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Old 07-09-2018, 01:54 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,247
Default Things with Mike

Things with Mike

The man with the drinking problem has resolved things with Mike.
He is so happy about it that he wants to tell the world,
particularly Heather. He double-checks to make sure she gets the message,
humming with joy. He looks a little better than he has,
but beneath his skin, his liver is running on borrowed time,
indifferent to the day’s good news and the ups and downs of friendship,
indifferent to the expertise of this small town’s best doctors,
indifferent to epiphany and a new plan to live healthy –
which hasn’t happened. At a certain point,
each stolen day is sweet like a windfall apple.
On the whole, it’s a good thing that things with Mike are sorted out.


Deleted: and taken on its own terms, as if there were no future

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-09-2018 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 07-09-2018, 03:21 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: England
Posts: 2,342

Hi John,

Yes, I like this one. The language feels different to your usual 'flat' style, which you're probably sick of me banging on about. This feels appropriately flat in a different, more honestly straightforward way. I would maybe think about 'running on borrowed time' which is a cliche where the rest of the language, though plain, largely avoids cliche. Maybe that could be another moment, like the windfall apple, where the language stretches out to poetry a little more.

I only wondered, when I re-read 'He double-checks to make sure we get the message' how the N knows this stuff about the man's liver. Assuming you mean that he is on borrowed time in a more pressing sense than that in which all of us are. Maybe if the N were an omniscient N and not a character in the poem known to the man, this would make more sense. Looking at the poem all you would have to change is 'we get' to 'she gets' maybe.

A sobering poem. Pun possibly intended.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 07-09-2018 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 07-09-2018, 04:41 PM
Edward Zuk's Avatar
Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Surrey, Canada
Posts: 641

Hi John,

Two quick thoughts:

1. I don't think you need the penultimate line; and
2. I'm confused by the "21.ix.2012" at the end. If it's a date, then why the Roman numeral?

I think this works overall.
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Old 07-09-2018, 05:29 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,247

Hi Mark, hi Edward,

And thank you both for your visits and your thoughts. I've adopted both of your suggestions. I'm glad you both quite like this.
Mark: I agree, this is a sobering poem. I hope my flatness is pretty consistent across the board, but agree, this material highlights it. Also hope your concern is now resolved.
Edward: yes, 2012 is a date. That's my dating system for poems, since days I lived in Europe. I've been going through thirty years of old poems, 1982-2012, to see what holds water, and found this. I thought I'd give it a go, since I'm creating a couple of new MSS from them all.

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Old 07-09-2018, 06:25 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,543

Having a little more than passing knowledge of this state I find this one intriguing.

To me, it is a judgemental view without any real empathy but incredibly accurate in depiction.

As Mark has noted, there is a change in your voice here.

It has engendered thought, thank you for posting.


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Old 07-09-2018, 06:45 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 3,936

As a person in recovery, I connect to this. You have stated the reality of addiction in a frank manner. I think what I like best is the title and how the story is centered around what the alcoholic settled with Mike. Sounds like he's working the 9th step. I understand you are using "drinking problem" because it works better than would "alcoholic."

(My pulmonologist told me today my lungs were about 15-years older than the rest of me. Somehow my liver has held up for now.)

The sad reality that it's too late, in one sense, looms over the poem and gives it a frisson. Yes, the line endings are not the most critical parts of the poem and they could be done away with, but that doesn't mean you should do away with them. I like how this looks on the page. The long lines give it a loping feel that is right. Just is.

If I see things to suggest further I'll come back.

I like this.
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Old 07-10-2018, 04:00 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,247

Hi Jan, hi John,

I'm typing on my phone this afternoon, but will do my best. Thank you both for the visit and your thoughts.
Jan: I'm glad you find this accurate. It is drawn from life. I agree, there could be more empathy, but I wanted the tone clinical. Basically a liver doesn't care about empathy.
John: I'm pleased this works for you. It's in an early MS. I'm assembling. I agree 100% about the sad sense that it's too late here.

Thank you both,
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