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An uncertain experiment in surrealist smuggery, with apologies to James Tate (this being where my mind wandered off to during his reading…)

This morning
the unsweetened oatmeal half-light of winter
guttered out
and the sky
when I woke, with the seagulls at 6,
was already as high and as rich
as maple-butter
melting into hot scones.

So I put on an outfit
which lends me a figure
I’ve never really had
(and I’ve never found out who owns it
but it seems to be interest-free
so far, at least
and who am I
to refuse all that free interest?)

Then, although the day was really built
for cold champagne and blinis
I bought instead a paper cup of English tea
for me
and a donut
for the next-door neighbors’ dog.
(He has a passion for milky tea:
a passion that I,
on the endless futile diet
of urban plenty
have reserved for jelly donuts.)
I mounted my ancient arthritic bike
whose joints seemed magically cured
by their dip in this warm unsulphured spring
and I made it to work in a flat 15
to meet in the lift
the dean
of internal medicine
telling his cellphone
‘… speaking of naturism,’
and something about the way life smelled
this deathless maple-sugared morning
made me almost wish
we were.

But he left the lift
8 floors before me.

Perhaps tonight, I’ll ask the dog
how he feels about swapping tea
for nudity,
and Russian pancakes...?

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The following comments are for "This morning the oatmeal"
by MobiusSoul

Out to lunch
...rather, breakfast, and out of my reach.

I just had to read it after seeing the title, but I'm afraid I can only be complimentary and not useful. This particular brand of poetry I find usually out of my critical reach. Though, I will say, I usually don't enjoy it, and yours I enjoyed thoroughly (make of that what you will). It didn't really come as smug, and with my wariness going in, I find that immensely refreshing.

The first stanza (I suppose it's a stanza, no?), is absolutely stunning. It's so rare that I get smacked about by an image so hard and fast that I get a picture in my head before I've processed the words. And that's smacked about in a good way. I love the way the different foods are woven into the piece, always entirely relevant, always alive enough to be tasted, smelled upon the very breath that speaks the words. It may be surrealist, but it seems to me to be a somehow concrete surreal, real enough that it doesn't float above the reader like a banner for a revolution: always just out of reach, and "sur"real enough that its an easy pass from commonplace to ephemeral in that wonderful "what just happened" sort of way.

So, I like it. Love the title to bits, and the poem even more.

Well done!


( Posted by: Kitten Courna [Member] On: April 15, 2006 )

Caitlin's Oatmeal
Pretty darn good tor a wandering mind. I'm trying to decide if I want to be the neighbor's dog, jelly donut's and all. I also went to the site you recommended and read said poet. I would like to lace his shoes for one day, just one day. And dammit, just when I think I've done something original, you burst my egobubble. Thanks a lot. ;)


( Posted by: williamhill [Member] On: April 15, 2006 )

Kitten, w/Hill - making a meal of oats...
Thank you, both, for thoughtful comments.

Kitten - I felt obliged to add the irritating little disclaimer because I was guiltily aware how derivative this poem is. I'm not sure, however, if it's successfully derivative! I find that 'surrealist school' appealing (so clever, and fun!) but also smug (TOO clever, and is it really hard to do?). So I thought I'd find out by having a go myself, and if I avoided smuggery (yay!) it's probably because, as you pointed out, I'm a poor surrealist. I prefer just to put a kink in concrete images... but I adore your description of the 'concrete surreal'!

WilliamHill - laughing, not least because both myself and the dog are pretty ambivalent about donuts - it's the only thing I had to make up. Oh, and please feel your ego petted not punctured (sending a PM).

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: April 16, 2006 )

"although the day was really built
for cold champagne and blinis
I bought instead a paper cup of English tea
for me
and a donut
for the next-door neighbors’ dog."

This whole thing brought sunshine to my very mundane and dreary day. Too many wonderful images to replay here, I am left with the light thought of Audrey Hepburn, not just breakfasting at Tiffany's but reaching out to humanity in her oh so classy way.
A write that bounces-

( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: May 1, 2006 )

Your poem makes me once again realize that every moment we spend living is poetic (such as eating oatmeal), never so simple, and you as a poet is lucky being one you know how to translate every moment into something that every PLU (people like us) can appreciate. I think, it's your trademark - converting bits and pieces of life from ordinary to extraordinary poetry.

( Posted by: PETERPAULINO [Member] On: May 8, 2006 )

Peter, Emaks ...
Sorry I missed these - no Vorpal emails these days, at least for me :(

How lovely to 'bring sunshine' - especially in a classy Hepburn style! If only I could do that in real life...
And that's a wonderful trademark to aspire to, Peter - I'll do my best to live up to it! I think I only make poetry of trivia because I feel uncomfortable and ill-qualified addressing the 'big stuff'... and perhaps because it's what I myself like to read. I'm a PLU too: I need all your transfigured-moments to feed off!

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: May 9, 2006 )

Vorpal Woes
I haven't been getting the vorpal emails either. What's up with that?

Help us out, oh Terrfiying Gods of Litworld!

( Posted by: viper9 [Member] On: May 9, 2006 )

oats dear
1st read made me hungry. I will eat then digest your read again.

I, too wondered about Vorpal. I seem to get notice of publication but not of comments, so I e-mailed today.

I shall return (with a full belly)

( Posted by: drsoos [Member] On: May 9, 2006 )

internal medicine
A+ -poem- hot scones, pancakes, tea, maple syrup, nudity. KINKY! Imagine the possibilities?

( Posted by: MountainBill [Member] On: May 16, 2006 )

Windchime, M/Bill et al
How nice to find myself taken both more and less seriously than I take myself :) (How nice to be taken at all, in a life full of blank pages and rejection slips...)

Lucie - ugh, I'll leave vitriol for the real world, which is thick with it. This virtual world exists entirely at my demand, so I'm free to chose only the sweet stuff here. I'd recommend it. That scaffolding rejigged itself quite willingly: there's a pleasing laissez faire to starting off a champagne day with tea. Nothing afterwards has to try too hard. I'd recommend that too :)

Bill - imagining... hmm, that it'd be stickier and less pleasant in reality than in imagination...

Soos, Viper, thanks for imput: Vorpal came and went - fickle Vorpal. Ah well, never mind.

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: May 23, 2006 )

Maple Butter Sunshine
Loved it all, Caitlin, from title to final line. Your poem's as rich as the food it references. Nicely done :)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: May 24, 2006 )

very clever and very charming
This is, indeed, a poem to savor. I gained weight just reading it.

"So I put on an outfit
which lends me a figure
I’ve never really had
(and I’ve never found out who owns it
but it seems to be interest-free
so far, at least
and who am I
to refuse all that free interest?)"


( Posted by: johnlibertus [Member] On: May 28, 2006 )

The trouble with 10s
I've found is that they often make it difficult to follow up with material which could wind up rating in at an 8.

My last gazillion offerings have all been 9s, but I'll write an 8 if you will.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: June 13, 2006 )

Eight of spades or spades of eights?
... I'd settle for either - those eights can be diamonds too, in a good hand :)

But if only I feared a ratings-failure, or just believed I'd peaked! Truth is I've written nothing that I'd rate above 5 in a long while (perhaps I've grown uncreative and bovine in a bout of unusually untroubled personal life... or perhaps I've just stopped thinking poetically). Does anyone else get these bouts when nothing feels visceral or spontaneous enough to write into poetry? When even the cleverest ideas falter on the page and ring corny?

Nevertheless, you (and Lit) are kind: perhaps I need to post to regain some perspective. I'll grab that spade and dig thorough my bristling graveyard of abandonned verse...

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: June 13, 2006 )

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