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Unread 01-22-2021, 11:06 AM
S.R. Little Stone's Avatar
S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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Default Asleep on the Shores of Measured Time

Asleep on the Shores of Measured Time

The rumbling of a locomotive
through a labyrinth of graves
shivers in the porcelain set
your grandmother prepared as waves
of steam, escaping the rose spout
veined with filigree, erase
themselves like disappearing ink
and steal again her made up face.

She offers you a honey jar.
You withdraw the crystal wand
dripping glittering gold, and dip it
like an oar into your pond
of lemon ginger. Thunder spreads
its heavy arms around her home.
The sky is darkening like a bruise.
Her radio's a honeycomb

seeping jazz and static softly
through this labyrinth of sums.
She's beautiful. Her life's a dream.
Outside, the locomotive drums
across the earth. Its windows fog
and clear. Their faces meet your sight
among the graves as tidal waves
crash down on you, awash with light.


S1L4: "prepared" was "arrays"
S1L8: "made up" was "youthful"
S2L1-2: Period added after "jar." "and" omitted before "You"

Last edited by S.R. Little Stone; 02-01-2021 at 09:58 AM.
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Unread 01-22-2021, 02:07 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,889

I like the poem, which goes somewhere despite its circular motion. The poem itself is vivid and concrete, but the title feels a bit abstract. I think I would prefer a title as concrete as the poem itself. Even in dreams, we dream in images.

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Unread 01-22-2021, 02:56 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Location: UK
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This is beautiful - the images and transformation that thread through the poem do, for me, what the title suggests - blur the notion of measured time, and instead let the reader experience time as a set of remembered, or imagined, images and moments, in which the grandmother of the narrator is both dead and alive, simultaneously.

This works because the poem is so evocative and multi-sensory; it creates its own world. The writing at the start of S2 works particularly well for me, taking the moment of dipping a spoon or sugar-crystal stirrer into tea and transforming this to a journey. Likewise, the radio as honeycomb is lovely. It’s interesting that the honey imagery doesn’t thread through all three stanzas, but that each stanza holds a different transformation.

The repeating locomotive works well for me both as a vehicle to locate the poem in an actual landscape (a graveyard) and the faces on the locomotive remind me of one of my favourite writers - doreen massey - who writes of space as a ‘simultaneity of stories-so-far’ and describes the moments when you see someone for a second from a train window as a tiny intersection of these stories-so-far.

I have tiny formative points - I think ‘steal again her youthful face’ borders on cliche, and I wonder why ‘steal’, particularly, as the rest of the poem seems to present the real-and-imagined grandmother as more of a gift. I struggled temporarily with ‘grandmother arrays’ but I soon resolved it - but for me it was an awkward word choice (that might be because of my particular context, though).

One of the things I really enjoyed is how you’re using water here - the movement from steam in S1 to ‘tidal wave’ in S3, with pond and thunder in S2 - water as a passage between worlds. But the images aren’t quite close enough for me to be sure that this transformation is a sound reading. If it is, I love the idea of waves of steam transforming back to waves of water; matter changing shape - as a visual metaphor for how time can loop and bend as well as being a fixed, linear construction.

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Unread 01-23-2021, 12:38 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 5,317

This is such a gorgeous poem, LS. I’m engrossed by its artful music and lush particulars. The fluidity of memory runs through the stanzas indeed like honey in a honeycomb, seeping out here and there but mostly remaining interior and beyond recall. Lines 1-2 are marvelous in how they place us in, with two bold strokes, a non-literal world. We know right off that the poem is taking us to the other side of the looking-glass. I also enjoy the affection and intimacy the N expresses for the grandmother, made palpable through the shape-shifting imagery that is still recognizable as natural experience.

The only place I hesitated was in the second stanza. “Her life’s a dream” struck me as redundant as well as cliché, since the whole poem is already illustrating or enacting that fact.

In the penultimate line, actually, there is one other spot I wondered about: why “tidal” waves? The closing image is lovely, but tidal waves inundate everything else, whereas the waves in this poem are gentler or more “measured.” My reading of it is that death or even time itself is a tidal wave that floods the traces of memory. Still though, it seems to me that it would be worth reconsidering the modifier.

I do agree the title could be improved. It is a nice phrase in another context, but here it felt a bit grandiose and out of proportion to the poem’s intimate tone.

A slight punctuation nit: I think you could use a comma after “arrays” in line 4, to clarify the syntax of that sentence, since “as waves / of steam” goes with the “erase / themselves . . .” clause not one preceding it.

The poem’s a pleasure, lovely to contemplate.

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Unread 01-23-2021, 05:39 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
Join Date: May 2020
Location: England
Posts: 267

This is masterful.
Consider removing "youthful face". "labyrinth of sums" does not do much for me, it feels like unneeded figuration. "meet your sight" feels awkward and rhyme driven.
At first I struggled with the title but the content justifies it.

I very much enjoyed this.

Hope this helps,
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Unread 01-23-2021, 08:11 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,844

I, too, found myself immersed in the dreaminess of this.
The fluency of thought is seamlessly merged with the music of the words and canopy of images you float so ethereally above it. I love that there is a restrained amount of punctuation to allow line breaks to do their job. There is a cascading feeling to the way the poem opens up/progresses, letting the images pool together. It's gorgeous. Delicate.

For now, I will not look very closely to see if I can find a relative soft spot. It feels finished.

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Unread 01-23-2021, 04:12 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Connecticut, USA
Posts: 6,852

Little Stone, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The way time flows, the way water changes into its various phases, the way memories emerge and vanish, the imagery, mood, and other aspects.

I agree with some folks about some small things: Andrew’s suggestions of a comma after “arrays”; “Her life’s a dream” being a bit redundant; “labyrinth of sums” being a bit cryptic.

Does the rumbling of the locomotive shiver “in” the porcelain set? Or does it shiver the porcelain set? (agitate the tea set)

I like the title. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt, however, to think of a more imagistic title and see which sounds better to you.

Other than the above tiny considerations, it’s a really enjoyable poem.

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Unread 01-28-2021, 08:44 AM
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S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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Thank you all for your responses and sorry for not reciprocating them with a response of my own in a timely manner. I meant no disrespect. I tend to be slow and scattered when making up my mind, but I will make an effort to be more responsive with comments and critiques on this forum. In my ideal world, we'd all be reading and responding to each others poems under a shady tree in a park somewhere, with tea and bread and birdsong!

Jane -- Thank you for another thoughtful critique and for the Doreen Massey reference. I like that quote a lot! I had "In a Station of the Metro" somewhere in my mind when I included the passengers' faces image. With regards to "steal again her youthful face," this is another poem meant to be set in a virtual world, with the grandmother presenting herself as she looked in her 20's or 30's (but retaining all the wisdom she gained from her years). So the pixelated steam (transformation), is "stealing" her image, which she cannot maintain beyond the virtual world. I'm a little uncertain about "arrays" too, so I'm glad you called it out. I'm thinking about ways to rephrase that.

Andrew -- Thank you. I appreciate your close reading and reference to "through the looking-glass." This is very much meant to be a looking-glass kind of poem. Lewis Carrol is perhaps the most relevant author I can think of for poems that are meant to contemplate the ethics and aesthetics of Virtual Reality "worlds," given his surreal storytelling and background in mathematics. "Her life's a dream" is meant to have a little bit of a twist to it, since the virtual world literally is a dream shared (via the technological prosthetics of VR). For now I want to stick with "tidal" as a modifier for waves.

Cameron -- I agree about "youthful face". I'd like to change "youthful" to something more specific, but I haven't found the right word yet. "labyrinth of sums" is a reference to the VR setting. If I do try to publish this poem and others set in VR, I will be framing the collection with a note indicating such. You may be right about "meet your sight." I will hunt for a more inspired phrase to replace it.

Jim -- Thank you for your kind words.

Martin -- Thank you. I personally don't have a problem with "shivers in the porcelain set" though I think it would be a little more active/direct without "in". "arrays" I may change. The other two phrases that you called out are explained above. If my explanations don't justify them, I will likely change them (though I feel very attached to "labyrinth of sums").

Thanks all!
Little Stone
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Unread 01-28-2021, 04:37 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I think it's padded, Stone, and overdone. The title could be pink floyd trying to be deep in 1983. You used labyrinth twice. I don't think I could shoehorn that into a poem once.

*Added: I think my initial reaction to this was too harsh, and I do think there's much to like about the poem. I am still put off by the title, and, yeah, labyrinth doesn't work for me in either place. For me, it's a hard word to pull off. Imo, it's one of those words that really (unnecessarily) calls attention to itself. Others will probably disagree, but it throws me out of the poem. "meet your sight" I'm on the fence about~ I think it's an accurate, beautiful moment, but it took me a bit to appreciate it (maybe it's the phrasing), much like the poem as a whole. The more I read this, the more I like it. Particularly the first two stanzas. The locomotive shivering the porcelain is wonderful and I love the honey jar/wand/oar/honeycomb thing. I want to like the third stanza more, but I think tidal waves crashing and "awash" is a bit much, especially to close the poem. I'll keep looking at it. Anyway, I jumped the gun on this one re my original comment, and my apologies. I should have been more patient with it. (Oh, and careful with that bruising sky~ I happen to like the idea/image still, but it is overused.)

Last edited by James Brancheau; 01-29-2021 at 12:48 AM.
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Unread 02-01-2021, 10:21 AM
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S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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Hey James,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I did find your initial response a little harsh, though I agree that it's important to ask ourselves "why am I writing" from time to time. I took a three year break between 2017-2020 because I lost faith in my initiative to "reprogram" people with art. My approach to the creative process was costing me my physical health as well. I've done a lot of healing since then, though I realize my lifelong social conditioning has compromised my integrity in ways that I still haven't processed fully.

I like the title because of the literal meaning of a VR user being hypnotized/asleep on the "shores" (VR headset/gear) of measured (i.e. sequential and timestamped) time. It is a bit pink floyd-y, which I don't mind. I respect their music and think their lyrics captured a lot of spell-busting ideas. My thoughts on this may change of course. There is no absolute truth, only preferred opinions as Frost approximately said.

The repetition of the "labyrinth" line in S1L2 and S3L2 was intentional. The point was to pair "graves" and "sums". I may go back and change "tidal" or "awash". I agree that they're overstated. I like "tidal" because the root of the word comes from "time" which is a major theme in the poem."

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