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early, after rain
I cut wet sprays of cedar, yew and nightshade.
Dust the desk,
arrange a vase
of poison, leaves and berries;
make a pot of tea,
a batch of pancakes.

Love, you always liked my kitchen
warm with midday sun and butter
Though you slept persistently
through ‘early, after rain’
and couldn’t name
the local plants
and never noticed
dust, nor flowers.

Now, this vase of damson berries
damp and fragrant, ripe for dyeing;
autumn brightness, Sunday breakfast
toll alike against your ghosted absence.


Later on, a stranger visits.
Roams the room, as strangers tend
to learn me
by my bookshelves, by my pictures.
‘Gorgeous nudes,’ he comments
then allows
a decent interval
before attempting
to compare me with them.

Underneath my skin
small quickenings
stay slow and silent.
Miss the old familiar blindness
You, who never saw my paintings,
ceased to see my skin in due course, likewise.


Solitude again.
Late sun on blue-black nightshade berries.
a dustless desk,
a vase of toxic clustered cherries.

Still and yet
your failure to see them
every morning
blurs them for me.

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The following comments are for "Autumn, early, after rain"
by MobiusSoul

Hi MobiusSoul,

Beautiful. I kept viewing the images in sepia tones; very few poems seem to evoke hues in me.

Reminiscent of Annie Ernaux's (A French writer) novella, A Simple Passion, particularly of the quote, "Was it possible to long for these things, or for anything else, other than in connection with a man, other than to serve the cause of love?"

Yet, by writing about chores, aesthetic arrangements, and daily rituals, you save them from oblivion, for one day, they will go, just like their living counterparts.

There's a gentle cadence to your piece, almost echoing the tap of rain.

Thank you.


( Posted by: Ariana [Member] On: October 2, 2008 )

O f rain..and arrangements
Primo penning...

Textures, imagery, layers..A highly pleasurable read.

I, too, found its cadence amazingly mesmerizing..not unlike rainfall.

One to return to. A keeper.

Robert William

( Posted by: Bobby7L [Member] On: October 2, 2008 )

"Underneath my skin
small quickenings
stay slow and silent.
Miss the old familiar blindness
You, who never saw my paintings,
ceased to see my skin in due course, likewise."

This by far is my favorite stanza and captures for me the essence of the whole feeling of this piece. LOVE this in fact. Thank you Caitlin, for sharing the beauty of your thoughts and soul via your writings once again, and also thank for for having been so generous with me in return in commenting on all my regurgitated works.

Blessings and good wishes to you for health, love and the joy of cermamics to you, friend...


( Posted by: TheRealKarmaTseringLhamo [Member] On: October 2, 2008 )

Des, Ariana, Lena, B7L
Thanks all for the kind reception. This is the first I've written in ages which seemed both truthful and worth something poetically. Viper wrote on my previous post (I was whining, I must try not to do that) 'Happily, these moments pass. Unhappily, when we're in the moment we forget its transience.' Wise Viper.

I'd like to believe I'll now kick off a burst of blistering productivity... but really, I should credit this poem not to myself but to the flock of poets with whom I recently shared a room at my best-beloved bookstore. (Is 'flock' the collective noun for poets? Maybe 'clique' is better? Either way, you couldn't move in there for jowls and tweed jackets.) So, at a critical density, I think poets must generate spontaneous pellets of inspiration... and that I must have breathed one in... because I didn't listen to a word of the second half of their reading. I was suddenly unaccountably busy composing. Well, whoever's poem I snaffled, I'm duly grateful.

Des - my throwaways suck (one or two are posted here - count 'em), but it's the lack of even throwaways that brings me down. Oh, and it's the very 'going about as if nothing has changed' that makes me so intensely aware that everything has: I'll keep faking it only because I don't know anything else to do. Thanks, in any case, for recognising precision in this. It took work, and you are one who knows.

Ariana - what a perceptive comment: for me, my own stuff often has a synaesthetic tinge, and this one is entirely in browns, maroons and shades of raw sienna. I'm not familiar with Annie Ernaux, but what a sorrowful quote! I guess I'm lucky that I can 'serve the cause of love' without connection to a man, or indeed to anyone at all. I have a fortunate set-point of selfsufficiency. But it's not unassailable, and recovers painful slow. Right now, it is still early, after rain.

Bobby - that cadence came on unasked, and when finished, put me in mind of Hiawatha... which seemed quite appropriate. I am unsophisticated enough to adore Hiawatha.

Lena - objectively, I have all that you wish me. I shall pull myself together forthwith and count myself profoundly lucky!

( Posted by: mobiussoul [Member] On: October 3, 2008 )

Such a mournful, regretful tone here. A beautiful poem, cyclical in structure and in reference. Absolutely perfect for this chilly autumn day, its essence distilled in these words. Will have to come back to this a few more times, to remind me what the season is for.

( Posted by: viper9 [Member] On: October 3, 2008 )

blurring berries
what I love about this is that it allows me access, allows me to inhabit the kitchen, dust the desk and arrange the berries right along with you. part of that is that I guess I’m on familiar ground here, but a bigger part is your skill in drawing and distilling observations and essences, and in allowing each thought room to breathe so that poem may be slowly inhaled like best tobacco…

second section speaks most to me, that out-of-body quality of remotely viewing your own life, that’s captured well here, wryly and ruefully, as it should be…

the last stanza strikes me as almost elegiac, although that could just be me. it’s always a pleasure to read you. hope you and your muse snatch a moment again soon…

and you have a cadence of poets, maybe? a posture of poets? never mind…

( Posted by: AuldMiseryGuts [Member] On: October 4, 2008 )

Just gorgeous
I'm almost asleep at the moment. May say more when my brain comes back. But this is really, truly beautiful. The internal rhyme is lovely.

Nice. Really nice.

[Not sure about "blurs" in the last line; in a poem with poison and nudity, "blurs" seems somewhat a tame word]

[[I believe it is a "fathom of poets"]]

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: October 6, 2008 )

Viper, Shannon, Andy
Viper - indeed. Mourning and regret are perhaps what autumn is designed for, although hopefully not /all/ it is designed for. Certainly, a few cold nights can undo a whole summer of mending distressingly quickly. Thanks for the comment, and for catching the tone.

Shannon - I like the idea of you inhaling poems slowly and pleasurably... especially if they happen to be mine :) Like also how well you describe the 'out-of-body quality of remotely viewing your own life'. With various central emotions still hopelessly herniated, it is exactly thus. And yes: 'elegiac' is right... for the few good years that preceded the eventual (inevitable?) failure of imagination, an elegy should be the least I can offer. How often are we dealt the few good years, after all?

Andy - a pleasure to see you here, and to have you read favourably. Almost-asleep is a pretty good state to read poetry. I nagged away a bit at 'blurs', but couldn't find a more extravagant word that better described both the bleaching and unfocusing of experiences habitually shared when they are suddenly unshared, and simultaneously the more simplistic teary-eyed blurring. Besides, I was actively trying not to over-egg this poem. There probably is a better word... I just haven't found it yet.

I think I like a 'fathom' best. Although I wish there were more 'cadences' - lyrical, unpretentious cadres of poets. There are far too many 'postures'.

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: October 7, 2008 )

pink and pang

Are the seeds of the eventual destruction of our love already within its pretty fruit?

This poem is ripe with your organic dark blue loveliness; a potion I happily imbibe. Makes me want to be there, early after late.

I'm a Pisces, so I might say a pond of poets, or a puddle. How about a piquant? A group could be a vexation, though.

~ John

( Posted by: Flonigus [Member] On: October 7, 2008 )

A bit more detail
The internal rhyme is fantastic. Did I say that before?

Not sure about the word "persistently." Too long for the scan, and more intellectual than powerful.

"Ripe for dyeing." Fantastic. Totally autumn spirit. I envy that phrase.

Tolling against absence. Sweet.

"a stranger visits." So? Hunh? What? The whole rest of this piece is so marvelously grounded in worldly, earthy, wonderful detail. Why is a stranger visiting? Do they do that? When they visit me, they're usually salesmen or neighbor's kids or something. It's just an odd thing to happen -- and is followed by "as strangers tend to learn me by my bookshelves." Which begs the question... do you often let strangers wander your house and roam, looking at books, nudes, etc.? If so... that's intriguing and deserves a better explanation. If it's just to have somebody there, I think a more grounded character would be less... indistinct. In an otherwise beautifully coherent (yet metaphorically resonant) piece, this really stuck in my craw oddly.

Also not sure about verb tenses in the last two stanzas. It sounds like the object person "you" has left; solitude again. If that's the case, then, "your failure to see them / every morning" rings a bit too present tense for me. I know, I know... it's gramatically correct. But followed by the present tense "blurs," it seems as if he/she is still there. And not in a neat, spiritual, interesting way... just a kinda, "I thought they'd left?" kinda way.

If the "you" is gone, a verb clause that does a bit more of putting a nail in the past might work better (for me, anyways):

Still and yet
you failed to see them
every morning,
blurring them for me

You gain a verb (failing over failure), which is a win... but make "blurs" into "blurring," which I don't like... but I'm just funking around with it to see how the verbs taste.

In general; marvelously maintained metaphor, rhythm and word-feel.

"Miss the old familiar blindness"


( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: October 8, 2008 )

Flonigus, Andy, Pen - details
John - your comments have a way, sometimes, of making me feel more than I actually am... which is very pleasant. And your question perceptively crystallizes the one I suppose I was hinting at with 'ripe for dyeing'. This is only a sub-theme of the poem, really, yet it's probably the most mordent sadness of all.

Ah, and yes, a 'vexation of poets'! We should instigate a special lit category for collective nouns - I'm making quite a collection here!

Andy - Glad you like the parts you like: I like them too :)

'Persistently'? Hmm. I tried 'habitually' and 'stubbornly'... perhaps they are both over-long too. I quite liked 'stubborn-slept' but, at odds with you, I found it was actually too short to fit the tumty-tum cadence.

The stranger is of course not a genuine stranger, more a new acquaintance/would-be lover. Identity isn't really important since he figures simply to throw into relief 'you': the all-too familiar ghost. In fact, I used 'stranger' precisely to emphasise his not-being the now-absent other half. There is a time post-breakup when anyone else who tries to touch you is a stranger. Or maybe that's just me being neurotic. Oh, and I don't think there's really an 'intriguing explanation': I live in a studio apartment, so yeah, guests at parties and random acquaintances do get to mooch around peering at everything I own. Perhaps the Havens household has better-mannered guests, or just more rooms!

Finally... I think perhaps I failed with the last 2 stanzas. Solitude descends only because the stranger has departed: the narrator is therefore back to addressing the ever-present ghost (in the ever-present present tense). It's useful to have fresh critical eyes on a poem precisely because it shows me that what is so obvious to my brain isn't necessarily obvious on paper. Your fresh critical eyes are therefore much appreciated.

Pen - thanks for the comment. I'll assume it's autumn that's degenerating, not me... although to be an 'autumn degenerate' sounds a bit classier than just a plain degenerate, I suppose!

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: October 9, 2008 )

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