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spearmint tea, tracks and trestles

for claudia;  published in LJWorld Poet's Showcase 11/5/06

The sun settles
on the far side of the river,
under cover of cottonwood, oak, and elm;
in the shadow of grain silos,
the Union Pacific trestle
offers no sure footing, my love:
we either follow, or fall.
I might remain idle
here on the east side of the levee,
but for your blinking in the wind,
your shortness of breath,
and the slow screams which
I heard on your waking;
I could hardly condemn you
to another restless night
on these sweaty sheets.
Our feet form a strange forest
for bullfrogs, chiggers, fireflies
and copperheads, our hands
a trembling bower, mosquito cover;
we have nothing, we are blind,
our breath barely mixed with the
exhalation of cicadas, our spirits
so far removed from any ancient altar,
our tongues so torn from each other
that we form monosyllables,
yet hear nothing at all.
God answers back from the pulse in your neck;
the river refuses to bend.

25 Aug 06

Rated 9.2 (8.6) by 12 users.
Active (12): 1, 7, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10
Inactive (8): 1, 6, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10, 10

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Lines 14-16 are my favourite.
 — propoet50

Oh, it's a good day in our poetry neighborhood today!  Line 7 is the best line.  

I have no critique, except that the second stanza is a little confusing but not enough to suggest change.
 — Isabelle5

 — unknown

hello mikki.
another unusual, emotive but neutral, beautiful, observational and insightful poem.

would you consider using 'and' at the beginning of line 19 and therefore, also not using a comma at the end of the preceeding line?
 — varun

     propoet50 -- thanks, those lines are as close as caring gets sometimes.  And

     Isabelle, thanks as well.  It takes some projection for me to place the poetic voice in a relationship, LOL, but I'm glad you like it.

     varun, thanks, I made the tweak you suggested.  I do want to get back to your newest, too -- it is good work -- but I haven't had time to comment on the Newest list yet this weekend.  I hope to have less demands on my time tomorrow.  Thanks for the visit.
 — mikkirat

thanks mikki.

i was thinking maybe 'the rivers refuse to bend' would have more strength?

there wasn't 'for claudia'. now there is...
 — varun

It's quite nice. Lines 28-29 are great.
 — unknown

This poem is AWESOME!  L'25 - 29 sucked me right in!  "10"
 — starr

well it is interesting for a bit then you compare it to your other poems and find the same insect themes, stubborn necks, and a problem with accepting finitude.

 — unknown

those are sharp insights. once you 'see' the same use of nature to represent isolation and stubbornness, the tricks get old. and yes poetry is a trick.
all language is such.

mr nash
 — unknown

i have a guess what this is about, or rather
it's setting. if so oak, cypress and elm would never be found together.
but ah! poetic license is a treat.

my only other comment is that i don't know what the east side of the levee is.
to what are you referring?

 — unknown

     starr, varun, thanks -- st3ntorian, good catch on the themes; it is accidental, but you're right.  I've probably written 200 poems since coming to PC two years ago and posting even half of that would be crazy, but indeed three of my most recent seem to have recurrent themes of sweat, insects and idleness.
     mr nash -- thanks for your indulgence as well.

    Rixes -- yes, I've taken more than a few liberties with this poem.  Your most recent was a bit of an inspiration as well.  Amusingly enough, I wanted to take a class this fall through the environmental studies department because when it comes to plants and animals, I really have little to no clue what 99% are called.  Not that I really feel like the 19th-century obligatory "salute to nature" (wasn't it Wordsworth who was always going on about such things?) is really necessary, I just feel pathetic when I don't even know the names of trees in my own front yard.  I was visualizing the Kansas River when I wrote this -- oak and elm are easy -- but I did want to have a bayou feel as well, and cypress is such a lovely word (sigh).  I even wondered if the Union Pacific rails made it that far south.
    The east side of the levee doesn't have too heavy a significance, but I did want to introduce the idea that the couple portrayed were on the opposite bank from the sunset, and that the poetic voice might not cross to follow the sun were it not for his love's desire.  I feel a need to keep that element in there, but on revision will look to find a way to make that stand out less.
    Thanks for your visit and your read; I probably won't be posting much in the coming months, as I feel vaguely guilty posting my own work when I don't have much time to comment on others' work.
 — mikkirat

line 19:  vipers  >>somehow they don't belong... maybe becuz the forest you paint the picture of is north american and not a normal habitat for a viper...
I'm thinking more, copperhead or rattler...  other than that, this is wonderful!
 — aforbing

i found the 3rd stanza a rather heady mix of imagery, interupting me a little.  but my reading improves on perseverance(!), and i love the rest, especially the ending
 — oracle

This is a very clear, and a reasonably evocative, description - but there doesn't seem to be much of an event here. It was like listening to a really beautiful woman talk about how to make pastry.
A poem needs to be clear and precise - I think this was. Usually they also need to be at least a little challenging. This piece I found far too comfortable.
I think a poem which soothes is one which is not working hard enough.
 — ferngulley

ooOOoo how boootifulll!
 — jittery

Rixes, I revised line 3 after all, despite my love for "cypress."  It now reads as "cottonwood, oak, and elm," all native to Kansas.  My brain may have been in the bayou when writing, but my feet are still here on the Kaw.

aforbing, thanks; I will reconsider "vipers," but for now the sonics work too well for me to revise.  I'll keep it in mind, though.

oracle, thank you.  The third stanza is indeed packed, but I wanted to somehow get across the speaker's near-paralysis; I'm glad you made it through.

ferngully, thanks for your comments.  I agree that there doesn't seem to be much of an event, but I do want readers to wonder what the motives of the speaker and significant other are here, and hope that the 2nd stanza suggests more than tells.

finally, jittery, thanks much.  I'm glad you like it.
 — mikkirat

Beautiful.  I love the last two lines.  Yum.  
 — Machsee

beware of such abstract stock phrases as 'slow scream'.
 — unknown

I love this, by far, this is the best poem you've written from the lot you've posted here. There's so much beautiful details that it overshadows any possible critique I may have.  For me, the 1st and last two lines of the poem are the strongest. I was also quite taken by the voice, romantic and subtle, just lovely. Please keep writing work like this. thanx!  ;-)
 — redsky

If you had a book with poems in it like this I would buy it.
 — Tentative

Oh, yes!  Copperheads fits MUCH better.  That is dead on with what I was trying to say.  Now, when you read this and are thinking of the Midwest, you don't get tripped up saying:  "Wait, there's no vipers here."  Great edits!
 — aforbing

     aforbing, thanks again for the suggestion.  Funny enough, after deciding on "copperheads" instead of "vipers," the other day I find out a girlfriend of mine here at KU is taking a graduate-level class in herpetology & knows snakes of very stripe here on the Kaw.
    redsky, I'm absolutely honored.  You know I value your opinion quite a bit, as I love your work.
    Tentative, thanks; I wish I could say "Vanishing Point" (2005) was much like this, but truth be told my work has evolved so much since the ms. was completed that you might be a bit disappointed were you to buy it.  Still, thank you for the comment; I'm pretty happy with this poem, Rixes and aforbing helped a lot.
 — mikkirat

This is a favorite of yours too.  I had to go back and read it again before kickin' off to bed.  Keep on writing in that beautiful way that only you can.  Nite.
 — starr

You would be honoured to know that despite having discovered this lovely site months ago and although I've always faithfully followed the top rated list, this is the first ever comment I'm leaving for any poem.

Gorgeous stuff, I'm with Tentative all the way. I love lines 10, 21, 25-27, and 28-29. This was amazing in a quiet way. Keep writing! :)

 — unknown

 — aurelius

 — unknown

Great metaphor with the trestle.

Lines 17 and 18 are very strong

Wonderfully strong ending.

No subjective crits.  None at all.
 — wily

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