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  #1  
Unread 03-22-2021, 08:18 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Actual Beings

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Actual Beings

If I tell you how hard it is to sit here
when my eyes have been opened
though the new light has yet to adhere
to the room that lost the rainbow
that lingered on the wall after the last storm
you will toss my name to the jackals
gathered outside my window
eager for their fill.
My back and legs and head
plead for me to stand and go
though you laugh with my body parts
and remind me I have no reason to complain,
that it's my decision to keep closing my eyes
to watch the people,
each in a city with its own sky—
the pregnant girl whose language I once knew
shopping for her unborn child's clothes
in an early spring's last winter blast,
while a man in the rich city is thinking of roses
although he knows roses aren't the flowers
she likes best and it's sunny
but will soon rain in Amritsar
where the prostitutes give me a glance
then turn their heads for they know
they have no chance with a man
unable to rise from his chair,
who knows he will remain here
though the rainbow has disappeared.


***



Actual Beings

If I tell you how hard it is to sit here
when my eyes have been opened
though the new light has yet to adhere
to the room that lost its rainbow
you will toss my name to the jackals
gathered outside my window
eager for their fill.
My back and legs and head
plead for me to stand and go
though you laugh with my body parts
and remind me I have no reason to complain,
that it's my decision to keep closing my eyes
to watch the people,
each in a city with its own sky—
the pregnant girl whose language I once knew
shopping for her unborn child's clothes
in an early spring's last winter blast
while a man in the rich city is thinking of roses
although he knows roses aren't the flowers
she likes best while it's sunny
but will rain soon in Amritsar
where the prostitutes give me a glance
then turn their heads for they know
they have no chance with a man
unable to rise from his chair,
who knows he will always be here
though the rainbow disappeared.

Last edited by John Riley; 03-23-2021 at 07:19 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-22-2021, 02:40 PM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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John, this has a nice large feel to it. You might disagree, though I think it would be improved by more punctuation.

Specifically, commas after these words:

opened
rainbow
blast
sunny
glance,

and possibly after:

stand and go.

Also an addition to the last line:

rainbow has disappeared.
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  #3  
Unread 03-23-2021, 07:20 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Revision posted
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  #4  
Unread 03-23-2021, 08:01 AM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Hi John, the first half reads more coherently now. I guess you don’t like commas at line ends as much as I do. To me, commas are like oil for the reader and speaker. I see two “that”s in close succession near the beginning, which distract me a little.

Altogether, an interesting journey to read.

Best.
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  #5  
Unread 03-23-2021, 10:28 AM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Default Actual Beings

I printed this poem out when I first saw it.
It was titled “Actual People” at that time.
Now it seems the “people” have become “beings” which is a demotion to my way of thinking.
The lost or vanishing rainbow feels to me to be the most dramatic event in the poem.
Though the man sitting, unable to rise from his chair and “The pregnant girl whose language I once knew” are also share in the drama and the man’s difficulties.
The narrative is a disjointed one for me.
Amritsar, India is the only place mentioned although he sees other cities and people when he closes his eyes.
Does this man possess some kind of celebrity.
It seems the “jackals” outside the window are anxious for even his ‘name’.
There was a massacre in Amritsar carried out by the British in 1919.
Might this event be relevant to the poem?
Might this man have been involved, maybe even responsible.
I'm reaching now, I know.
I find it difficult to say any more than this except that it did keep my attention throughout
and I have gone back to reread a number of times.

Bill
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  #6  
Unread 03-23-2021, 08:16 PM
Sergio F Lima Sergio F Lima is offline
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Hi John:

A nice piece, indeed. But I feel compelled to join the Greek chorus telling you that perhaps you should be more generous with punctuation, at least where it is vital to comprehension. Maybe also rephrase some of the lines that may hint to self-pity on the part of the character. As you know, readers prefer stoicism over indulgence.
Regards:
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  #7  
Unread 03-23-2021, 11:17 PM
mignon ledgard mignon ledgard is offline
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Default re: John Riley's Actual Beings

John,

Contrary to what others feel about punctuation, I think the nature of this poem works best without it. However, this means losing all of it, because random punctuation is not working (the em dash can stay). It also means that the line breaks have to change, along with separating into or adding strophes, so that these can take the place of punctuation and help the reader to understand the poem, which I like very much. It is a unique, somewhat cinematographic, set of images and the way the verb tenses switch works well for me.

I have used brackets for my insertions and scratch-out and parentheses to suggest dropping a word. I have also changed a preposition or two, marked likewise so you may see where they are.

A very enjoyable poem that changes the sense of time as I read it. The 'bumps' work well for me in this regard, and I think it would lose if it were any smoother to read than it is as I present it here, for your consideration.

Thank you!
~mignon

Actual Beings

If I tell you how hard it is to sit here
when my eyes have been opened

though the new light has yet to adhere
to the room that lost the rainbow
(that) [which] lingered on the wall after the last storm

you will toss my name to the jackals gathered
outside my window eager for their fill

My back and legs and head plead for me
to stand and go though you laugh (with)

[at] my body parts and remind me
I have no reason to complain

that it's my decision
to keep closing my eyes to watch the people
each in a city with its own sky—

the pregnant girl whose language I once knew
shopping for her unborn child's clothes

in an early spring's last winter blast
while a man in the rich city (is) think[s](ing) of roses

although he knows
roses aren't the flowers she likes best

and it's sunny but will soon rain in Amritsar
where the prostitutes give me a glance

then turn their heads for they know
they have no chance with a man
unable to rise from his chair

who knows he will remain here
though the rainbow has disappeared

.

I've come back to say, absolutely, what Cally says. Equivocally, I focused only on how to solve the mechanics and neglected the most important aspect of the poem, while I commiserate with the protagonist and admire the depth of all you captured in your profound and beautiful poem.

John,

Thanks to Cally, I’ve come back to add what I had neglected to include. A few comments from my understanding of the poem, which, seamlessly, communicates at more than one level. The depth of meaning and the smoothness of expression don’t cease to bring awe through the whole reading. Quality sustained like this is admirable and humbling to me as one who also enjoys writing.

—The devastation of a storm coming in and causing ruin, and how, personified, it bulldozes over a man’s spirit. The way the rainbow is described, paralleled to the man’s physical decline and the resulting surrender to what conveys inertia that he will not or cannot overcome. What a terrible thing to never again be able to see someone who is so close under positive light. To have been crushed so badly that it affects a man and makes him feel discarded. The rainbow that vanishes entirely by the end of the poem, which perhaps is hope that he will forget. What a blessing forgetting can be.

—Where the poem speaks of jackals gathered outside for their fill, oh my, it made me think of neighbors when I was leaving my house, which was being foreclosed. As I got in the car, I turned to look back and saw a herd pushing to get in and grab things, yelling, yanking things from one another’s hands, fighting for what I had to leave behind—no time to sell and no space to take things with me. Jackals! Versus the pedestrian vultures circling..

—I call it ‘watching life through a window,’ this situation where someone sits in the same chair all day, every day. I’ve written about this, too. The blessing of an inner landscape that allows a different reality than the inevitable waking up each day to pain and discomfort, and in the poem’s case, to cruelty personified. Oh, but you do it so beautifully that the sad situation is elevated to a much higher plain. And the details, the subtle ways in which you word to show, versus tell, like the rich man with the not favorite flowers, and the prostitutes. I love “it’s sunny but will soon rain in Amritsar,” and how sentimentality is avoided in such rending content.

—That, even after the rainbow has disappeared, he will stay where he is, gives me goosebumps. Extreme lack of energy or being so deeply depressed or in such pain that it’s out of the question to do things like evacuate before a storm or run outside when an earthquake begins.. Acceptance? Surrender? Only he knows and the poem offers much to imagine and consider..
I have no words to define how transporting the reading of this poem is for me.

I’ll be looking forward to reading your poems.
Thank you! ~m

John,

I'm back again, a third time. I'm not sure if this is how to go about it, if it should be a separate post. But a line jumped at me and I have a question:

"though you laugh with my body parts"

Is it correct, "with my body" and incorrect my suggestion to change it to "at my body"? If it is correct, my understanding of the poem changes considerably. Is it an internal dialogue and the seemingly separate characters one and the same? I'll wait for you to tell me, before I start reading it this way. I've recently been reading about Federico Garcia Lorca, and it seems that he did this; he was the father and the son in his poems. Knowing this, I went back to read his poems from a different angle. I was glad I didn't know before the first time I read them. There's something awesome about the same poem suddenly being a different poem.

Thank you!
~mignon

Last edited by mignon ledgard; 03-25-2021 at 03:17 AM. Reason: an addendum, back a third time to add a question
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  #8  
Unread 03-24-2021, 04:50 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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John, my feeling always is that your restraint with punctuation is one of the methods you have for this enormous opening up that happens in your poems, this one included. Things build and develop -- the way a cumulus cloud develops -- to the point where you have me in awe at the worlds you have conjured, the space to move in and through.

I'm reading the real world, the preferred world, are the worlds that appear when the eyes are closed, and each 'actual being' (Imagination is Reality -- that's my favourite book title, by Roberts Avens) has a world of their own. The speaker flies out around the world within worlds, returning to his room, circling back -- I don't know, but I am reminded of Oscare Wilde's story The Happy Prince. The poem gives me a panoply of beauty and hope and disappointment and longing. It is a complex of riches! Of being stuck, unable to move. Beckett country, another place I love being. Why can't the man move? What makes it impossible to move. This is something I love thinking about. And it's impossible for me not to think of Les Murray's "Absoutely Ordinary Rainbow".

I don't want this to seem like a list of literary associations!! Your poem is stand-alone captivating, aswirl. I think this is what I am most taken with -- the sensation of movement. And it's also an irony because the man feels he can't move.

It's a living, breathing thing, being taken into this poem.

Wonderful, John!

Cally
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  #9  
Unread 03-24-2021, 09:41 PM
mignon ledgard mignon ledgard is offline
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Cally,

Every comment of yours is a poem..

~m
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  #10  
Unread 03-28-2021, 02:43 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I just realized this is a poem about how I feel here today. I’m tired and the wind is whipping the magnolia and the Japanese maple outside my window and all I can do is close my eyes and be elsewhere. I’m alone, as usual. Sometimes I can be where I am right now and stay punctuated by my regular breathing while other times my thoughts race and my breathing is out of control and I end up breathless and somewhere else. It depends on how my mood and my COPD lungs are doing. This is a poem about desperate imagination in a not-so-young man.

Thanks to everyone who read it and commented. I always cut and past the comments into the poem file and use them in revision.

Best
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