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Old 08-22-2018, 10:59 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Default Staying On Top

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Staying on Top

Today we are skipping like bugs on custard
but still the phone hangs heavy in my hand.
They came, your great-grandchildren, all of a sudden,
yesterday, not when you told me they were coming.

Oh, they were lovely. I could have gobbled them up!
I ran to meet you over the shiny surface;
here was a happiness I could hold for you:
Tell me about them, love. What are their names?

Too sharp a question, piercing the thin skin,
opened a hole into the cold coagulation
that lies in wait under the bright moments.
A quick step backward, flicking a wet foot,

it doesn’t matter, love, they’ll come back later.
Let’s see if I can help you to remember -
first of all, darling, are they boys or girls?
A silence. I don’t know. But they were lovely.

Oh, I can feel the whole thick of it shifting;
keep it light, keep it light. We hop on our little legs,
their feathery ends tapping out empty messages
one-two-three-four on top of the shuddering custard.



Staying on Top

Today we are skipping like bugs on custard
but still the phone hangs heavy in my hand.
They came, your great-grandchildren, all of a sudden,
yesterday, not when you told me they were coming.

Oh, they were lovely. I could have gobbled them up!
I ran to meet you over the shiny surface;
here was a happiness I could hold for you:
Tell me about them, love. What are their names?

Too sharp a question, piercing the thin skin,
opened a hole into the cold coagulation
that lies in wait under the bright moments.
A quick step backward, flicking a wet foot,

it doesn’t matter; it’ll come back later,
but if you like we can look for them now -
first of all, darling, are they boys or girls?

A silence. I don’t know. But they were lovely.

Oh, I can feel the whole thick of it shifting;
keep it light, keep it light. We hop on our little legs,
their feathery ends tapping out empty messages
one-two-three-four on top of the shuddering custard.

Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 08-23-2018 at 02:23 AM. Reason: revision.
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Old 08-22-2018, 02:10 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Ann, for now I’ll only say how impressed I am by how well you sustain the metaphor for the very difficult situation.
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:02 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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I am just back on line Ann and having this to come back to is wonderful.

There is magic in your deft hands and eye, bugs on custard indeed.

Thank you,

Jan
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Old 08-22-2018, 04:05 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Annie,

I agree with Ralph that the metaphor, which could be absurdly silly, somehow works here. A moment like 'A quick step backward, flicking a wet foot,' makes cartoon-vivid that sense of desperately trying to keep the conversation light.

I think I get what's going on, but I am a little confused about the situation, and here's where I'm probably just being dim. I'm not sure who the N is speaking with on the phone. I assume a friend rather than a relative, otherwise 'your great-grandchildren' would sound odd since they would also be the N's 'something' (grandchildren/nephews/nieces etc). And I assume the person has Alzheimer's or similar. But the line 'but if you like we can look for them now' threw me. Or are they in the same room and N is showing the person something on a new-fangled smartphone? A Facebook post or similar?

Am I just being thick? I feel like I have the emotional thrust of the poem, which I like, but a couple of moments of bafflement are taking me out of it.
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Old 08-23-2018, 02:34 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Bless you, Ralph and Jan.

Mark - whoops, good catch. I won't say more yet, but I've just done a quick revision on the strength of your comment. This is a landline conversation (and even my mobile phone is not a looker-upper) ...
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Old 08-23-2018, 07:39 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Ann, this poem is really good, and devastating. "Keep it light, keep it light"—the way the rhythm and sense meet in this crucial command is excruciating. (That's a good thing—for the poem.)

I think you should go back to the original for S4L2. It's more vivid, and the switch from "it'll" to "they'll" in S4L1 I think fully clears up the ambiguity that confused Mark.
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Old 08-23-2018, 02:09 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I've read this a few times now and am still unsure what the situation is. We aren't given enough info to know and I guess that is intended. The first two stanzas throw me off the most. I know one of the characters has trouble remembering facts and details. I assume the older one.

I like this but the emotional impact is certainly slanted by my inability to have a firm picture. This may not be a negative. Love that opening line and enjoyed the poem

John
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Old 08-24-2018, 02:32 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Ann,

I take Aaron's point that changing 'it'll' to 'they'll' would help the original next line work. I had thought the N was suggesting looking for the actual children, not the person's memories of their names. Make sense?

The relationship between the two isn't explicit, but I don't think it need be. It could be an old friend, an elderly neighbour. The depiction of the situation's delicate dance is crystal clear.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:52 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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This is really good, Ann. I don't have much to add, except that I agree with the change from it'll to they'll. Not so much in terms of clarity, but it'll sounds too direct here. Original and poignant and thoroughly enjoyed.

JB
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:49 PM
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Ann, it's weird, but good weird, and funny.
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