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Critically Charles (The Villain Series)

Whenever I mention poetry
He responds with a well rehearsed
Speech on the necessity of revolution
Within art – he will not say
He thinks my poems are smart
Too clever or, in fact, too soft
He only ever remarks my genius
Is an early diamond in the rough

His soliloquies never vary, even when
Drunk, half-awake, mid-day sober
He rolls out the self-same skill song
Layered with iconic names he precisely drops
As grace notes – passwords, really
Until I begin to gather this is not
Simply, all he has to say on the topic
Of verse, it’s, frankly, all he’s got

The trouble is he doesn’t speak
The broken language of poetry
He mistakes metaphor for revelation
When I say “Sapho is Dianna” he
Protests “Dianna was not Greek”
If I describe him as a changeling
He’s flattered yet troubled by my
Need for obliquely encrypted speech

He is an armchair tourist for whom
Poetry is but another country he feels
He’s justly measured in paces through
The digestion of a few critical books
Why visit an idyll when it’s best works
Like history, have all been written?
Poetry, then, is an ancient altar in a dead city
A toil meaningful only to women

Yet poetry promises no terra firma
It is not a country, it’s an ocean
He cannot fathom my verse with
Eyes which only ever seek mountains
My armchair conquistador needs
Hard realities, names, keys, addresses
He hoards the maps of laurels and kings
With the patience of an assassin

Of what use are my hieroglyphs? Baubles?
Why alliterate fancy, why contemplate
Any artwork which does not stride forward?
He’s so rarely moved by tranquil sunsets
Which do not foreshadow lines of blood –
I should be his Cassandra, his Liberty
I should be a regal tree, spiced and
Fed by the spilled wine of gods

Yet he even mistakes revolution for
Redemption – the deliverance he seeks
Is not simply a matter of throwing off
Old masters, subverting uptight paradigms
Which are all just acts of pitch and toss –
The dance of clouds and stars – No,
The real risk he yearns for in writing
Is the rash thrust which will proclaim:

This life is something other than ordinary
When cut from genius’ cloth – oh, my paper tiger
You comment, you acclaim, you scoff
With the purple incisions of a literary Napoleon
Parched to distraction in a deluge of yet more poesy blue
Lusting for iconoclasts, explosive brilliance, devastations
Judging worth as both more and less than what holds true –
As though genius is the hand of heaven cupped around the island,
The rough coal-diamond of you

Yet, I would posit the ballast of genius holds little preference for hue

"All the darkness in the world
cannot put out the light
of one candle"

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The following comments are for "Critically Charles (The Villian Series)"
by hazelfaern

Have you been spying on my conversations about poetry with my partner!?! This is so smoothly written.

I am quite scared by it though, it reminds me so much of my home life when talking about poetry, I come from the land of metaphors etc and he comes from the land of pragmaticism and say what you see. Very annoying most of the time!! Yet he is the one with the Masters Degree in architecture!!!! I will never understand.

Hazel this is stunning in what it offers. I am printing it off to show 'im indoors.

Alex xx

( Posted by: londongrey [Member] On: December 14, 2004 )

Great job
I love the story here. Funny how we cannot get the reaction we need from the people from whom we need it.

The writing is excellent as always. The first read through I thought the lines in the last stanza were a little long compared to the rest of the piece, but upon further reading, I think it did not affect the flow. Great job.

( Posted by: everybodyelsesgirl [Member] On: December 15, 2004 )

Reading this made me feel like I was in your home again. Lovely, descriptive, and knowing.

Brigand doesn't think much of my poetry either, I think. It's just that he's a prose man. In poetry, he likes John Donne, for heaven's sake. What can you do?

Well, you can keep writing poems. :)

( Posted by: Chanda [Member] On: December 15, 2004 )

The Villain Series
Thanks all for the lovely, encouraging feedback. I'm sorry for the late response -- 12 hour shifts leave little time for anything but the most essential basics.

I've been trying to write a brief, third person bio to go with my poetry entry for Elixer magazine for well over a month, now. Several weeks ago Charles came home to find me frustrated and cranky. "What's wrong?" he asked. "I'm trying to write this thing for Elixer and I've typed out 'Jennifer Deanne Walker is' so many times I feel like I've been teleported back to second grade detention." He laughed, then said "Well, maybe that's your problem. You're trying to make your bio about you when really it should be about me. After all, am I not the villain in your life? Am I not the crucible of conflict from which your raw genius springs?" I blinked and responded, "So, what you're saying is my bio should go something like 'Jennifer Deanne Walker is a 27 year-old aspiring poet who currently resides with her boyfriend, a self-proclaimed villain, who believes the prima donna nature of his ways exists as the sole source of her aesthetic brilliance'?" He laughed and laughed -- "That's it, that's it. You know, Tracey Morgan created The Lady's Man to amuse his wife. You should write a whole series of poems about The Villain."

Well, who am I to turn down an intriquing concept?

So this is this. I've been toying with the idea of several additional poems entitled Charles, Driven and Charles in His Santa Hat -- we'll see if they pan out.

Thanks, Chanda, especially, for your feedback. As you've met Charles, your remark that this works as a portrait of our relationship renews my interest all over again.

Considering the number of writers on this site whose partners vary in literary preferrence, I wonder if there isn't some very basic human relationship model into which the division of prose and poetry fits all too neatly? A variant on good cop/ bad cop, maybe? Or sun and moon? Food for thought.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: December 17, 2004 )

Don't know why I haven't read this until now...
But I hadn't.

Gorgeous and true, even if not true-to-life in a biographical sense.

The division between our "narrative lives" and "poetic lifves" is the difference between the map you use to get from Boston to Rochester and the color of the leaves in the Berkshires in Autumn. It's the difference between what you studied in High School and the twist in your gut every time the beautiful girl who would never, ever look at you walked by in the hall and the smell of her shampoo made you weep inside for the courage you would never have.

I remember once in college, a friend of mine who wrote short stories once asked me if it bothered me when people read my poems and "read stuff into them that I hadn't intended." I told him that that was one of my favorite things in the world, actually. Which made him nuts. Which made me laugh.

Poetry is an ocean.


( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: October 10, 2005 )

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