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Old 08-22-2017, 06:37 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Default Towards an Explanation

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Why I don't go out

They catch me at the corner of my street
two long sedans with mirrored windows.
A bearded man in sunglasses slides out,
flashes his badge.

Was it was that bastard narwhal
what grassed me up?
I snarl. You know the type
jealous of my normal teeth, their perfect symmetry,
the tax-payer picking up my dental bills,
or angry, perhaps, about the impact my species
have had on his arctic pack ice?
He knows I’m on the sick for sure.


C’mon, he says, that’s paranoia,
narwhals don’t pay taxes – their money’s all
offshore
. Yet as he smirks I glimpse
the counter-clockwise spiral
of a suspiciously long left incisor.
Try again, he says.

The three-toed sloth?
He’s always hanging round.
He hates to see me lounge about,
supported by the state.


What sloth could phone a hotline?
You’ve seen their claws.
He grins
and excavates his ear
with the longest little fingernail
I’ve ever seen. Try closer to home.

Listen, he says, adjusting his sunglasses
and scratching his bushy beard,
you know old Mr Jones,
what lives across the road from you,
the chap with the bushy beard
and the large collection of binoculars?


Well he’s the one, he says,
what sent us 60 hours of video tape
of your front door, on which we seen
you leave your basement
at least three times, and once
you even smiled.


Back home, I am obliged to attend my trial
over Skype. The jury is packed
with narwhals and sloths, and the judge’s beard
looks strangely familiar.

The sentence is harsh:
Ten more years in the basement.

.

------
Added final stanza.

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-13-2017 at 09:42 PM.
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  #2  
Old 08-22-2017, 06:49 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Matt,

I like your title a good deal. Your previous poem I thought really worked, with its loopiness and fun. This one seems to me to bear the risks that come with sequels, and may need more work to overcome them. Possibly it would snap and pop more for my taste if it were shorter. Sorry, but I find it a bit flat compared to the first.
I like your idea of a foray into spoken idiom. Do you have a very clear voice in mind? I've been out of England for a while, so i only notice your what for who as dialectal. There may be more you're doing that escaped me.
I'm curious to see whether this grows into a series. Sloths and narwhals seem a good starting point!

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-22-2017, 07:26 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi John,

Thanks for you comments. Back in April I wrote a poem a day for National Poetry month, all on this basement theme. I've now posted quite a number of them. This and the last are the only two to feature narwhals and sloths, and this one is not actually a sequel to the least, but came first.

It was probably a mistake of post them in the wrong order. I did it mostly because I thought last one was pretty much done, whereas I was still unsure about whether this one worked (I still am) and was still fiddling with it. The last poem included references to snails, seagulls, sloths and narwhals because they'd all featured in poems earlier in the series.

I guess I'm using "what" instead of "who" because it seemed to go with "grassed me up", so kind of cockney I guess (grass -> grasshopper -> copper).

best,

Matt
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Old 09-09-2017, 02:47 PM
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Seree Zohar Seree Zohar is offline
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Lost........
and truth is, I was going to say it sounds a bit like some kind of exercise or challenge - and then your explanation.... But I do so like the narwhals and sloths. Sloths by nature never procrastinate, do they now?
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Old 09-10-2017, 06:11 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Thanks Seree,

The poem is pretty obscure, and definitely more so for non-Brits. It has to do with paranoia, disability and state benefits / social security. Probably wasn't a great idea to address that in a comic/absurdist context. In this country people considered too ill to work have been somewhat demonised in the right-wing tabloid press and the government of late, with lots of emphasis on "scroungers" and "cheats", which presumably has helped the government to push through the massive austerity cuts that have hit disabled people the hardest. There are hotlines set up both by the government and by tabloids for people to report people who one suspects of faking it, and a disturbing rise in verbal and physical attacks on the disabled. More specifically, I'd read a story of a man filming his neighbour to provide evidence. So that's where this came from. Back to the drawing board -- or into the bin -- for this one I guess. Maybe I need to write something angrier.

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-13-2017 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 09-11-2017, 02:25 PM
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Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
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Hi Matt,

I don't think we've met yet. I'm Fliss. I'm new-ish to the Sphere.

I'm glad Seree commented on this poem, because I missed it last month. It contains a lot of wit. I like the setting of the scene, followed by the tense dialogue and all the details.

As the poem might end up in your bin, I shan't comment further for now. However, I thought I'd let you know that I enjoyed it and I appreciate the subject matter. I was badly injured in my local hospital (of all places) a few years ago, an injury that left me needing a wheelchair. Although I work hard for a living, I get the 'scrounger' insult thrown at me sometimes by people who don't know any better, while many of my friends get that plus much worse besides. So the poem occupies a space that I recognise.

One last thing: I'm intrigued by the use of all the creatures you mention in your earlier comment. How did they come about?

Best wishes,
Fliss
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Old 09-11-2017, 05:12 PM
Kyle Norwood Kyle Norwood is offline
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Ah, now that you explain it, I get it. I think you're right that U.S. readers lack the background to understand this poem (I certainly did). It's unfortunate that many of the comments you've gotten are from U.S. readers. I think the poem is working, though even now I'm not sure I completely appreciate the context, not having lived in (or through) it.
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Old 09-13-2017, 02:45 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Fliss and Kyle, thank you both for your comments.

I've just added back the original ending that I decided to remove just before I posted it and now miss.

Fliss, a belated welcome to the Sphere. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the poem if you have the time. I've not given up on it yet, was just feeling a bit despondent about it's chances of being understood by anyone, so it's great to know it was.

Why these particular animals in this poem? I don't really remember. Probably narwhal because of the assonance with "bastard" (if, like me, you have a southern accent), and I'd been reading something about them which had probably meant that they were in my mind. Why the other animals, well the snail was in this poem because it was a metaphor for the basement -- or another metaphor for what the basement is a metaphor for. The amphibians appeared in this poem, again as part of a metaphor.

Kyle, many thanks. I'm glad to know it works for you now that you know what it's about. It's of a niche experience has been a recurrent problem when I try to write about it. And yes, it would be interesting to see how UK readers get on with it.

Thanks again both.

Matt
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Old 09-15-2017, 01:18 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hi Matt. I seem to have missed reading this first time around.

I get the context here. It seems to be a poem that wouldn't necessarily stand alone, but can play a very useful part in your Basement sequence.

There's a lot of "what" instead of "that" - do you think you labour that a bit? I'm not sure the poem needs that sort of comic argot. (For ever, from a UK point of view, connected with Ernie Wise anyway.)

narwhals don’t pay taxes – their money’s all
offshore.


That made me laugh. I smirked, at least.

Is this the environment in which you find yourself living? It's outrageous, isn't it?

If I may pry, do you feel that you are still living in the basement? Or are these all just bad memories?

Cheers

David
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Old 09-17-2017, 02:28 PM
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Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
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Hi Matt,

Thanks for the welcome; apologies for my late reply. I don't seem to have much time at the moment, so this is just a quick visit. Thanks for explaining the animals and for providing links to other poems. I've read both briefly, and the description of the mating slugs made me shriek! That isn't a bad thing, though.

Yes, 'narwhal' sounds like 'bastard' to me. Snails are cool; one of my friends is a cartoonist and his snail character is a delight. I'm intrigued (again!) by how you came up with Basement Guy (if that's his name) – what was the process here? You needn't answer that if you don't want to, of course. I'm just being nosy!

Best wishes,
Fliss
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