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  #1  
Unread 03-25-2021, 12:34 AM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Default Citizen Swallow

Citizen Swallow revised


She does a lotta talkin’. This country don’t see me
and I don’t wanna be seen. I was born here
but this ain’t never been my country.
She smiles, tells me that’s jus’ me makin’
my anger precious cuz it got no place to go.
Now … I got me a pension and a house.
I ain’t no veteran but I outlasted a few things.
Gettin old, need to keep movin.
She keep tellin’ me the freedom
to be uninvolved ain’t no kind of success.

I walk a lot with no place to go.
Musta turned wrong somewhere. That’s OK.
I’ll get back. No need to ask for directions.
Done maybe fourteen, fifteen miles today.
Seen those birds at dusk with the curved-knife wings,
Blue-black on top, kinda orange beneath.
They got a nest stuck up in the corner outside the strip-mall gym.
Three little baby birds, heads pokin out over some sticks and spit.
No amount of traffic or nothin’ we build stops ‘em
from flyin’ food to those babies. Yeah. I like that.

Blamed all those times behind bars. Hell,
I blamed whatever could see, speak, or hear.
Was crazy enough to think I had a book in me.
Weren’t smart enough or man enough to write it.
But, look here, them pages keep turnin’.
Yeah, she right, I shoulda tried harder.
Those birds keep flyin’.
She say they like me but that’s just more talk.
I ain’t no fucking bird. I got one kid
and no more time to give to history.

Citizen Swallow


She does a lotta talkin’. This country don’t see me
and I don’t wanna be seen. I was born here
but this ain’t never been my country.
She smiles, tells me that’s jus’ me makin’
my anger precious cuz it got no place to go.
Now … I got me a pension and a house.
I ain’t no veteran but I outlasted a few things.
Gettin old now, need to keep movin.
She keep tellin’ me the freedom
to be uninvolved ain’t no kind of success.

I’m walkin’ with no place to go.
Musta turned wrong awhile back. That’s OK.
I’ll get back. No need to ask for directions.
Done maybe fourteen, fifteen miles today.
Seen those birds at dusk with the curved-knife wings,
Blue-black on top, kinda orange beneath.
They got a nest stuck up in the corner outside the strip-mall gym.
Three little baby birds, heads pokin out over some sticks and spit.
No amount of traffic or nothin’ we build stops ‘em
from flyin’ food to those babies. Yeah. I like that.

Blamed all those times behind bars. Hell,
I blamed whatever could see, speak, or hear.
Was crazy enough to think I had a book in me.
Weren’t clever enough or man enough to write it.
But, look here, them pages keep turnin’.
Yeah, she right, I shoulda tried harder.
Those birds keep flyin’.
She say they like me but that’s just more talk.
I ain’t no fucking bird. I got one kid
and no more time to give to history.

Last edited by Bill Dyes; 03-28-2021 at 04:23 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-25-2021, 09:10 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Hello.
Your use of diction here seems appropriate, the narrator's voice is both strengthened and enlivened by it. With the voice comes almost an image. The lineation shifts uncomfortably for me, the poem does not seem much like it needs it. It could equally be as successful as a prose poem, or if you are too attached to it, possibly consider how or where you are breaking the lines and whether the meaning could be structured through superior line breaks.

It doesn't seem harmful to the poem to reveal the woman's identity. I am biased toward thinking of her as some psychologist, but she could also as likely be a sister or a mother. I think her identity is important to the ultimate interpretation, since as a reader I have been conditioned to be more trustful of a mother or a sister's opinion vs. that of an official or psychologist. Saying that, I enjoy very much the ambiguity over whether the reader should view the narrator's final revelation as noble or misguided. I am not sure I can totally trust it.

The poem is very Wordsworthian. the narrator's epiphany comes straight from the observance of nature, the revelation of the human in the inhuman, or at least in the human-imagination of the inhuman. The progression is clever but a little confusing. At first I thought that l1 logically suggested that the next following few lines were the woman's opinion not the narrator's. There also seems some vaguely prosaic baggage you could remove, safely, I believe. For semi-instance, I'm not sure the comments on being lost and yet not asking for help are exactly successful. I can see the symbolic illumination of the narrator's personality they reveal, but they seem a little ineffectual at present. Maybe it's because they are so adept at blending in with all the others.

I mostly enjoyed this.

Hope this helps.
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  #3  
Unread 03-25-2021, 10:43 AM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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I liked this, especially “heads pokin out over some sticks and spit.”

Best, Allen
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  #4  
Unread 03-25-2021, 01:05 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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This seems a little raw, in the new poem sense, Bill. The voice needs to be driven by a bit of harsher sharpness. Or sharper harshness. Imo. If this were mine, I wouldn't be able to resist starting with My anger precious cuz it got no place to go. A first impression. I'll keep thinking about it.
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  #5  
Unread 03-26-2021, 05:55 AM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Mr. Clark;

"Superior line breaks". Certainly, this can be made better in places but whether it's labeled a poem in the end or something vaguely prosaic is not a chief concern of mine.
That the woman has no specific identity works for me as well. But I'm beginning to believe the man does need a destination instead of walking aimlessly.
Diction, I'm not sure what you mean. All speech displays diction.

Thank you Mr. Tice.

Mr. Brancheau;

Less raw with a bit more sharper harshness to it. Hmmm ... the raw and the cooked. I don't think it really needs more cooking. Well ... maybe slightly.

Thanks guys for stopping by and commenting. It does help.

Bill
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  #6  
Unread 03-26-2021, 09:16 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I like this, Bill. The people feel real to me, both the speaker and the woman. The poem touches big themes having to do with personal responsibility, with the excuses and narratives we make for ourselves, with the nature and paradox of freedom. But it all emerges subtly from the voice, so it never feels heavy-handed or didactic, at least to me. The description of the birds in S2 is great, vivid writing and though it starts to feel slightly like it might get into over-familiar poetic territory here, with the birds as metaphor or counterpoint to the speaker’s situation, I think it’s done so naturally (“Yeah. I like that”) that the poem gets away with it. And the idea is nicely undercut at the end anyway.

I suppose there are various ways the poem could be “tightened up”, but I can’t think what really, or why it would need to be. It feels structured to me. The speaker has been on an inner journey and reached some sort of destination or resolve and the sad, slow, ruminating voice carries me through it.

I find “Was crazy enough to think I had a book in me. / Weren’t clever enough or man enough to write it” very moving btw, as I do the poem as whole.
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  #7  
Unread 03-26-2021, 09:45 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I like the humble dignity of this, and the wee celebration of the survival of the natural (swallows) despite human interference. Despite the narrator's denial that he has much in common with the swallow, I can't help reflecting on some of the many ways in which "traffic" and things, both concrete and abstract, that "we" humans "build" interfere with living beings, including humanity itself. Our own individual and collective survival often seems to be despite so-called civilization, rather than because of it. And lots of societal ills are due to human-built worldviews and corporate enterprises and large-scale barriers to others' advancement.

I got off on the wrong foot in the poem at first, because I assumed that the "I" statements that came immediately after "She does a lotta talkin’" were reporting direct discourse, rather than expressing the thoughts of the narrator. Then I got to "She smiles, tells me that’s jus’ me makin’ /
my anger precious cuz it got no place to go," and I realized that the "that's just me" must be referring to something the narrator had said. And only then did it occur to me that the speaker of "This country don’t see me / and I don’t wanna be seen. I was born here / but this ain’t never been my country" might be the narrator, rather than the "She."

I'm not sure if you'd like to clarify that, or if you are fine with the momentary confusion. I think most readers will sort it out eventually.
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  #8  
Unread 03-26-2021, 02:33 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a poem like this (done well, anyway). It’s very good. You create the narrator’s voice very clearly, very early on (it’s a killer of an opening). And the sense of character builds as I read.

The image of the baby birds juxtaposed with the lost narrator (whose reaction to the birds humanises them, takes them beyond a stereotype) is really effective, done very well.

Personally I think that the walking with nowhere to go works, and the ‘turned wrong awhile back’ is hugely poignant in the dual meaning, without being sentimental or manipulative.

The more I read this, the more I recognise how good it is. The poem invites empathy in the way only good poems can - and without being frilly or sentimental or reducing the central character.

I think the only critical point I can offer is that the ‘book in me’ stood out for me. I wonder why the book is so important to the character so far at that pinch-point time. I also wonder about ‘citizen’ in the title, why not just ‘swallows’. The ‘citizen’ brings in all kinds of other ideas about community and the French Revolution. The point about the swallow being a good role-model (nurturing, keeping on) is made within the poem anyway.

So those are my only two passing thoughts, and they’re very minor. The poem works for me.

Sarah-Jane

Last edited by Jane Crowson; 03-26-2021 at 02:36 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 03-26-2021, 02:51 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Ok, Bill. But the voice seems put on. I mean, it's a longer piece, by my standards, and that's hard to sustain. It just gets a little costumey, the in' stuff most especially. The verbal ticks are surely more intricate. But you have real dynamite here. I ain't no fucking bird made me laugh out loud.
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  #10  
Unread 03-27-2021, 09:32 AM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Default Citizen Swallow

Mark:

I agree that this piece needs some "tightening up'.
But at this point I need to be careful because it has already been much revised.
I am relying on more time with it to show me when and where I need to revise it again.

Thanks for your reading. It is encouraging.

Julie;

That opening ambiguity of the voice was unintential but it felt to me, for a moment,
like it was the voice of the country speaking to him so I kept it.
And it also quicky resolves into something, someone else.
She is simply someone whose known him for a long time. Wiser than him and he knows it.

Ms Crowson;

Your commentray is very clear and helpful.
I have noticed it when it was given to others.

I've always felt but could never proove that
for every one who becomes an acitivist out of a sense of community
there are ten more whose sense of community has been destroyed.
"Citizen" is a conceit ascribed with more cynicism than hope.

Thanks so much.

James:

'a put on' and 'a little costumey'. I'm sure others will agree with you.
But I know this man and I would not and have not betrayed him.

Bill
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