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The Book of Shapeshifters

You write as though
You were someone else
When we both know
Youíre the him of this story

I write as though
I were somewhere else
A place dispossessed
From my hymnal of sorry

Despite the distance weíve
Wrapped around our
Instincts, our urges
Between us we carry a key
Set to our disperate memories
As yet unengraved
On anything indelible
As metal or pages
Yet itís there in every
Future word, it hangs
In empty space
With a familiar weight
Hefty as a book
And it contains the meaning
Of these varying shapes
Across ages, stable though
The dream hide of our complex metaphors
The original skin of our desires

And, deeper down, only partially owned
The holy yet blasphemous bones
No known penance will purge

These bones say:
You are the key
You have always been the one
Who may open me

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

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The following comments are for "The Book of Shapeshifters"
by hazelfaern

Oh, but this isn't done
You know, the thing is, I've been writing and writing for about a week now and of the 5 or so things I've been working on, this poem felt the closest to being finished. The thing is, though, it's nowehere near finished.

I've been thinking about the way that people tell stories -- not necessarily fiction or lies or bedtime stories, but the whole process of conveying information bits which have a history. How did you wind up living in this state? And there's a story. Why do you drink your coffee black? And if you think about it long enough, there's probably a story.

And then I was thinking about the process of writing and the way that, subconsciously, certain of our own personal story-bits wind up in our work, sometimes without our realizing it.

For instance, my Freshman year of college, which was potentially one of the worst Freshman years in known collegiate history, I wrote a very long 8 page poem about a girl who survives an airplane crash, which I titled "P(s)alm of the Nova". It was a fairly surreal poem, the kind that used to have people asking me what kind of drugs I was on while I was writing and the truth is I could't have told you where that poem came from. But then, 10 years later I was dealing with another high-stress stretch in my life and I realized that poem was, in essence, a very lengthy description of the panic attacks I was just beginning to experience at that time. The thing is, I didn't have a way to express what I was feeling, so this unexplainable intense anxiety I was experiencing wound up becoming a story about a girl who has something very explainably traumatic happen to her, which she narrates, from the point at which she wakes up after the crash to several years later as she really starts to recover from the experience. You could say that I was not only using this main character to express something I couldn't express for myself, but I was also using her story to chart a navigation route through this portion of my life.

Now, I know not all fictional stories or poems have that kind of backstory, but if they, nevertheless, wind up with bits of ourselves in them, then what exactly is happening when your writing allows me to better understand myself?

It's not something I've really worked out very well, which is why the poem is unfinished.

I've been trying not to overthink my work, too much. It's why I've got a portion of a Robert Frost essay up as my bio. So I just jumped into this poem and it carried me to this really interesting ending, though I'm still not sure if everything in it really connects properly. After all, as AndyHavens has said, several times, this might just be two or three or more poems shoehorned onto the same page.

Or, all of the above is really just a lengthy way of saying, I'm glad you like those last few lines, FelineWhip, I like them too and I'm still working on figuring out a way to put them into a setting which will allow them to speak as fully and clearly as they should :)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: June 13, 2005 )

Neverending storyeeee!
You're trying to wake my brain up here Haze, hang on, I'll go and get a coffee.

Right then. Your poem is very good and from what you've said it may never be finished, as long as our lives continue to shift and shape the words will continue to flow.

Yet itís there in every
Future word, it hangs
In empty space

I found your comments about the way a story is told and it's origins extremely interesting. I think most people either consciously or subconciously will include pieces of themselves in their writes.

Lately I've tried not to plan anything I write and view it from a readers pespective.

This 'detached' form of writing allows me to try to write the story as the charactor but read it through my own eyes if that makes any sense. Anyway, it's interesting to see pieces of myself which emerge subconciously and I often don't 'get' until I read through a tenth or eleventh time.

I have written pieces as 'myself' but ironically there's not a lot of truth in them, the story is contorted to suit how I would want to see myself and unfortunately they come out drab and boring.

Anyway, like you said, it can be quite hard not to 'overthink' yourself and I certainly find it hard to write it down and explain clearly. Perhaps I should be writing it as someone else.

Lovely poem, thought-provoking comment.


( Posted by: Emlyn [Member] On: June 14, 2005 )

the skin of complex metaphors
I liked the poem the way it is: like in any story about two people, there are parts, but they are naturally connected, supporting one another

and yes, we do tend to hide our complex feelings under simple poetic metaphors... or those metaphors are complex, and our feelings - simple?

( Posted by: City [Member] On: June 16, 2005 )

The Skim of Things
I love the title of your comment, City, and even more so, your question - do we hide our simple feelings under complex metaphors or do we hide our complex feelings under simple metaphors? Well, because I'm me, I'm going to circumnagivate the long way home around that question.

I work in the manufacturing industry and because I would be the slightly nutty person who voluntarily signs up for extra work, I'm part of a fresh cycle of new members into our plant's safety team. One of the action items from our safey team's last meeting was to make a point of writing up more Near Miss reports -- essentially, that's a report which documents any encountered scenario which contributes to an unsafe working environment. If I walk into my work space and find a pallet in the middle of the floor, I'm supposed to write up a report documenting what I've found and how I handled the situation -- the reasoning behind this required legion of paperwork is that serious accidents tend to be preceded by several minor mishaps, which, when recorded, recognized and resolved, publicly, have the capacity to prevent serious future injuries from ever occurring. Serious injury in the manufacturing industry can vary from an individual tripping over a misplaced pallet and breaking a thumb or fracturing an elbow, to having hair get caught up in a system of gears, ripping out the hair down to the scalp, leaving the individual in intensive care for weeks(something which happened in a food-processing plant in Georgia unconnected to my plant's parent corporation, last month) to actually getting caught up in a larger machine and crushed to death in a matter of moments (an event which happened in a sister plant, almost a year ago -- I believe it was, actually, precisely seven minutes: the time it took for the deceased's coworker to go get a cup of coffee and come back). People have died while doing manufacturing work. My plant pounds home the moral of Safety First. In fact, we even have a really poorly-written poem about it, titled "I Chose to Look the Other Way", hanging right by the door to the women's restroom. I see it and grimace, every two or three hours or so, every workday of the year.

Now, I am also the type of person who's wound up being labeled as "that chick who can explain things well and quickly" (most of the time, depending), so over the last month, whenever a Near Miss incident has occurred, my coworkers have developed this tendency to come to me and tell me what's happened, with the unspoken expectation that I will, of course, write up the necessary report for them.

This evening we had a small event, which began with one of my coworker's hollering at me "Jen! We've got a Near Miss! Whip out your pen, dear!" and another coworker comes up to me blushing, because he's just tripped over something which was painted bright neon-yellow and then he's gone and fallen (if he'd broken anything or required medical care, it would have cost every soul in our plant our tri-monthly safety bonus and we all know it). I tell him, because I've had to write one of these up for myself before, that it's simple, I just need to hear the story of what happened. So he tells me, he went and got a couple of papers, pertaining to the job we were about to do, from the usual filing cabinet, turned around and walked right into a saftey barrier. His foot wedged into the barrier and because it hasn't been mounted to the floor (it hasn't been there long and may need to be moved, yet) it slid from the momentum of his walking into it, carrying his foot out from under him and resulted in his toppling onto his hands and knees. He ended with the laughing, self-disparaging remark "I guess I forgot it was there"

I could have just described this and gone on, but there was something funny in his remark that he "forgot that it was there". I know this coworker walks around this particular space several times a day, and the unmounted safety barrier has been there over a month -- how'd he manage to forget a one-foot by six-foot piece of metal painted neon-yellow? So I walk over to where he was when he tripped and I realize the safety barrier is pushed up so close to the filing area it's outside of anyone's peripheral vision, not just mine, at 5 foot four, but especially his, at 6 foot two. It doesn't make a difference if a thing's painted neon yellow if you can't see it.

As I'm filling out my report, I realize that what's most likely happened is that, as work has gone into this particular work space, loads of palletted work have most likely been pushed up against this particular safety barrier. Since it's not mounted to the floor, that safety barrier has slowly shifted into a high-traffic area, leading to the situation this evenng: a minor trip and fall. Simply moving the safety barrier back would temporarily resolve the issue, but in order to more seriously address it, that safety barrier needs to be mounted to something -- if not the floor, itself, then at least something stable and weighty enough to keep the barrier from shifting, slowly, back into an unsafe position, again.

So, what's happened, here? Let me digress, one final time and I'll answer that question.

I also have a particular fondness for Terry Pratchett, so I've been slowly working my way through a particular book titled "The Science of Discworld" in which Terry teams up with two other writers in order to examine modern science through the unusual lens of fiction.

One of the particular structures examined in this book is the conept of a privative -- something which is described concretely despite the fact that it does not truly exist as anything but an absence. For instance, cold does not technically exist as a thing -- scientifically, it is more precise to say that cold is, in reality, a mere absence of heat, which itself is not a thing, but in all actuality, a slightly excited state of electrons causing momentary ambiance. Now, say that there's an invention from the 1920's which is, theoretically, supposed to make slicing samples for microscopes a breeze of a task -- the device sports a special lens wich holds ice cubes over a particular tube, which, according to adverts manages to "focus the cold" precisely. Well, what's wrong with this ad? The answer is: how does anyone focus an absence? If you imagine this device is workable, are you also the sort of person who draws the curtains in order to shut out the dark?

The authors imagine an element unkown on earth, at least not in our current Periodic Tables, of Narritivium. Narratitivium could be described as the substance which holds unworkable realities together. If you know Life, what is Death? What is the opposite of drunk? And if light moves at a certain speed, how fast does dark move in order to get out of light's way? The answer, according to Narrativium (behold the ease of this essence) is: one split second faster.

We are human. We do not describe what is, we describe what we experience, in the way in which it happens to us. My coworker told me the story of his stumble quickly, according to Narrativium -- he forgot the quick succesion of events because of quickness and his hurry to get back to what he should have been doing.

We live in a world full of privatives -- things which do not exist as anything other than names applied to abstract concepts. Can you show me liberty? Can you demonstrate happiness? How do I present "safely"?

Yet these things are real to us, and because we feel them we believe them as realities.

Both metaphors and feelings are privatives -- they do not exist concretely. We exchange them in verbal transactions like money, which is also a privative. We transact on a basis of believing that even if the underpinnings of our quick responses are not fully understood, someone will get to the answer, eventually.

Time, of course, is also a privative, depending on your perspective of space and light.

The most honest answer is: how far do you want to go with your question?

When we write, we tend to express ourselves with Narrativium, not science, because the warm ambience of the temporarily excitable condition of explaining is easier to express than a more stable perspective like concrete fact.

The distance between the two is the same as the distance between acceptance and desire: the measurement of that distance comes in two quantities, similiar to metric and standard -- a) one split second faster, and b) how far do you want to go?

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: June 17, 2005 )

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