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Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Revision #1:


He can see his grandfather standing
on a dark, hardwood floor like the one
of his new apartment, a cuspidor
at his feet;

shadows inch into storage bins
and deaf corners of the house.

the halogen bloom of summer across
tile roofs and shining into the eyes
of dogs with jeweled collars;

the landlady offers lease papers,
he stares into the street;

a Japanese woman passes by,
he notes her lapel floret, her body
slight as his wife's on their
wedding day, she moves into focus
as on a photographer’s glass plate.

His wife had not called all day
and he was unable to remember
when his daughter would arrive
from school;

egg-shell colored hair feels thin
in his hand;

an hour later he turns
to the landlady, but the room
is empty; he finds his silver flask,
swallows a single capful;

grains of dust fall on his shoulders,
his watch is missing, a scuffed left
shoe untied.

In the fireplace mirror,
he notices how old he has become;
blue eyes aged to hardened steel,
unclipped brows drooping to form
a hood; his glasses and cheeks
grow wet;

The effect is a man's face struck
by rain while waiting for a taxi.






Orignal:

The long, dark boards of the floor remind
him of dead men tip to toe in a war zone;

a calm summer, shadows inch into
storage bins and deaf corners of the house.

the halogen bloom of summer across tile
roofs and dogs with jeweled collars;

the landlady offers lease papers, he stares
into the street;

a Japanese woman passes close by;
he notes her lapel floret, her body moves
into focus as on a photographer’s glass plate.

No call all day from his wife and he could not
remember when his daughter would arrive
home from school;

his white hair the color of egg-shell feels
thin in his hand;

an hour later he turns to the landlady,
but the room is empty; he finds his silver
flask, swallows a single capful;

grains of dust fall on his shoulders,
his watch is missing, a scuffed left
shoe untied.

In the fireplace mirror, he notices how old
he has become; blue eyes simmered
to sword hard steel, the unclipped brows
drooping to form a hood; his glasses
and cheeks grow wet;

The effect is of a man in a downpour
wating for a taxi.




Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/25/2013, 10:22 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/13/2013, 4:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Bernie,

A lot of superior writing. Too much good stuff to quote. Some problems though: 1) The narrator appears to be trying to hard to attach modifiers, and in some cases they stretch credulity. For example: "deaf" corners. I would prefer something common like "far" corners. 2) "halogen" bloom of summer also stretches credulity. It's trying to do what John Donne did in his poetry, which is to use what was then the current technology in his poetry, except that here it doesn't work. 3) "her body moves
into focus as on a photographer’s glass plate" is yet another example. You don't even need to say on a photographer's glass.

The first stanza mentions something about veterans, but the poem really doesn't seem to get that that frame of reference again until the stanza about not getting a call from his wife.

Again, really good stuff, but in this case the modifiers don't seem to fit or to be necessary. This is just one take on it, so don't throw it away, don't rewrite just yet. Zak

quote:

Bernie01 wrote:

The long, dark boards of the floor remind
him of dead men buried at Arlington;

a calm summer, a child’s boat could not be
blown across a lake; shadows inch into
storage bins and deaf corners of the house.

The halogen bloom of summer across tile
roofs and dogs with jeweled collars;

The landlady offers lease papers, he stares
into the street;

a Japanese woman passes close by;
he notes her lapel floret, her body moves
into focus as on a photographer’s glass plate.

No call all day from his wife and he could not
remember when his daughter would arrive
home from school;

his white hair the color of egg-shell feels
thin in his hand;

an hour later he turns to the landlady,
but the room is empty; he finds his silver
flask, swallows a single capful;

grains of dust fall on his shoulders,
his watch is missing, a scuffed left
shoe untied.

In the fireplace mirror, he notices how old
he has become; blue eyes simmered
to sword hard steel, the unclipped brows
drooping to form a hood; his glasses
and cheeks grow wet;

The effect is of a man in a downpour
wating for a taxi.


Jun/15/2013, 9:33 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Z---

ditched Arlington. just dead men heel to toe....now.

the language modifiers, deaf corners, halogen summer....photographer's glass plate.

over the top, working too hard?

this is the narrator's language, not mine, not yours...maybe. is it in character for the narrator/poem, blended into overall subject matter, is it consistant with other images? is it original, fresh?

that is often what makes me decide an issue like that. just don't believe you've heard that before, well, i haven't....LOL.

glass plate, I think of a fancy dinner at Le Cirque ---- my date said she could see her face in the plate...(this was before Kathleen, but still, probably better to not mention this story...)


sooooo, photographer's glass plate.

and remember, this is a man who notices jeweled collars on dogs, a lapel floret on a woman's jacket and tile roofs.

he's going to cry at the end of this poem, i want him stronger than you or i, stronger than a reader who might at first blush be inclined to dismiss him...

thanks again.


bernie

Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/25/2013, 1:07 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/16/2013, 8:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Hi Bernie,

It took me a while to realize there was something askew about the time sequence of the events described in the poem, but the enjoyment of discovery was part of my pleasure while reading this poem. I love all the little details, which come together to paint the scene so well. For example:

“deaf corners of the house” “halogen bloom of summer” “a scuffed left/ shoe untied”

My two hiccups with the poem come at the beginning and the end:

The first stanza as it stands doesn’t work for me, but that might be just me. I have a friend who gives talks on the American Civil War. I often help him edit the presentations and then go along with him to help set up, run the power point, pass out handouts and hard tack, etc. In a number of the talks he gives, he speaks about the battlefield dead with appropriate accompanying images. The only way I can see long, dark floorboards reminding someone of dead men in a war zone is if I imagine the men in body bags. The bloody, bloated corpses themselves, some with missing heads and limbs, intestines hanging out, for example, would not look like nice neat floorboards. My suggestion would be to change “dead men” to “body bags” or to drop the stanza altogether. When I try starting with “a calm summer” stanza, the poem seems to read all of a piece.

I like the last stanza but feel the word “downpour” is overkill. I would prefer something more subtle there. Couldn't it just be "raining" and let the reader imagine how hard?

Thanks for posting, Bernie. Much enjoyed.

HTH,
Kat
Jun/24/2013, 10:41 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


hi Kat---


made the change to the opening and ending verses.

thanks for prompting my return to this sunny apartment that houses the unhappiness of a man with a failing memory.


a skull and cross bones man.

a society marriage.

this is a captain of industry. probably helped start the studebaker car company, or the importation of bananas from Equador.

can't you see him calm as a summer day as he commands an american destroyer with the japanese navy firing broadsides.

his great affection for his daughter, his near monogamous relationship to his wife---and hers to him.

you can hear him discuss a brief interlude of wife swapping here:

http://tinyurl.com/nbngzqb



and now, now. his brain betrays him and we find him in this poem.

thanks again.


bernie


Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/25/2013, 1:11 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/25/2013, 1:05 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Hey Bernie,

We've spoken of Hall and Kenyon. I came across this essay by Hall in the New Yorker I thought you might enjoy as I did:

Three Beards

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/06/three-beards.html
 
Jun/27/2013, 12:06 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


K---


thanks so much. i would have missed reading his remembrance.

three things---

i was reminded that it can be helpful to reader and writer to have a spine, in this case a beard that holds a dozen stories and developments together.


Second, this opening sentence:

Five years later, I married Jane Kenyon,

i qulickly realized, but now prefer my reading mistake and one day i will write this simple declarative:

Every five years i married jane kenyon.
 
may change the name, maybe make it a figurative statement, a man who likes her poetry---like my flirtation with Joan Baez---
over 40 years.

Finally, this line:

quote:

“I want to put my legs around your head.” (It was perfect iambic pentameter.) When we woke up, we became friends.




  
we should all spend time remembering, learning to imbue our work with warmth, clarity, heartbreak, and evocative story telling.


thanks again for posting the link.


bernie



(I have a poem about him at U of Michigan ---will go find it and see what changes i would make now after this New Yorker essay.)












---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/27/2013, 12:40 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


K---

whoops...think i did something wrong, my post didn't post....


i thanked you for the link, it was a wonderful read.

reminded me of how useful a spine can be, a theme, symbol or other element like that running through the work to help link and focus a varity of otherwise unconnected story elements and details.


second,

i was glad i misread his statement about marrying jane kenyon five years later.

Every five years i married jane kenyon.

i'll write that as a delarative opener, maybe change the name, maybe make it a figurative love affair between the narrator and a literary subject---like my 40 year affair with joan baez---of which, kathleen has no hint---but she probably has a similar secret regarding Leonard Cohen or Tom Jones. .

finally, i especially enjoyed this brief exchange:

“I want to put my legs around your head.” (It was perfect iambic pentameter.) When we woke up, we became friends.



hall's essay reminded me of the need for warmth, clarity, detail and provocative narrative movement.

thanks again.


(wrote a poem about Hall---when he was still teaching at U of Michigan.wonder what change i might make with this new information)


bernie



five years ago...


Tone Deaf At U. Of Michigan

The bees in the faculty housing quadrangle
are yellow with pollen and can’t fly straight.

I’m no better with Wild Turkey in a cup;

thorax raw with Chesterfields, jittery cat
and unpaid bills scattered on a bureau,
the wife's suitcase packed, the China
boxed and put away.

I take the Maserati for a night drive
along blackened parks and house shells,
the grim city pressed into printer ink
and rolled out flat.

I want to say poems for you; pens, papers
fill the pockets of my cowboy shirt. I tape
apologies to the mirror, unfinished letters
spill over my desk; unopened envelopes
and debts of a Sun King.

The alcohol wears off.

I want half the night with you and more,
I want to locate your dented pillow
still scented with your hair;

I am a school boy who cannot think
what to write in my school book.

I will teach dead sober next term,
burn candles in my nose and juggle
onions for an audience of fish.




Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/27/2013, 1:31 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/27/2013, 12:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Bernie,

I love your misread of Hall's sentence:

Every five years i married jane kenyon.

Here's a funny thing. Two days ago I got out my copy of Otherwise because something about your poem, this poem, reminded me, I thought, of one of her poems about summer. My intention was to find the poem and quote from it or give you a link. Then this morning I came across the Hall essay and mention of Kenyon ended up in this thread after all.

So, you’ve heard Hall read? I’ve heard Kinnell read and Bly read (twice) but not Hall. I never got to hear Kenyon read either, and as she was my favorite poet for a time, I always hoped/thought I would. Maybe it's time I fall in love with JK again.

Last edited by Katlin, Jun/27/2013, 1:18 pm
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Katlin Profile
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Re: Two Bedrooms, Fireplace and Hardwood Floors


Hi Bernie,

I like all the changes you've made in the revision, including the comparison of the Japanese woman's "slight" body to his wife's. I think this hangs together well and makes a compelling portrait. Strong poem.
Jun/29/2013, 9:23 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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