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Old 03-22-2003, 06:40 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Hard Winter

People call this kind of woman strong.
The weather of her life has not been fair;
Her face shows she’s been out in it too long.
A taxi’s on its way in the raw air.
She got a call, she tells me, from the vet,
Saying the cat is not responding well.
Though she speaks calmly, clearly she’s upset,
And clearly there’s too much she wants to tell.
“She sleeps in my bed. I...”––she’s nearing tears––
“Undo my shirt and hold her to my breast.
We’ve lived together now eleven years.”
I wince to hear such loneliness expressed.
And God forbid that I speak honestly:
“Turn, and look away. You frighten me.”

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Old 03-22-2003, 03:22 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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This feels like a life encapsulated in one incident and seen through the eye of someone sympatheitc and sensitive--perhaps a neighbor--but from outside. I love the honesty with which the speaker turns away emotionally at the end--having winced, true--nevertheless eager to be removed from this scene. The homely event, told in the present, is matched by homely language that works perfectly.

The use of dialogue is persuasive, including the indirect dialogue that gives us the vet's report: "...the cat is not responding well." A phrase like that recalls many such medical interviews, involving human patients too. The emotion that follows is universal, whatever the patient.
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Old 03-23-2003, 03:36 PM
nyctom nyctom is offline
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I haven't really read the sonnets this year--I guess you have to be in the right mood for a brace of sonnets like this--but I wanted to tell you I was genuinely moved by this. I don't think it's unproblematic as a poem--I found it excessively endstopped, the movement from your persona from apparent calm to teetering on tear is a bit abrupt, and the line of the taxi made me think it was floating on air like that Harry Potter car--but the second half of this is so emotionally honest and compelling it reminded me of the portraits of Edward Arlington Robinson. It isn't sentimental--it has earned its poignancy. And her voice rings there true. Thank you for posting it.
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Old 03-24-2003, 09:22 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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I'm pleased to see Tom Pickering's eloquent praise for this. I stumbled over the ending, but Tom has zeroed in on that taxi line. Looking at it afresh, I think the first quatrain could be profitably dropped. A ten liner to die for...or with.
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:34 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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Would it help, Tim, if the poet began with line 5 and then worked the first quatrain in elsewhere? I'd hate to lose it! But line 5 feels like a good opening, I can see your point.
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:57 PM
nyctom nyctom is offline
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Sure--switch the first two quatrains and rewrite the taxi line. It isn't integral that she is waiting for a cab, and that would free up a line to connect the weather trope to the hard life trope more securely:

Hard Winter

She got a call, she tells me, from the vet,
Saying the cat is not responding well.
Though she speaks calmly, clearly she’s upset,
And clearly there’s too much she wants to tell.
People call this kind of woman strong.
The weather of her life has not been fair;
Her face shows she’s been out in it too long.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX cold air.
“She sleeps in my bed. I...”––she’s nearing tears––
“Undo my shirt and hold her to my breast.
We’ve lived together now eleven years.”
I wince to hear such loneliness expressed.
And God forbid that I speak honestly:
“Turn, and look away. You frighten me.”

Perhaps, "much more" in line 4 instead of "too much"--I wonder if that "too much" is a bit overtelegraphing of intent. Also, while I like what the last two lines say in terms of content (the honesty there has tremendous depth and resonance), I wonder if there is a more graceful way of saying it. That is more a case for the pentultimate line than the last line. I just found that couplet awkward--it flails the poem across the finish line rather than snaps that tape cleanly.

Tom
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Old 03-29-2003, 06:32 PM
Alfred Nicol Alfred Nicol is offline
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The truth is that , new to Eratosphere, I didn't realize that the "bake-off' was a contest of published poems. I assumed that the sonnets had to be unpublished, so I sent Tim a poem that I'd written recently. It was a lucky mistake for me, as I was able to revise the poem, using the comments made here. I wrote to thank Tom especially for his close reading, and he suggested that I post the revised sonnet. Here it is (I would italicize the last line, if I knew how):

Hard Winter

She got a call, she tells me, from the vet,
Saying the cat is not responding well.
Though she speaks calmly, clearly she’s upset,
And clearly there’s much more she wants to tell.
The weather of her life has not been fair;
Her face shows she’s been out in it too long.
The taxi’s late. A raw, indifferent air
Goes brushing past. She’s spent with being strong.
“She sleeps in my bed. I…”–she’s nearing tears–
“Undo my shirt and hold her to my breast.
We’ve lived together now eleven years.”
I wince to hear such loneliness expressed,
My thoughts–kept to myself–unneighborly:
Turn, and look away. You frighten me.
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Old 03-29-2003, 07:31 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Great tweak, Alf.
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Old 03-30-2003, 10:37 AM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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I agree: stronger poem this way!
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Old 04-07-2003, 09:57 AM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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Good calls from Tim and Rhina. This is definitely a better poem, Alfred. A disturbing and difficult final, but appropriate to the poem.

Terese


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