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It is no longer fashionable
to be tanned.
I was born in vogue:
my skin, the queasy shade of watered milk,
too thin and pale to conceal blood and bone.
The veins across my chest
were clearly marked as city maps
with streets converging, breast to sternum
so, although my heart was hidden
it was child’s play
to guess where it must lie.

Inelegant and gauche, back then.
I strove to quell my skin’s appalling candour.
Lay in the sun to burn the milk to borscht,
or smeared on the toxic sulphur of fake tan.
Grew up, in short.
It took me quite a while.

And now we’re here, you and I,
my skin between us,
perfectly opaque,
You press a palm against my chest
and ask me why
with two shared years in hand
we’re still uncertain,
still reserved,
polite as strangers?

They painted out the street-signs in the war
to foil rogue invading Nazis.
Our sovereignty could not be risked
to help untrusted travellers
And villagers from Perth to Poole assumed
their fellow men
would find the way to London somehow,
if they needed.

You press a palm against my chest
and ask me why,
despite the years we've shared
you do not know me.
My veins, discreetly veiled, hold their peace.
I worked so hard
to win this silence.

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The following comments are for "In vogue"
by MobiusSoul

win this silence
I liked this alot. There is a...feeling or maybe a message here that I don't think I'm getting, but your words were very moving.

Good cadence to this piece (I read it aloud to myself and it flows well) and I loved the extended vocabulary.

My favorite stanza:

"Inelegant and gauche, back then.
I strove to quell my skin’s appalling candour.
Lay in the sun to burn the milk to borscht,
or smeared on the toxic sulphur of fake tan.
Grew up, in short.
It took me quite a while."


Much Love,


( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: October 15, 2010 )

Thanking HeroComplex
Thank you for the positive review - and more so for taking the time to check out the cadence by reading it aloud.

I'm currently rather enjoying Nicholson Baker's 'The Anthologist', in which he muses: 'I read what I'd written aloud to myself - which is what you always do. But this time I used a foreign accent. The foreign accent is the twist that helps. I chose Charles Simic's Serbian twang. Other foreign accents that can help you hear your own poem better are Welsh, Punjabi and Andrei Codrescu's Romanian... Or read as if you were Wystan Auden and you'd smoked a million cigarettes and brought a bottle of bine to wed with you every night. See if that helps.'

Hmm. My Serbo-Welsh Punjabi isn't up to much... but I guess I might be able to manage a drunken Auden...?

( Posted by: mobiussoul [Member] On: October 17, 2010 )

Unsure, but enjoyed
Good read! but not sure what it's about? i suspected cancer, and fear of intimacy, or simply a fear of being caught fake tanning??

the nazis and london kinda threw me off--altho i enjoyed the daring imagery very much. German poetry after wwII is particularly fascinating because it is so deplete of "beauty"; it's horrorified (word?) but sorrowful and poignant...i HIGHLY suggest reading Paul Celan's Deathfugue if youre curious about WWII imagery/poetry

but perhaps the wwII references is a defense mechanism??
whatever it is, i enjoyed it! keep it up and check out Celan if you can!

( Posted by: icicleicicle [Member] On: October 24, 2010 )

Thanking IcicleIcicle
Thanks for the comment. I edited a little, hoping to make the message clearer. (It's not much of a poem if what seems blatantly obvious to me doesn't come across to anybody else.) You're in the right ballpark with 'fear of intimacy' anyway. I tend to steer clear of the bigger-than-personal topics like cancer and warfare, so you can be sure my poems are nothing to do with those: you need to be better than I am to get away with such things! Still, although WW2 is really neither here nor there wrt this poem, I'll add Mr Celan to my ever-long reading list...

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: October 26, 2010 )

Perth to Poole
Your comment on my virtues brought me here, As a normal avoider of freeverse,I am glad it did. I must admit it is poetry of this nature that shows me what I am missing. I found the flow, theme and readability of this exceptional.

There is definately an interpretation/language difficulty across the pool and you write like an Englishman, but refered to your fellow Americans in your response to me?

I suspect your "Perth to Poole" means you know our island well as I would have expected John o Groats to Land;s End from a mere tourist!


( Posted by: ivordavies [Member] On: October 26, 2010 )

Stateless in Seattle
I'm an expat: that should solve the conundrum :) (You of all poets should know that 'Lands End to John O'Groats' would have ruined the scansion!)

I actually like rhyming verse, I just don't write very much of it. Now that we're talking style, however, you should scroll up to the comment above where, serendipitously, I quoted 'The Anthologist' by Nicholson Baker. You and he may be a match made in heaven. The book stars an aging poet trying to compile an anthology... but he's stricken with writer's block, his partner leaves him and he spends 200 pages defending the virtues of rhyming poetry instead. Oh, and he's funny (albeit American!). You should check it out...

( Posted by: mobiussoul [Member] On: October 26, 2010 )

hush my blush
This poem has that feeling of pensive romance I like in so much of your work.

I have no problem perceiving the meaning of your references to skin, blood, and emotion.

Write on, Sister.

( Posted by: Flonigus [Member] On: October 26, 2010 )

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