Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poem One



His youth of
two-and-a-half American bathrooms, one sibling, so no
doubts about what was whose,
he doesn't quite get this

supermarket promotion's free engraving of your name
on the handle with purchase
of toothbrush. His must be the first: Despite the engraver's shadow
hard over the sharp-eyed apprentice's shoulder,

their machine wiped to a precisely white incisor's
approximation of sterility,
they have to start over four times
on fresh brushes. Swinging door interruptions. The street's

black-eyed clatter,
a bandage-for-a-sari beggar's dropped
cup as she restrains her leashed monkey's
foaming lunge at their shared mirage's boar-and-lobster-

bloated parliament. Like his
just-that-morning falling hard as though pushed, that
milk powder scam
so fusty even its

perpetrators can't believe it still works.
He blames those tiny on the hot,
jagged sidewalk bare feet of the young girls.
A flanking flirtation, flame-smart

framing their pitch with a pinky's
dab of ash around each eye, the essence
of hunger's raw daintiness.
His real anger is at that, he bets,

disgusting percentage the shopkeeper kept
when, soon as he turned the corner, they returned to be sold again
that tin of milk powder he'd purchased for their "little sister."
Close to ten dollars.

A price that even his shopaholic aunt in New Brunswick pronounces
via email so outrageous for India it should've
shocked him instantly to running.
He toys with having them engrave

settles on his parents' schnauzer's name, Dudley.
Sometimes his mother
brushes Dudley's teeth;

that was a toothbrush
it made sense to label.

So that's the opening poem in a manuscript I've been working on called, tentatively, India Possible.

As you know I'm seeking comments. A few questions to give you some idea what I'd like: Is it confusinderivativeay? Is it derivitive? Is there a part of the poem that lost you? Like, you were truckin' along and then derailed. Are there any blatant cliches or grammatical boo-boos? Does it WORK??

Really, anything would be helpful.

Anonymity--set thy tongue free! Thanks.


At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Pete. I am not one of your esteemed poet friends but know some of them and one in particular. (This whole Anonymous thing is making me feel sneaky and mysterious...I like it.) So, I normally feel inadequate when it comes to assessing poetry in any way. But I decided that for one thing, maybe the comments of a non-poet (read: normal person) would actually be helpful to you in a different way. And for another thing, it would be a good challenge for me to trust myself to say more than "It's good" or "I like it" or "Weird" or "I don't get it" when asked to read a poem. And if my comments aren't much more intelligent than my usual standbys, well then, who cares, it's anonymous!
So, I would say, I like that this poem starts with something personal and ends with something personal. It makes me feel like a real person wrote it so it doesn't seem too lofty or hard for me to relate to. The first time I read it I got derailed around the parliament and remained confused until Osama. But on the second and third reads, the only thing I remained confused about was very specifically the "boar-and-lobster-bloated parliament." Where or who are the parliament in this story? I love: "framing their pitch with a pinky's dab of ash around each eye, the essence of hunger's raw daintiness." It was so alive to me--I pictured the young girls facing each other and applying the ash to each other's eyes. The last line is funny.
That's all I got.
Sorry for the looooong comment.
p.s. Ain't pomes sposed to rime?

At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a little lost at:

at their shared mirage's boar-and-lobster-

bloated parliament. Like his
just-that-morning falling hard as though pushed, that

apart from that cool poem! Post more please!

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like the person who previously commented anonymously, I too am not a poet and have in the past been apprehensive about commenting on poetry. Now, as anonymous #2, I feel free to do so. Thank you for liberating me, NationofPete. I got lost at the part about lobster parliament, and where you use the word "tiny." But I liked the poem.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it's really cool that you're offering this direct-feedback thing. it carves away the wall between writing and reading, and somehow removes my computer screen in the process.....

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Pete,

The impressions are videolike, and I definitely get an overall feel. I like the detail of "not quite getting" the stores personalized toothbrush promotion. I've had that same feeling when travelling in 3rd World countries---the sadness of small-time entrepreneurial gestures.
I also get that the milk-poweder scam involves someone falling hard after being "bumped" into. But why did "he" (your protagonist) buy the milk powder for the mascara-daubing young girls? The deliberate pratfall did not seem to be done by them. Were they perhaps in on the scam as distractions? And what about that boar-and-lobster image? Maybe the human tableau composed of customer, toothbrush engraver, and engraver's apprentice caused the monkey to lunge foamingly?
It doesn't matter. These questions raised by the piece show that lots of intriguing visual information was being thrown at me quickly. I could enjoy reading through a whole collection.


At 10:43 AM, Blogger la Ketch said...

hmmmmm...... i love it!

keep them coming pete!

At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading this--it certainly puts me there. A while ago, I became somewhat hesitant about offering advice, as so much of it starts to just sound like "here's how to sound like ME" advice, but, that being said, this really does seem like an open forum where you're looking for lots of different angles of input... So, that being said, here is my humble commentary:

The whole pig and lobster thing is a bit dizzying--but that doesn't bother me, as it feels appropriate in the surreal nature of the surroundings. What I might consider is making some of the other parts that are more traditionally (well, not THAT traditional) narrative into passages like that. Maybe leave some gaps in the steps of the story.

As this piece leans into the narrative, it makes sense that my response reminds me of an old fiction teacher at an unnamed school in the suburban desert who used to say "cut 10%" or "cut 20%" or whatever of a story...I'm reminded of that here--I'd like to see how it feels with just a bit less offered up. Does that make sense?

This, of course, is just what I might suggest, from the obvious context of my own sensibilities. Understood, I know, but here, with this first poem on here, I thought it was important to note.

I really like it...and a whole manuscript of this vibe/subject/world? That will be sweet....

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you know the story, it always works better. At least for me. But I was always a bit dense when we did the MUFWA thang back in college. I remember commenting on the line Cory wrote "The member unfolds itself" by saying, "That just makes me think of a dick." Which, of course, it was. Anyhow, nicely done.


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