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Unread 07-07-2020, 08:24 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 896
Default trattoria

Not A Trattoria

This trattoria used to be our place,
but though I dream of paradise, I brood
about the world. Delight I can't replace
wells up, but still remains at bay, imbued
with passion, imperfect passion though--
the moment's long since passed. It stays inside
and that's where love should be eternal, yet
if that is true, is that sufficient? No.
She lives in me, but I'm unsatisfied.
Is this the best that it can ever get?

The waiter sidles up beside me, clears
his throat and wipes his sweaty hands along
his apron, pulls a list and volunteers
the special--"Grappa!" I blurt, "Something strong,"
He frowns then smiles just a bit too fast
and leaves. Outside the bluster passes by;
the trees are black and bare; the sidewalk grime
just lingers there. I wait. And wait. At last,
He brings a bottle and two glasses, why?
At least it's here, but he sure took his time.

It's time. Time like tide pulls time like wind wears
time like tornados tears us all away
from shelters we call paradise. Who cares?
The wounded world is simply made this way.
Is it by virtue of our being human or
by nature of mortality that we
cannot remain in paradise? Today
the blackened leaves that had been orange before
can not be moved by any wind toward me.
Just what became of our Imago Dei?

Aroma of paprika shrimp... --Dear God
and deep-fry-oil, not italian food,
and mayo-mustard-relish remoulade
for poboys... Guess I'm just not in the mood.
It's no authentic trattoria; they
just use the sign. Just what became of this
relationship that was our paradise,
the restaurant that used to feel gourmet
What do you say when love outlives a kiss,
the imperfections it cannot replace?

My face is sweating now. My hands are on
my cheeks. I guess. No thought can answer for
a feeling--I stare up and I stare down.
The slightest imperfection jars; what's more,
no memory can answer for her touch.
The memories cannot reply at all.
And cynicism helps, it's true. Sometimes
it medicates, but only just so much.
I drain two shots. And this is not our small
and special place. Not anymore. It's time's.

Last edited by Daniel Kemper; 07-16-2020 at 08:07 PM. Reason: v4
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Unread 07-07-2020, 10:00 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,559

Daniel, this one is not working for me. It comes across as extended metrical musings, but they don't capture or hold my attention. For me, it stumbles right at the start by pronouncing "trattoria" as if it rhymes with "euphoria." I have always heard it pronounced "trat-ter-EE-a." In my experience, metaphysics doesn't help a poem. Tastes differ, so some might enjoy this, but when I start reading about "mortals" and "paradise," my eyes glaze over.

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Unread 07-08-2020, 02:36 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,557

Daniel, is the narrator Gnostic? The narrator seems to care mostly about the metaphysical realm, and to view the imperfection of the material world with frustration and contempt. But Trinitarian Christianity does not regard God as purely metaphysical. (After all, there's not much point in either the Incarnation or the Resurrection if all matter is irredeemably imperfect and evil, is there?)

The world of the poem seems to have only one inhabitant. I find that disturbing, because don't think the paradise that the narrator longs for can be reached from such a small, egocentric universe. The sort of abstract, self-absorbed introspection going on in this poem would be okay if were balanced with some degree of concern for others. But absent that, his world becomes a place where love--and therefore God--isn't. And that's pretty much the definition of hell, which might explain why the narrator is so unhappy there.

He needs to get out of his own head and into some sort of setting where love for others can be expressed physically. That's how to reach paradise. Not because paradise can be earned through good works, but because paradise is wherever God is. Right now (because that's how eternity works). And since God is love, the only way to be in the presence of God is to go where loving service to others is happening.

S1L1 defeats my best efforts to scan it, even if I subtract what seems to be an extra foot.

I hope some of these thoughts are useful, or at least entertaining.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 07-08-2020 at 02:41 AM.
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Unread 07-08-2020, 07:27 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Location: California
Posts: 896

All- thank you very much for your read. It' points up a big, but fixable (I hope) blunder, in this poem:

The 'our' the narrator thinks of is not including you, the audience, it's his missing beloved. My blunder: frame of reference not set. And moving sometimes.


Gnostic? --No special category before hand. See where you're coming from though.

--You alert me to my biggest weakness: failure to properly set frames of reference. This is a slice out of a much longer story, but should still be stronger in setting frames of reference.

Narrator is in that special "our place" without the one who made it special. Lovers often feel an eternity in the rushes of the feeling, a mutual apotheosis via the power of love almost, from which this narrator is badly let down.

[Imperfection of the material] frustration, yes and contempt--grief/lashing out.

[Trinitarian Christianity] - Agreed. I happen to believe it; the narrator wouldn't really know much about it, I don't think. I'm very pleased that the poem provokes the interaction with it's character.

[one inhabitant.] - Yes, sort of: maudlin post-death-of-relationship. The rest of your read seems off base from the poem-- not because of a bad read, but because the frame of reference is not set. You were entrapped, as it were . The 'our' the narrator thinks of is not including the audience, it's his beloved.

[how to reach paradise] - We are made for relationships, I agree. This is part of a larger story. More happens. [paradise] - would like to have a sidebar conversation on the difference between paradise and heaven. The speaker wouldn't know to consider it, but will be useful for me in other writing.

[where loving service to others is happening.] --This is a theme I hope to explore-- that we are something like avatars of the love that animates us. Experiencing love is a kind of communion. Very, very roughly put.

Interesting. With a faint oratorical voice (and the likely, I guess, too uncommon pronunciation of trattoria): | as I | reCALL | our SMALL | trat TOR | ia --> the 'a' can be lifted or not just so long as the same is done with "euphoria".

Always useful, always entertaining. --Thank you.

Hi Susan,

Wish it worked for you, but your feedback will help sharpen it. It's a meditation on a missing beloved.
It's great to know how the words "paradise" and "mortals" play. Very different if their decoupled from the persons of the poem. From the cave of this poem looking out, I'd only thought of them as denoting that "perfect feeling" in relationships. Mortals... can that feeling last if we don't? That's the narrator's concern.

But I see that in the modern idiom, they're more or less third rail, right? Either to King James-ian or too teenage-drama. Time to start thinking about synonyms more palatable to modern taste I guess. As far as "trattoria", I guess I have to see how the majority hear it, though in the two of the areas where I've lived (and only places I've heard it pronounced other than in some online sources), they were much closer-- though the R is overplayed to rhyme it with gloria, etc.

--> Something you make me notice is that I've used the freaking word three times. I'll have to work on that by itself.

"In my experience, metaphysics doesn't help a poem." --I'm not sure how you mean to apply this: Could you clarify? Do you mean counter to the poem's assertion about metaphysics? Or mediations on what-it-all-means in general? Or a specific flavor of what-it-all-means? The speaker denotes that it only helps so much, and drinks immediately afterwards, so I'm not sure you'd disagree with the speaker that much.

No small labor taking on stuff like this-- thank you for that.
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Unread 07-08-2020, 08:21 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 5,168

Daniel, I confess that when I saw the subject of your poem I was looking forward to reading it, because I've seen you write so vividly about food and drink, and trattorias often have such good offerings of those things.

Btw, at the start I was thrown off by your rhyming "trattoria" with "euphoria," just like Susan and for the same reason.

I admit I'm lost in the poem overall, although I did get that the "Narrator is in that special 'our place' without the one who made it special." I give more leeway to abstraction in poetry than many do, but even I found this rough-going in that regard.

I'd love to see what would happen with this if it brought more of your ability for sensual evocation of food, adding dollops or sprigs of abstraction here and there.

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Unread 07-08-2020, 09:11 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Posts: 896

Going back to this. Maybe if I set what the scene is I'm trying to create, it will better enable crits to help me home in on it.

A lover without his beloved sits in "their place"
He meditates no her absence, noting that she still lives inside him.
(This is what we always say about loss.)
In that sense the moment is eternal. But is it really?
The speaker thinks pardise can't last, but wonders why: inherent human imperfection or finite lifespan.
(Finite lifespan is the case in which there's nothing more.)
If we're supposed to be God's Image (or God at all), why these endings?
The speaker notes the futility of his thoughts--
thoughts:feelings::memories:touch --in their insufficiency
The speaker's thoughts of "lives in me" = metaphysics that helps
but only a little
so he gets drunk/er, believing time destroys all.

Note: here "paradise" is mentioned and not "heaven" deliberately--Eden was paradise, not heaven.
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Unread 07-08-2020, 09:30 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,557

Hey, Daniel!

By Gnostic, I didn't mean a particular sect (e.g., Manichaeism), but a general dualist (immortal/immaterial soul good, mortal/material body bad) perspective.

As with the imported words "gyros" and "chaise longue," I would suggest using whatever pronunciation of "trattoria" your intended audience is most likely to use. I have a hunch that most readers of poetry are likely to go by a dictionary-documented pronunciation, based on how the word is pronounced in the original language. All the dictionary entries I found supported the notion that trattoria rhymes with "mamma mia," and none of them mentioned a "gloria" rhyme as a variant. (I did find a video online that pronounced "trattoria" with the accent on the "o," but the audio was obviously computer-generated, which suggests that its creator is trying to hide a strong regional or non-American accent. That didn't exactly inspire confidence. And neither did the harsh comments.)

I did pick up on the fact that there is a beloved who is no longer in the narrator's life physically, either due to death (as "You live in me" suggests) or just due to a breakup. But does the narrator really miss that person, or does he just miss "her touch"--i.e., his own pleasure? Obviously, anyone who loses someone will be mourning the loss of their own pleasure as well as the loss of the person herself/himself, so I don't intend to be critical of that; but it would be good to see more evidence in the poem of the narrator's love for this person. And by love I don't just mean the narrator's thoughts and feelings--which are currently all that the poem is about. Love is not something that only happens in our thoughts and feelings. It is put into action in the physical (a.k.a., "real") world.

By the way, "no memory can answer for her touch" is a rather jarring shift: the narrator is now speaking about a "her," rather than speaking to a "You". Are these the same person?

I think it's fair to say that the world of the poem is currently a universe of one, with no one else physically in it--not even the trattoria staff member who presumably brought the narrator the two drinks. So again, I think the poem would be more interesting if it got out of the narrator's head and entered the real world, in which others exist, and (as Andrew mentioned) there are concrete sensory experiences, not just general, abstract ideals of "beauty."
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Unread 07-08-2020, 09:33 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Posts: 896

Hi Andrew,

Well you are the definition. traTORia redone tratteria.

Thank you for giving it a go. This is in counterpoint to another I'm working on for this same Trattoria-- the joy of the first visit, but which I suspect is wildly unrealistic. Not everything around here that calls itself a Trattoria is though and that might account for the unrealistic-ness of the initial piece. I haven't posted it yet. Didn't want to get into a run of all-cheery love type poems. One up, one down...

I'm trying to emphasize the empty, but maybe I can do it better by spreading the metaphysics out and directly mentioning WHAT is missing~ a special food, etc...

BTW, I thought it a little out of place, American-not-really-a-trattoria or not for the "two shots" if I don't specify just what they are. Suggestions?
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Unread 07-08-2020, 04:27 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,557

Originally Posted by Julie Steiner View Post
S1L1 defeats my best efforts to scan it, even if I subtract what seems to be an extra foot.
Sorry, I meant S2L1 (although I think your S1L1 is a big improvement in terms of scene-setting, so kudos on that; but you don't seem to be done tinkering, so I'll wait a while before commenting further).

There are only ten syllables in S2L1, but I'm feeling six beats and a couple of rests, so it feels like hexameter.

Attempt at scansion:

/ u - / (u) - / u - / u - / (u) - / (iambic hexameter, with two rests?)

it's TIME. (rest) TIME like TIDE pulls TIME like WIND (rest) WEARS

/ - u / u - / u - / u - / u - / (trochaic substitution in first foot, pretty standard)

TIME like tor-NA-dos TEARS us ALL a-WAY

/ u - / u - / u - / u - / - - / (spondaic substitution in last foot, again pretty standard)

from SHEL-ters WE call PAR-a-DISE. WHO CARES?
Another issue: I can't quite figure out what the long sentence after "It's time" means. Are the two "like"s parallel? Is there missing punctuation? Writing it out as prose doesn't help me parse it:

Time like tide pulls time like wind wears time like tornados tears us all away from shelters we call paradise.
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Unread 07-08-2020, 08:31 PM
A. Sterling A. Sterling is offline
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Maryland, U.S.A.
Posts: 123

Hi Daniel,

This isnít quite coming together for me, either. As it is, I donít have a vivid sense of the trattoria itself, or whatís off about it now, and would like to see some more concrete details. Like you go to the place and try to order the drink that you and someone else would have back then, but it isn't even on the menu anymore, and so you have to teach the waitress how to make it first. And even though they still have the same fantastic olives, it still leaves you thinking.

It also seems a little strange to me that the narrator is trying to grapple with the notion that a memory isnít the same as someone actually being there, as in the last two lines of the first stanza. Maybe Iím missing something Ė but wouldnít it be obvious that when you go to ďour placeĒ without the other person, itís not going to be the same?
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