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The Freezing Point of Tears

she whispers
while a single tear
runs down her olive skin
and her hand holds a cigarette
to her trembling, chapped lips.
The word is not formed with
the confidence expected from
a native speaker.
Instead, it is choked out
as though her grandmother's
asphyxiation were contagious
even through the phone line.
She says,
"Ich habe sie nicht gesehen,
seitdem ich nach Österreich gekommen bin.  
Das war schon lange her."
("I have not seen her
since I came to Austria.  
That was a long time ago.")
The faces around her,
including my own,
turn even more sympathetic.
But all of our thoughts
are far away
across oceans, rivers,
mountains, and national boundaries
on people we
have not seen for months or years.
People, we must have forgotten
were mortal too.
Her grandmother's last words
are now printed on postcards
in smeared handwriting.
On all of our minds are
letters and telephone conversations,
of the typical variety with habitual
and the other phrases we customarily say
to tip-toe around our emotions.
we would hate to see be our last.
She stands in the cold
of the Alpine winter,
to which she has gradually
become accustomed
but her old, Portuguese grandmother
could never even have imagined.
Tears are running
down her cheeks,
tears, that should have
theoretically frozen.

Line 1: "Avó" (ah - vah) is Portuguese for "grandmother"

Line 15-17:  I included the German because it was a quote this girl actually said, the lines afterwards translate it into English.

27 Feb 06

Rated 9 (8.5) by 9 users.
Active (9): 2, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10
Inactive (7): 3, 7, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10

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This is beautiful and the writing is seamless. There is a natural rhythm to the lines and the tone is somber and quiet. My only quibble was Line 3, saline somehow sounds redundant when paired with tear. I think that if you left out saline, the peice would be perfect.
 — redsky

Ok my reasoning behind the inclusion of saline was to correspond with the next line and its adjective olive.  However I agree with you and am removing it.  Thank you redsky for your help and your comment.
 — Resonanz

nice poem.
 — varun

Thanks varun
 — Resonanz

i love your comments, Resonanz. you are very helpful to a lot of people.

i'm only posting as unknown because i don't want you to think i am asking anything of you.

i've gone to your poems a few times, with the intent to critique, but i never felt capable enough.
 — unknown

I like this.  Reminds me so much of my Japanese friend, whose grandmother died while she was studying abroad in the States.  

I have to say, I'm not terribly fond of the title.  The parentheses seem out of place, and the title itself is bland, though it sets up the poem quite well.

35-36 trips me up when i read, too.  it just seems like an interuption of the story line, and too obvious an explanation of the symbolism.

The last line gives me chills.  Good stuff.
 — jerotich

Jerotich: I took your advice the lines that were formally 35-37 were eliminated because I agree they were too obvious of an explanation of what can easily be deduced by the symbolism I'm using.  Also I changed the title as well.
 — Resonanz

... grr I wasn't done.  I'm still struggling a bit with the title but I think I'm just going to settle with this one as the title isn't really a big deal to me.  Thanks so much for your help jerotich.

Unknown:  Your comment means a lot to me.  I'm glad my criticism is indeed appreciated and I hope that I have either already commented on some of your work or do so in the future.  Thanks again.
 — Resonanz

I love coming across a poem so fluid and consistently captivating that I can read it all the way through without getting distracted. Fantastic stuff, a pretty tough one to criticise!
 — Esztel

wow- this is beautifully touching!
I love the last three stanzas, especially the third one...they say so much about life and the mind and how we interact with eachother. I agree with the others that it is very fluid and after reading, the words flow through your mind in a warm stream.
 — sparrow

I absolutely admire you hun that's amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!
 — HunnyBunch51

I love it.  There is nothing I could say to better this.  Any critique would take away from it.  This is gorgeous and so full of emotion and lovely.
 — fallinforyou

great poem, but lines 38 & 39 are messy, and don't like the wording of lines 30 & 31, 42 & 42.
 — inutile

I like the changes a lot.  The title does the piece a lot more justice now.  I'm honored to have been able to help.
 — jerotich

This is quite wonderful - a pure rhythm that ran all through this
 — Mercedes

Too much tell not enough show.

 — unknown

I really love this. The feeling just reaches out,more I think, to those of us who are non-natives. Good job.
 — unknown

The title is fine, I think. this is a great narrative - you've achieved the optimum use of the persona in this one. It's been great watching your writing evolve with time, as you've taken on board comments which you've received.

I think the major flaws in this one are pretty minor - the tenses are a bit odd at some points, and the linebreaks are not as effective as they could have been.

I don't want to give this piece a structural makeover, but I'll be glad to point out some examples if you require some focus for the tense errors and line breaks.

The more I read through this, the more lovely it becomes. I especially like the strong way in which this starts, and lines twenty four through to lines thirty one are breakingly exquisite.

I think you really must do something about the line and stanza breaks to make this shine even more.
 — wendz

So why is she switching from portuguese to german?
 — Bombazine

wendz:  Thanks a lot for the critique.  I'll look at the line breaks again and see if I can't improve them.  I'll edit it and then post as soon as I can.

Bombazine: This girl was a foreign student, from Portugal, studying here in Austria.  She speaks Portuguese during the phone conversation and a bit afterwards as she's trying to deal with the news she just received.  She knew her grandmother by the Portuguese word, not by the German word.  So she used it whenever she referred to her.  Her grandmother was always "Avó" in the same way English speaking children would call their grandmother's "grandma" or "nanna."  Then to communicate with us she speaks German, because well... it's Austria and that's what is spoken here (at least a dialect of it anyway).
 — Resonanz

Oh geez and thanks to everyone else for the comments as well.
 — Resonanz

I read this again. I like this so, so much. The gentleness and soft sorrow are perfect in this. I love the use of the word "theoretically" in the last line - it makes me think of science, and how science is only a small, stumbling child when it comes to emotions.

It also makes me think of someone using something cold and unemotional to hold back emotion - it's quite wonderful, really.

I like the tenses in this, now. It feels as if someone is struggling to find the right words, and the more painstaking it is, the more I feel the strength of grief.

Don't change a thing. Well done, you. Very well done.
 — wendz

Thank you very much wendz.
 — Resonanz

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