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Last night by star-light, unafraid,
she rode the city's broad paternal shoulders.
Sky-high, moon-drunk, unashamed
Caution held its tongue, and flesh forgave.
While reality,
perching precariously
in a Cubist landscape of brownstone roofs
turned a many-chimneyed face
and winked benign blind eyes
at her nine blind lives.

So, on a dim-lit rooftop
through martini's muzzy prism
she watched his charming white-winged lies
dance pas-de-hubris among the Eschered eaves
and bent her neck to his courtly greed
when he claimed there was nothing else
in the world to touch.
Mutely complicit, mired in lies
it was easier to trust than flee,
to kiss than cry.

Easier to sleep as entangled strangers.
Shudder awake at 5am,
slip from the sheets of a shabbied soul,
gather up clothes and belated shame,
scurry home on the first-light half-lit train.
A tawdry, smudged bohemian
misplaced in morning's rain.

She'll wait now
til the stains on last night's skin
have worn away.
Til her pale wax shell of self-respect
has crystallised again.
Then, forgetting 5am,
she'll lean too close once more
to midnight's flame.



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Comments

The following comments are for "Clean sheets"
by MobiusSoul

M-Soul's "Sheets"
Caitlin,
An entertaining read...

Did you mean: "unafraid," in line 1?..To be 'frayed' later..

Do you need: "but," before: "precariously?"

Really like: "blind eyes/lives."

In 2nd line of 2nd verse, Would "dull" possibly read..sound better..as sounding: "martini's 'muzzy' prism," kind of slurs? Intent?

Found line 6 in 2nd verse a bit long..
Perhaps, something like: 'Claiming nothing worldly remained to touch,'..would clip 3 syllables. Just a suggestion..

Hope you don't mind suggestions. Will stop.

As said above, found read entertaining.

B7L

( Posted by: Bobby7L [Member] On: December 2, 2005 )

Clean Sheets
Hi MS, I really liked your poem, although I thought it read a bit rough in a few verses. But the last stanza knocked my socks off, Well done. Thank you!

( Posted by: eleda [Member] On: December 3, 2005 )

B7L, Eleda - dirty laundry?
Bobby, suggestions are always welcome, and your first two were entirely right.

The 'muzziness' of muzzy was, I think, intended - 'dull' wouldn't work for me, since alcohol (in the form of a series of weapons-grade martinis, anyway) doesn't dull at all. Instead it heightens to a sort of soft-focus intensity, hyper-real and without consequences. Hence the use of 'prism'. I might have used 'kaleidoscopic', or 'televisual'... but those would be clumsy - and unalliterative. I'm a sucker for alliteration :)

I struggled with unwieldy L6, and will struggle further. The many other meanings of 'worldly', though, aren't what I want...

Anyway - always pleased to entertain, but hopefully with a kernel of sincerity. (Perhaps you've never felt yourself last night on the morning train... facing down the ranks of wall-eyed Walmart workers... conspicuous amongst all that clean cheap nylon and virtuous indifference?)

Eleda - thank you. The choppiness of structure was supposed to reflect the storyline - I was actually concerned I'd tied it up too neatly, rhythm-wise, in final verse. I'm really glad it worked for you!

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: December 3, 2005 )

Returning the favor
After you commented on my story I decided to "carouse" your writings here on lit.org, hoping to return the favor you have done to me (gee can you tell I don't get many comments?), and I have to say I am duly impressed. I love the imagery of your poems and the yearning emotions that seems to come from them--or at least the ones I have read. Keep up the good work!

( Posted by: Virtex [Member] On: December 4, 2005 )

Moth to Flame
Caitlin ~ You know I read this six or seven times before I grasped the connection between white-winged lies, her pale wax shell of self respect and midnight's flame. Wow, that's such an amazing metaphor, I wish it were just a little more obvious.

I love martini's muzzy prism, and L6, to my mind reads well.

Lovely poem.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: December 5, 2005 )

Virtex, Windchime, Haze...
Thanks all - I'm always elated when a comment lets me know that someone 'gets it'!

Lucie, 'reverse metamorphosis' is so apt I may have to steal it to use more explicitly in another poem... it perfectly describes the demystifying; the dulling of colours and shedding of wings which comes the morning after the night before. (Why must it be so? One of these days, I'm going to meditate my way to some mystic place where it is /always/ the night before... though I fear that may take more transcendence of spirit and/or substance abuse than I can afford...)

Hazelfaern, I'm amazed - but pleased - that you took the trouble to read and re-read thus! The wings/moth/melting-wax metaphor kinda evolved as it went along: I didn't feel myself that it was entirely coherent. (The lies being mothlike, yet it's the girl who gets burnt, etc.) When I've given it some breathing-space, I'll try to rework the theme.

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: December 5, 2005 )

All the Things Warmth Does to Wax
If it helps this is the way I read your metaphor -- the girl's sense of self (and relatedly, self-respect) is a fragile wax-like shell. Her intoxication with the night is a flame which illuminates her (also softens, melts, reforms, makes her more vulnerable -- all the things warmth does to wax). You can look at the man, himself, as the moth and his white-winged lies as the dancing, frittering, gentle yet stubborn play of seduction he is using to get into that light he wants so badly.

One of the things I really like about your metaphor is the way it interconnects with your morning after stanza -- once midnight's intoxication has guttered out, is the moth still drawn to this newly re-hardened fragile wax shell which was just so recently filled with warmth and light? Your metaphor makes for an intriguing perspective from which to view the subtle shifting of desire, the way it flows, rushes and breaks from moment to moment and hour to hour.

I reread your poem for several reasons. For one, you are quite talented and I always enjoy reading your work and then, too, there's a lot going on in this poem and I wanted to make sure I got it all.

You've become one of my favorite authors here and I hope you keep posting :)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: December 6, 2005 )

Very nice. Highly evocative.
Caitlin --

Jen (Hazelfaern) steered me to this, and I'm glad she did. Nice work. Really strong stuff. For some reason it reminds me of a graphic novel in the intensity of its images. From me, this is a compliment, as I enjoy that medium. If you don't, then pretend I said something else that you find complimentary.

I like the stuff that the other commenters liked. How's that for copping out on a bunch of typing? I also like the more playful, alliterative, rhyming, hippity-hoppy rhythm of the beginning of the piece, which feels more fun and frolicsome... since, of course... it's before the guilt sets in. This is a very nice way to parallel the narrative of the piece with the mechanics. Something that doesn't get done as often as it should; i.e., make the poem do what it says. Major points.

However, I think you may have tried a wee bit too hard in the beginning. The first four lines are perfect. But...

While reality,
perching precariously
in a Cubist landscape of brownstone roofs
turned a many-chimneyed face
and winked benign blind eyes
at her nine blind lives.

...while interesting from a pureley technical sense, doesn't add anything to the piece as far as I can see. Yes, it's clever. Yes, it's cute. But is it *useful* to the overall "arc" of the poem? Could you yank those lines and put them into another poem maybe? I don't know. I just went from "Wow!" in the first four lines to "What-the?" in the next chunk. And then back to, "OK... now we've continued the poem again" once "nine blind lives." finished up.

Besides which:

and winked benign blind eyes
at her nine blind lives.

is almost impossibly close to a tongue-twister. Which, unless you have a demonstrable reason for including, is simply poor form. Not to brag, but I can recite huge, long chunks of memorized text at great speed... and I still found those two lines daunting to say inside my wee brain. Yikes.

The next section is, again, really good. Lots of that neat internal rhyme I love so much. Lots of good, interesting verbs. There is, I think, some weird sentence structure or something, though. I see the picture you're painting, and I love the words. And I don't want to screw with them too much, because they lay down nicely together. But the order of:

So..
through..
she watched..
and bent...
when he claimed...
Mutely complicit, mired in lies
it seemed easier to trust than flee
and easier to kiss than cry.

Does a couple less-than-powerful things from a narrative standpoint. To begin with, the mose active part of this section is the verb "bent." That's what she does that allows him to have her. That's her complicity. From the standpoint of flow, that should probably be either at the very beginning or end of the stanza. It's the "tip of the spear." The thing that makes the rest of the section important.

Similarly, "seemed" is a wus word. It's hard enough to get people to believe our poetry. Poetry, by definition, almost always only "seems" one way or another. Unless you are describing a character who is really fogged up, give it to us straight and leave "seemed" on the cutting room floor.

Again: "easier to trust than flee / easier to kiss than cry" doesn't use an active tense of the verbs "trust," "flee," "kiss" or "cry." You've got four verbs in one sentence, and none of them get much play. I'd rather see this one sentence drawn into two or four and feel why it was easier... show us rather than tell. Do something. Hit me with your rhythm stick. Whatever the hell that means.

The rest of it is great. I might have said "first-light, half-lit train" since the repetition of "light" in one line is a little odd. But that's my only ding on these last two stanzas. They are otherwise, supremely lovely and sad and lovely. Which is so hard to do. Which make me like it so much more.

One last comment; the title. I'm not sure I like it. I get it. But I'm not sure I like it. I think it's too obvious. I don't like obvious titles. And there's enough going on in this piece that's subtle, that I think you could find some bit of the funky, fun, soft, subtlty to inform a better title.

Mad props on this one. It made me smile in that neat, sad way that only really good, smooth, jazzy, blue poems can. Thanks much.




( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: December 7, 2005 )

Andy, H/F - you guys too good!
Andy - I'll take the graphic novel compliment! (Can I have someone brilliant like Neil Gaiman, please?)

I see your point about the rooftop sketch... but I am, to borrow from Drsoos, hopelessly alliterate. I can't apologise for that stuff: I like it too much. (And mayn't the most heart-stabbing jazz tunes carry passages of breathless for-the-sake-of-it virtuoso cleverness?). Maybe it's a bit too much for this poem, but I hoped it would add something to the trippy late-night Chagall I was trying to paint.

And, although conventional sentence structure dictates that the bent neck should precede its explanation, narrative structure surely suggests the opposite? The couple, after all, climb to the rooftop and conduct their rambling duplicitous conversation /before/ things get physical (hey, even drunk, she ain't that easy!) And it's then, too late, wondering exactly why this is happening, that the only answer is it 'seems easier'. I toyed for a long time with 'seemed/was' - I too am reluctant to 'seem' if to 'be' will do. But at this point in the story, all IS semblance and very little, soberly-judged fact.

'first-light half-lit' is good. Will edit. And will struggle to, to find that elusive title, because you're dead right, it exists somewhere.

Hazelfaern - your interpretation of the central metaphor is perfect: you're exactly right, to the extent that even I wasn't sure if the man or just the conversation was the moth - and why not both? I thought at the time that all moths lose interest come morning light... the much-later realisation that I might have been wrong only adds a further layer of guilt and ambiguity (which, one day, may inform another poem)!

And to everyone who bothered to read this - if I was really the smoothly-blusey jazz poet that this poem pretends to, I wouldn't be nearly so chuffed with all your thoughtful comments!

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: December 8, 2005 )





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