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  #1  
Unread 10-21-2019, 06:38 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Default Expectorate

(Unrhymed Sonnet version)

Expectorate

A dream — like copper pennies in my mouth.
I spent them all on porcelain, watched them bloom
like petals, or the first fat splash of a storm.
At work, I dug in deep. Found in my coat
a crescent of orange peel. I wanted a knife
to score like battlements — slit, slit, slit —
to wear it, bloody and fibrous, white flesh out.
A mouth guard. Tombstone teeth to terrify
and make my pithy point. One Halloween
my mother showed me how. A cheap disguise.
I'm older now than she was when she died.
Keep digging — did she laugh the day she knew?
Always laughing — I see her juice-stained lips
spitting out the pennies and the pips.


changes from 'Sonnet version' — L1, 2, 8, 9, 10




(Sonnet version)

Expectorate

A dream of copper pennies in my throat —
I spent them onto porcelain, watched them bloom
like petals, or the first fat splash of a storm.
At work, I dug in deep. Found in my coat
a crescent of orange peel. I wanted a knife
to score like battlements — slit, slit, slit —
to wear it, bloody and fibrous, white flesh out
to make some pithy point. Death and Life.
Tombstone teeth. My mother made a few
each Halloween, a cheerful, cheap disguise.
I'm older now than she was when she died.
Keep digging — did she laugh the day she knew?
Always laughing — I see her juice-stained lips
spitting out the pennies and the pips.



~~~~~~~


Expectorate

That morning — copper pennies in my mouth.
I spent them on the porcelain — watched them bloom
like petals, or the first fat splash of a storm.

Later, coughing through PowerPoint hum, I held
a crescent of orange peel. I wanted a knife
to score it — slit, slit, slit like battlements —
to wear it, bloody and fibrous, white flesh out.
A mouth guard. A set of tombstone teeth
to terrify and to make my pithy point.

The sure unknown — yet even a glimpse can bring
amazement, then a swallowing kind of calm.
Ambition stops. You wait at last on nothing.

I'm older than my mother when she died.
I wonder, did she laugh when first she knew?
I hope at least she shocked someone with fruit.
I hope she ate with her laughing mouth wide open —
spat out all the pennies and the pips.





S2L2 'in' —> 'through' and added commas to the 'slit's

S3 was

We none of us can know the time, the place,
yet even a glimpse can bring a kind of calm.
Ambition stops — you wait at last on nothing.

S4L2 was 'I wonder, did she laugh once when she knew?
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  #2  
Unread 10-22-2019, 01:04 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Mark, I was a bit confused when I read this first. By a second read it started to come together. I think the speaker is coughing up blood in the first stanza. The part about wanting to wear orange peel as a mouthguard was puzzling, though the "tombstone teeth" again made a connection to death. I liked the third stanza most because that kind of calm in the face of death is unexpected, but feels right. The last stanza makes the connection explicit and brings in a kind of history that explains what is going on. I hope this poem is not self-referential. If it is, you have my sympathy. If it is more about fear than reality, that is valid too, and writing about the fear is one way of coping with it.

Susan
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  #3  
Unread 10-22-2019, 04:05 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

The rhythm here for me is a bit marine - unpredictable, but tidal in a way. As for the content, I'm with Susan - the opening stanza pretty strongly suggests coughing up blood, and if it's autobiographical, you have my deepest sympathy as well. I'm not quite sure how to make that cohere with the second idea of orange peel as a mouthguard, though of course famously that's what Brando is wearing when he dies in the Godfather movies. For me, I'll note, not that the threat of death afforded me calm in particular, but that it indicated to me (back in 2012) that I had essentially no fear of it, which was nice to know.

Cheers,
John
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  #4  
Unread 10-22-2019, 04:51 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John and Susan -- Just quickly, because I don't want to raise concern about my imminent demise: yes, your reading of the 1st stanza is correct. It did happen to me a while ago first thing in the morning, and I was understandably freaked out, not to say distracted at work that day. I'm fine. Hasn't happened since and I think it was just the tail end of a chest infection. But it stayed with me. Thank you.
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  #5  
Unread 10-22-2019, 04:56 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Mark,

So, the N had a scare, an encounter with his mortality, albeit a false alarm. I particularly like the first two stanzas for their imagery. The spots of blood as blossom is spot on. Orange peel is unexpected and I like it more the more I read. S4 is very strong too, I think.

In S2:

Later, coughing in PowerPoint hum, I held

I'm not sure if he's coughing in (inhaling) PowerPoint hum, or that his cough is like (sounds like) a PowerPoint hum, or he's coughing and there's a PowerPoint hum in the background, so maybe he's giving a presentation using PowerPoint?. Finally, I can't work out what a PowerPoint hum is. I don't recall the software making any noise. The computer running it might be humming I guess, but that hum isn't specific to the software. Or is the hum of the projector, maybe?

It took a couple of reads but I think the orange peel works very well (and more so with the way it's picked up again in S4). The tombstone part makes an explicit connection to death, and there's something child-like and Halloween-ish about the orange peel teeth. And also the strength of his emotion (fear, or perhaps anger, or overwhelm -- and certainly not the 'calm' of S3) shows in his desire to score the teeth, in the repetition of "slit slit slit". Incidentally, commas here might be good here, to slow it down and emphasise each 'slit'. ""slit, slit, slit". Visually (for me) it also seems to look more like a series of slits with the commas there.

S3 is my least favourite part of the poem. The straight-ahead abstract tellyness of it, and the familiar platitude of L1. That said, I like "you wait at last on nothing", which is doing something interesting with its language. I'd say find a way to wrap the rest of it an image or metaphor to show some of this: the calm, the fact that it was a false alarm. I'm not sure the uncertainty of time and place is necessary to mention (that said, we tend to put a lot of effort into forgetting that).

I really like S4, the way it returns to the fruit/orange metaphor and reworks it as a metaphor for approaching life/living -- and facing death too, I guess (and the way that then retrospectively adds to the how the 'peel' can be read in S2), while at the same time it gives us a glimpse of the N's response to his encounter with his mortality by what he wonders about and hopes for his mother.

I wonder, did she laugh once when she knew?

Is this asking if she laughed one time (once)? Or is that 'once' or as in "in the past".

By the way, there seems to be consonant slant rhyme in the first half of the poem bloom/storm, held/battlement, knife/teeth, out/point. But not in the second. I'm guessing that was accidental.

Finally, I like the title, which, after I'd read the poem seems to suggest a death-related play on expected or expecting.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 10-22-2019 at 07:43 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 10-23-2019, 03:42 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Matt - I've made some changes, mainly to S3 but other places, after reading your notes. Will reply in more detail later. Glad you seem to like it. Thank you!

Susan and John - thanks.

Have to go do stuff...
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  #7  
Unread 10-23-2019, 04:10 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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You must have thought of seeing a physician. Tell us you have done so or will do so in a timely fashion. Maybe a chest x-ray!
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  #8  
Unread 10-24-2019, 03:25 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Hi Mark, that does sound like a scare. I went through a period once when I was peeing blood, which turned out to be nothing serious. But yes, quite scary.

I like this a lot. The detail of the orange is wonderful, and Halloween-ish. Also the pun on “point.” You often use puns effectively, in a way that adds layers of meaning to a poem. I did wonder whether “PowerPoint” needs an article before it?

S3 still seems to me the one section that either needs work or to be cut altogether. Do you need it? If so, maybe it could be reduced to a line that opens S4. Also, the battlements and tombstone reminded me of Hamlet, and that might be a source for making S3 more concrete and metaphoric.

Best,

Andrew
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  #9  
Unread 10-25-2019, 03:32 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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I was put in mind of a Maz poem "Blood in the bowl again..."

Somehow the very writing of the poems, Mark's and Maz's, is the equivalent of making orange-peel teeth and grinning with them. I use to make them to surprise my kids and they indulged me with exaggerated reactions until they learned to make them for themselves and grinned at me with them and I pretended to be scared ...

Everyone know about orange peel teeth - it just something you do. There's almost a convention in reacting to them, like the hastily-fabricated front that covers bad news.

I, too, was a bit confused by the "once". I was reaching for another meaning of it in this context. "I was really scared about (whatever) but somehow once I knew, it was easier to handle." Your revision makes it clear that it was that sort of "once" you had in mind, but it feels awkward and twisted to say "when first she knew". How about "when" (or, as I'd prefer "once") "she was sure"?

And yes, you scared me.
,

Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 10-25-2019 at 03:36 AM. Reason: not to add the last sentence - rather to correct an earlier typo.
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  #10  
Unread 10-25-2019, 04:37 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi folks,

I experimented with cutting S3 and noticed that this left me with a 14 line poem! Soooo...I started playing around. I feel I might have got to the core of something. Cut some stuff that was perhaps redundant (the PowerPoint, the mouth guard). I'm not sure it's a better version. Possibly. It's different. I like it. I've also cut the idea that the N is actually coughing blood, because I think that was overwhelming the thing. Not just people's responses, but the poem itself. It starts with a dream, now. Is that ok? It's not like the whole thing is a dream, just the first 3 lines. I see it as a kind of detective story into the past, the unconscious, now.

Annie - thank you. I know I would have liked Maz a lot after talking to Julie about her a while back.* Don't be scared, I'm fine honest. It was months ago and nothing since. I've had scattered lines of the poem in a notebook for ages. I'm happy you recognised orange peel teeth!

Andrew - Halloween-ish, exactly. The idea is in the poem more expicitly now. Scary-fun masks to disguise the really frightening stuff. Glad you like it.

Allen - Well...I read the NHS website and they told me not to panic, so I didn't. And I don't drink or smoke any more and I'd had a fluey chest infection. I'm fine. Thank you, though. x

Matt - thanks for your detailed crit. Your thoughts about S3 and about possible rhymes in this got me to go back and see something sonnet shaped. Hope all the things you liked are still apparent.

John and Susan - thanks again. John, I'm glad you pulled through and didn't fear it. Strange isn't it? The most basic fear is also the most pointless. We have evolved to fear things in order to avoid them, but there's no avoiding this.

Revision/alternative version posted.

Cheers.

* Edit - I just ordered her book, which I should have done ages ago. So thanks.
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