains slam their wood-crack strains.
All color drained, gone even from the dayglow
factories that burned once and their trains
that throttled through the county night and day.
A river choked with surplus nurdles plies
the fallen forest like a mindless snail.
The sun appears, but always in disguise,
and disappears. We’re startled by a pale
hypocrisy that jumps across the clay
to hobble back into the shadow twist
and bracken fall. Consult the lying stars
regarding our domain. Consult the mist
that folds them in obscurity with Mars
and Venus, who were always in the way.

When Venus, who was always in the way,
committed suicide, her arrow boys
became undisciplined. Their hate held sway;
green eyes gone lightless as their feathered toys
collected dust. Nothing slowed them down.
The god of combat, in his bleeding cape
of mercury and sulfur, had a war
to angle, and a trial to escape
(coincident convenience), and a score
to settle, and a gathering in town
of arrow boys. The table’s set. Regard
his vanguard in the gutter and a staff
of banners flapping with his limp petard.
There is no ending to the epitaph
he needs to write. He needs to write a crown.

He needs to write a sixteen-sonnet crown
of sonnets to revive an atrophied
imagination. He needs to paint a clown
in order to recharge his palette, plant a seed.
Ontogeny might recapitulate
phylogeny. It’s happened once before.
Today, the page defines an empty frame,
a canvas primed and white; the killing metaphor,
an outcome predetermined. All the same,
he rises, careful not to saturate
the grays, and draws a bass drum for the boom
of brave Pierrot. He’ll stand him tall beside
the plaque that reads
Cogito, ergo sum.
Accordion and mandolin provide
A melody that carries on 'til late.

A melody that carries on 'til late
will likely nibble, as Ouroboros,
a tail familiar with the grass; a great
awakening to visions of morose
encounters in the past. A balance sheet.
Reminders of an echoed reckoning
of glory days in ashed recrimination.
Aubade. Augoode, or ugly, beckoning
like Ahab in the motion picture adaptation.
O, the worm returns, a Hollywood conceit.
God help us. We won’t bother You again.
Just get us out of this, Who put us here,
and let us be. Selah, Shalom. Amen.
Or write us headlines for a winning year
to read, resist, forget, recast, repeat.

Recast, resist, forget, rewrite, repeat
the Protocols of Zion while the God of War
renews his contract with a non-compete.
He plays the numbers at a liquor store,
returning home to phone in his report,
though lately he’s been interviewed on Zoom
by operatives who cover up his game
for networks on the left. His livingroom
suggests he’s off the wagon and the shame
is amplified by questions from a court
reporter in New York. His latest book,
in garish product placement, fills a quarter
of the screen. He acts if he’s somehow off the hook
when asked of the condition of his daughter.
“War,” he pleads, “is endless. Life is short.”

Remember brutish, nasty, poor and short?
Well that’s the guy who got us here, correct?
An agent of the Age of Light, a sort
of demagogue whose ironies reflect
grave error through a veil of time release.
Who made
him God? The men of modern science
in cahoots with industry and government.
The hoi polloi react in big defiance
and its outrage kind of cracks the firmament.
The cracking mountains slam, the southward geese
describe another airborne letter: Q.
Our gondoliers recalibrate the glass
that measures complements of CO2.
The little guy yells, “Blow it out your ass.”
Sing War is Over if You Want It. Peace.

The Corpse of Love sings “If you want it, peace
comes dropping slow.” Beside her rings the snake
that laid her low. Below, the blood and grease
repel in tinted jewels and rainbow flake,
an image in a leaded window, stained,
desiring only fire (see Stanza One
to find the definition). William sleeps
beneath his cart, protected from the sun
that burns a pathway through the park and keeps
the promise of a paradise regained.
The networks in their perfect opposition
fill the hour with a tired spin
as engineers review the composition
of a brickwork archbasilica wherein
the products of combustion are contained.

Last edited by Rick Mullin; 05-08-2024 at 04:00 PM.
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Unread 03-06-2024, 05:48 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is online now
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: York
Posts: 685

This reads beautifully. The rhymes and enjambments are delightful, surprising and satisfying. I don’t understand much of it but there is so much going on here. The bits I do follow keep calling me back for more.

You may have missed an “a” in S5L1.
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Unread 03-07-2024, 10:32 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 4,280

Rick, What a rollick! It certainly lives up to its goal to revive an atrophied imagination.

Some thoughts... I sense a plastic wasteland. It alludes to a wide swath of literary rambles from Eliot to Ginsberg to Lennon and I imagine many more. What it is driving at as yet eludes my understanding, though the humor and pathos of it is clear. The rhyming seems to never stop if I give it some slack. There are some wonderful, unexpected juxtapositions of imagery such as the gondolier in the hot-air balloon. There are lines, too, that are epigraph-worthy, like "Tomorrow is a glass on yesterday / where nothing happens” and, "Impervious to all the moon can sorrow". It all adds up to a feast — a crown of beef-poetry.

The whole of It feels tight, packed-in, in a good way. In some ways it reminds me of Hunke in the way it is locked in without anything extraneous to divert or distract. It keeps driving forward toward a point — what that point is or even if there is a point, I don’t know. I’ll come back, though, I’m sure.

If it weren’t for Joe's glowing review I might not have taken the time to slowly read and savor the phrasing that is so succinctly obscure, even cataclysmic, in spots, humorous in others, and in some spots darkly beautiful.

I know my crit is not much of a deep-end crit. but for now I have only admiration. Retirement should be this productive.

Btw, there are also sumptuous sonics throughout, like this one: chiral molecule

I don’t know much about crowns (I think Mary Meriam posted one once but don’t hold me to that. I enjoy the size of it once I gave it a chance, though to read a less skilled one would be torture. What I like best about the form is the most obvious: the repeating of the last line in each stanza to be the first line in the next. There’s a symmetry to that that keeps me going. Also, I like the thought of a poem being a crown. Even if it’s a crown of beef — ha!


Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-07-2024 at 03:18 PM.
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Unread 03-09-2024, 12:36 PM
Rick Mullin's Avatar
Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 8,964

Thanks Joe!

I appreciate your taking the time to get into this one and weigh in early on. The formal mechanisms are important in keeping a reader onboard with a crown, so I'm glad they're working for you here. I mercifully broke the 16 sonnet mandate.

Thanks Jim,

Glad you like it. Especially good to hear that the "tomorrow is a glass" and "all the moon can sorrow" bits aren't setting off the TILT indicator. I was drawn to them via the paradox or constraint.

I appreciate your mentioning Huncke. Writing this felt very much the way it did writing that much longer poem. It has some of the same literary reference and humor engines. Maybe less humor. I suppose there is a top layer "narrative" that can be discerned. Definitely a wasteland, including plastics, involved. Nurdles are what they call basic plastic pellets. a major pollutant in rivers near ethylene crackers. Thanks again to Joe for encouraging you to dig in!

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Unread 03-10-2024, 06:50 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
Join Date: Apr 2022
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Posts: 1,773

Here’s some real deep-end criticism for you, Rick: the poem is missing three l’s: till, till, hoi polloi. “Hoi polloi” is of course a supercilious way of referring to the masses, though it’s often mistakenly used for the elite; I couldn’t tell which you had in mind. To be really pedantic, it’s also plural. The depth of these comments is a measure of my subtlety as a critic.

Overall, I find the poem a tour de force—a restrictive form maintained with a light touch, a wild proliferation of images and allusions that cohere over so many lines, precisely and strikingly worded, mesmerizing, philosophical, apocalyptic: “The three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast. The day the music died.”
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Unread 03-11-2024, 11:39 AM
Rick Mullin's Avatar
Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 8,964

Thanks Carl.

And, ha! I think til is an option, but it requires a apostrophe. I'll put that in. I think it will boost the tone in a good way, too. And yes, I will correct polloi. I love that hoi polloi means the great unwashed but is mistaken for the elite, perhaps being confused with or by "hoity-toity". I also corrected to make it plural, though I wonder whether it's one of those British vs American deals where IBM is treated as a plural noun in England and correctly as a singular noun in New Jersey.

And I'm glad you like the poem. I appreciate what you have to say, including the comparison with the line from "American Pie," which is indisputably the best line in "American Pie". Thanks for taking the time to read it and, again, I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Last edited by Rick Mullin; 03-11-2024 at 08:52 PM.
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Unread 03-11-2024, 04:45 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 8,388

Short, hasty comment, unworthy of The Deep End:

From (

Till is not an abbreviation of untilóitís actually older than untilóand it should not be written with an apostrophe.

íTil turns up now and then, but major usage dictionaries and style guides consider it an error, so itís best to avoid it.
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Unread 03-11-2024, 07:34 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,999


Great to see the deep end being used again.

I will have to come back to this in bits and pieces a quick look tells me I am going to enjoy it.

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Unread 03-12-2024, 04:13 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 8,388

I enjoy the logorrheic mania of these Mullinese sonnets, and I like the fact that it's a crown, which gives a tad more emphasis to the fifth-line rhymes; my attention span is usually too short for those to chime the way they should across that distance.

A micro-nit:

I'm trying to picture a "limp petard." Do you mean "damp petard," similar to "damp squib"? (Even if so, I don't quite get it. Which isn't to say that I totally get everything else, or that I need to before I can enjoy it. I mention this purely for informational purposes, in case you think that's a problem.)
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Unread 03-14-2024, 06:49 AM
Rick Mullin's Avatar
Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 8,964

Thanks Julie,

Glad the mania is clicking. You've probably noticed that I've kissed the 14-line sonnet goodbye for the 15-line version that I derived, which is pretty loose with other rules as well. I especially like that the triple rhyme (lines 5, 10 and 15) don't hit with the regularity of the interspersed quatrain rhymes. They kind of hang back with the final rhyme pulling the three together, as the first of the three may have been lost by the time the second arrives. Of course, I know they're there in the first place....

Limp petard is "leveraging", as the kids say, the secondary definition of limp, which is "flaccid". The limp petard is intended to hint at diminished masculinity.

Thanks for coming back.

Last edited by Rick Mullin; 05-24-2024 at 08:55 PM.
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