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Old 08-13-2018, 05:13 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Default A Story Poem

Morgue

I stopped at the door and took a breath,
walked into the room—a new orderly
in the worn scrubs I was given
every other night by the laundry master.
My hands were outstretched because
I didn't know what else to do with them
and the nurse looked at my hands
and walked to the table at the rear
of the room, toward the scales used to weigh
a new life as it explodes in celebration
of being free of those dark confines,
and there on the steel table wrapped
in butcher's paper was the stillborn baby.
When I picked it up I felt the bones shift
inside the paper. The nurse whispered to me
“A girl” for some reason and then patted
me kindly one time on the shoulder
and said “Downstairs” which meant
the morgue and the woman on the bed
cried ceaselessly and her wails shot up
when I turned to the door. I did not look
at her while carrying her child in my barely
sober, shaking hands, and I headed down
the hall toward the elevator designated
for nurses and doctors and I now know
regardless of how fast I walked
I am always there, in the white room
that ballooned inside me during
my long walk to the morgue.


***
This may become a prose poem. If it does it will be the same words unless I change it at your suggestion. I'd like to know if it works for you regardless of how it's shaped on the page.
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Old 08-13-2018, 06:36 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

Well, it's very raw. I think it works in this formatting. The lines that most struck me were these:

My hands were outstretched because
I didn't know what else to do with them

Cheers,
John

Update: by raw I mean emotionally, not aesthetically. That probably warrants explaining.

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-14-2018 at 06:15 AM. Reason: raw
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Old 08-14-2018, 12:15 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks, John. I don't know if I've made poetry out of it yet. It certainly lingers like a poem should when I finished it. I don't know if that is happening for readers.

Appreciate your help.

John
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Old 08-14-2018, 03:07 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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John,

Sad story, well said. A comma after morgue to intensify? Sort of like “after the first death there is no other”?
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Old 08-15-2018, 11:59 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi John,

The opening line works well with the birth theme, though that's lost a bit in what follows I think. I reckon you could cut this down a fair bit, I don't think all of the detail is necessary. Also, calling it Morgue rather cues us up for where this is going which you might not want to do.

There's a tense mismatch at the end, I think with, "regardless how fast I walked, I am always there". I'd say that should be "walk". Or at least that makes more sense to me. However fast he walks now he is always still there. Though I guess you want to say: he now knows that however fast he walked then, he still wouldn't escape the memory of it, but I don't think that the construction you use quite makes sense. I think it should be something like "I now know that regardless of how I fast I had walked, I would still always be there"

So, here are the parts I think could go. You may well think differently. Still, I think there's some selecting and whittling down to be done.

best,

Matt

I stopped at the door and took a breath,
walked into the room—a new orderly
in the worn scrubs I was given
every other night by the laundry master.
My hands were outstretched because
I didn't know what else to do with them
and the nurse looked at my hands
and walked to the table at the rear
of the room, toward the scales used to weigh
a new life as it explodes in celebration
of being free of those dark confines,
and
there on the steel table wrapped
in butcher's paper was the stillborn baby.
When I picked it up I felt the bones shift
inside the paper. The nurse whispered to me
“A girl” for some reason and then patted
me kindly one time on the shoulder
and said “Downstairs” which meant
the morgue and the woman on the bed
cried ceaselessly and her wails shot up
when I turned to the door. I did not look
at her while carrying her child in my barely
sober, shaking hands, and I headed down
the hall toward the elevator designated
for nurses and doctors and
I now know
regardless of how fast I walked
I am always there, in the white room
that ballooned inside me during
my long walk to the morgue.

Last edited by Matt Q; 08-15-2018 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 08-15-2018, 01:04 PM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi John,

I had trouble with a room "ballooning" inside the narrator.
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Old 08-15-2018, 04:41 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks for reading, guys. Matt, my problem with the poem right now is I don't think I like it very much. It's a true story I don't mind saying but maybe that's all it is. It isn't taking off. Your suggestions cut the wordiness. I will use them for revision. Then I'll have to wait and see how I feel. Sometimes I just don't like them once they're in some semblance of shape. Edward, I still like "ballooning." I'm a little surprised you're having trouble with it.

Thanks again,
John
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Old 08-15-2018, 05:07 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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John,

I like a lot of this. I think it could use a different title, and maybe stanza breaks to help the reader in. I do agree with some of Matt's cuts, particularly the first one. I played with the second one. I don't like "ballooning" either.

Here's the way I would make a first edit, and perhaps this might help generate a revision you like:

First Night

I stopped at the door and took a breath.
My hands were outstretched because
I didn't know what else to do with them

and the nurse looked at my hands
and walked to the table toward the scales
used to weigh a new life as it explodes

in celebration of being free of dark confines,
and there on the steel table wrapped
in butcher's paper was the stillborn baby.

When I picked it up I felt the bones shift
inside the paper. The nurse whispered to me
“A girl” for some reason and then patted

me kindly one time on the shoulder
and said “Downstairs” which meant
the morgue and the woman on the bed

cried ceaselessly and her wails shot up
when I turned to the door. I did not look
at her while carrying her child in my barely

sober, shaking hands, and I headed down
the hall toward the elevator designated
for nurses and doctors and I now know

regardless of how fast I walked
I am always there, in the white room
about to walk to the morgue.
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Old 08-15-2018, 06:38 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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You said this might be prose poetry and I think you're right. On another thread recently (on metrical board) someone identified a posted poem as prose with line breaks. He was simply identifying the language of it as prose. He continued, saying, "there's nothing wrong with that" but the implication, IMO, was it was not written in poetic language. That's sometimes a difficult line to draw (and identify) but I do think there is a line. This poem of your, again IMO, is on the prose side of the line.

This story has poetic energy but I think it lacks the poetic imagination and imagery (and perhaps metaphor) that conventional poetic expression relies on. Perhaps if you did a radical condensing as Matt and Andrew suggest it would bring out the poetry that is latent in this.
But if this is to be prose poetry then the question becomes how to format it.
I think you could just embrace this as a prose poem and treat it as such with no line breaks. Or you could just fly in the face of it all and have fun with the format to bridge the poetry/prose gap. Something like this (or even something more radical):


I stopped at the door and took a breath.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxMy hands were outstretched because
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxI didn't know what else to do with them
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand the nurse looked at my hands
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand walked to the table toward the scales
used to weigh a new life as it explodes
in celebration of being free of dark confines,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand there on the steel table wrapped
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxin butcher's paper was the stillborn baby.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWhen I picked it up I felt the bones shift
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxinside the paper. The nurse whispered to me
“A girl” for some reason and then patted
me kindly one time on the shoulder
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxand said “Downstairs” which meant
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe morgue and the woman on the bed
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxcried ceaselessly and her wails shot up
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxwhen I turned to the door. I did not look
at her while carrying her child in my barely
sober, shaking hands, and I headed down
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe hall toward the elevator designated
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxfor nurses and doctors and I now know
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxregardless of how fast I walked
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxI am always there, in the white room
about to walk to the morgue.


You asked, "I'd like to know if it works for you regardless of how it's shaped on the page." The long answer is above, but the short answer is no, not as written. It doesn't feel like it has been "opened up" yet.

Hope this helps.
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  #10  
Old 08-16-2018, 06:56 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks, Andrew and Jim. I will keep your suggestions Andrew, have no problem with them. I think though the problem is deeper than that. It never goes from being a recitation of events.

Jim, I agree with you.

Last edited by John Riley; 08-16-2018 at 09:19 AM.
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