Stains (revised)

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Stains (revised)

Post by ray miller » Mon Jun 01, 2009 6:45 pm

All was lost on a daily basis,
she believed that there must be a thief
who was stealing for other faces
in need of spectacles and teeth.

Nocturnal feast went unfinished,
a weak bladder and toothless gums
left lipstick stains on the Guinness
and a trail of biscuit crumbs

to the inco pad down the toilet
and a pool of piss on the ground;
the baby alarm has gone silent
and her knitting is all unwound

around a false breast on the carpet
that feels unwholesome to the touch,
and the diary with the targets
that she'll miss so very much.
Last edited by ray miller on Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:34 pm, edited 4 times in total.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

User avatar
stuartryder
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 897
Joined: Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:45 am
antispam: no
Location: Warrington, UK

Re: Stains

Post by stuartryder » Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:47 pm

Ray

Interesting poem, though it seemed a bit harsh. A garish character if you will. But I am drawn to her! The missing teeth, the stale Guinness. The slightly-cliched tone throughout which I actually think suits this tired, worn-out woman. Maybe it was a blessing she missed the end of BGT, otherwise the sight of Susan Boyle flashing her leg might have spoiled your final act.

Cheers

Stu

juliadebeauvoir
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2083
Joined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 2:42 am
Location: East of Eden

Re: Stains

Post by juliadebeauvoir » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:22 pm

Nocturnal feasts went unfinished,
a weak bladder and toothless gums
left lipstick stains on the Guinness
and a trail full of biscuit crumbs
Ray,
I was caught up in the beginning--trying to picture myself with toothless gums and garish lipstick. It wasn't pretty.
Thought the descriptive powers were excellent. Would have liked something more poignant with:
the baby alarm has gone silent
and the knitting is all unwound
I guess I just wanted more...to know how lonely she was or actually how satisfied with her Guinness and entertainment on the television. Maybe its good the babies are gone, maybe she hated knitting. These are the things I wanted to know about the old girl since I was identifying with her in a future self.
around a false breast on the carpet
that feels unwholesome to the touch,
in her diary are the targets
that she'll miss by so very much.
I wasn't clear on first read of: 'false breast on the carpet...", although after reading it again it becomes clear. Who needs an old fake breast any way? I kind of felt that you should leave it on this verse--not "Britian's Got Talent". You could stick that in closer to the beginning. The targets she misses really is the point in my mind.

Good read,
Kim
"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

oranggunung
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1393
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:15 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Stains

Post by oranggunung » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:43 pm

Ray

I think the half-rhymes are used very cleverly here - I didn´t spot them first time around.
I wonder if the structure might be impinging on the content, though. The first line provides an intriguing image, but there seems to be some stretching of the sentence to fit the rest of the verse.

And a trail full of biscuit crumbs
“full” looks a lot like padding, I wonder if

and a lengthy/messy/random trail of biscuit crumbs

might avoid that, while maintaining the rhythm.

and the pool of piss on the ground;
the baby alarm has gone silent
I missed the connection here. The contrast of a pensioner with a new parent seemed a bit random. The images are disturbing, but I can´t see the relevance of a baby alarm. I should read more, obviously. The semi-colon was hardest here, because it seems to be your method for linking unrelated ideas. Are baby alarms used by adults to monitor senile parents? Even so, surely the loudspeaker would fall silent and that isn´t in the house that is being described. Picky and pedantic this may be, but the block was there to stumble over.

The last verse is back on track, after the apparent surrealism of S4. So many of the images relate to an older person, but I can´t find a way for the others to sit comfortably.

Winding this all up with Britain´s Got Talent, does make one wonder if the reader is supposed to be drawn to Susan Boyle. I can´t make that link either, although one could say that she (Susan Boyle) didn´t make it to the end.

Clever structure, disturbing images, but not quite a rounded whole that I could grapple with to my satisfaction.

og

Mic
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1758
Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:58 am
antispam: no
Contact:

Re: Stains

Post by Mic » Tue Jun 02, 2009 2:47 pm

Gritty, but poignant. I am probably massively missing the point, but this poem seems to me to be about an ordinary mum that has lost the battle to breast cancer. The prosaic language and 'breezy' references to gruesome details (the discarded fake breast, gummy lipstick imprints) I find rather moving. How ordinary tragedy is.
"Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you" - Rumi

User avatar
El Wow!
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 420
Joined: Fri Oct 17, 2008 5:07 pm

Re: Stains

Post by El Wow! » Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:18 pm

real good this ray, very now, liked it

El

Ros
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 7961
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:53 pm
antispam: no
Location: this hill-shadowed city/of razors and knives.
Contact:

Re: Stains

Post by Ros » Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:28 pm

I think Kim has said excellent things on the technical points, so I won't witter on about them. You have a real sense of poignancy here but in a very concrete sort of way. It's not pleasant, but it is very good.
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Stains

Post by ray miller » Tue Jun 02, 2009 9:22 pm

Thank you all for some interesting comments.

Stuart it were meant to be a little Alan Bennett, I suppose!

Kim it's not actually referring to a baby, the baby alarm is used to monitor the old lady, though there's a nod at her infantilisation.I pretty much omitted her feelings, yes, in order to focus on the stains she left behind.For another poem, maybe.

og you're correct, "full" is padding. How do you spot stuff like that? I think I'll just omit it.Yes, baby alarms are used by adults to monitor senile parents and that's what's being referred to.I'm not absolutely sure I understand your next sentence but for my purposes the loudspeaker and the receiver are, together, The Baby Alarm. I had to laugh at the thought of you attempting to fit Susan Boyle into this.

Mic hello. The subject has lost not only one breast but all of her marbles.

El Wow! and Ros thanks again.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

brianedwards
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5375
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 am
antispam: no
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re: Stains

Post by brianedwards » Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:39 am

All was lost on a daily basis,
she believed that there must be a thief
who was stealing for other faces
in need of spectacles and teeth.

Nocturnal feasts went unfinished,
a weak bladder and toothless gums
left lipstick stains on the Guinness
and a trail of biscuit crumbs

to the Inco pad down the toilet
and the pool of piss on the ground;
the baby alarm has gone silent
and the knitting is all unwound

around a false breast on the carpet


Ray, up to this point I am thinking WOW! FUCKING INCREDIBLE!! Then things start to unwind, for me.

that feels unwholesome to the touch,

Is unwholesome the right word here? Such power in the previous line, any modifier here has to be very precise, and this just doesn't quite get there for me.

I actually think you could nix the last 6 lines. Of course, ending on the above line would be too abrupt, so you might need to think of a better way to end that stanza. But honestly, I think it would be well, well worth it. Please consider revising. The ending just doesn't match up to those first 13 lines, which made me think WOW! FUCKING INCREDIBLE!

B.


Just a thought, but how about ending on a couplet, which kinda gives you a kinda-pseudo-sonnet? You could keep the missed targets which Kim (rightly) highlighted as significant. Something like:


All was lost on a daily basis,
she believed that there must be a thief
who was stealing for other faces
in need of spectacles and teeth.

Nocturnal feasts went unfinished,
a weak bladder and toothless gums
left lipstick stains on the Guinness
and a trail of biscuit crumbs

to the Inco pad down the toilet
and the pool of piss on the ground;
the baby alarm has gone silent
and the knitting is all unwound

around a false breast on the carpet
and a diary full of missed targets.


(or maybe something other than "missed"? Something 2 syllables?)

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Stains

Post by ray miller » Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:26 am

Brian thank you so much forthe input. Just when I thought I were done with this! I guess you may be right about the last verse. Unwholesome? When I've had occasion to pick up the false breast it brings to mind thoughts that I'd rather not be having. Unhealthy,unwholesome, peculiar, disturbing all approximate without, perhaps, being spot on. If anyone can come up with a better word I'd be very grateful!
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

Suzanne
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 4898
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:46 pm
antispam: no
Location: Land of the Midnight Sun

Re: Stains

Post by Suzanne » Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:47 am

Ray! I loved this!
I did! From the first to the last.

After the first verse, I paused and ponderd, it was such a great beginning.
I got hung up only on the word target, I pictured little bulls-eyes. It is probably just me.

Thanks for the read, very enjoyable.
Suzanne

oranggunung
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1393
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:15 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Stains

Post by oranggunung » Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:58 am

Ray.

Thanks for putting me right about the baby alarm. I wandered off on a most bizarre digression. I think the word "baby" was to blame.

I see it, now, as an even bleaker piece than I realised. Stark, but stirring stuff.

re padding. I know all about it, because I´m often guilty of it myself.

og

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Stains (revised)

Post by ray miller » Fri Jun 05, 2009 9:34 am

I decided to excise the last verse, fond of it though I was, and I can't come up with a better word than unwholesome.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

oranggunung
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1393
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:15 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Re: Stains (revised)

Post by oranggunung » Fri Jun 05, 2009 4:33 pm

Hi Ray

I´m still picking at this. Now I can see the whole, it makes it easier to crit.


Nocturnal feast went unfinished,

This line seems to need an article if it remains singular – that isn´t so much of a problem for the plural.


left lipstick stains on the Guinness

I´m keen to avoid the word “stains” here, as the title has already given us that.


to the Inco pad down the toilet
and the pool of piss on the ground;
the baby alarm has gone silent
and the knitting is all unwound


Inco must be a brand name, but does it need to be there? Can the sense be achieved without it?

The pad, the pool, the baby alarm, the knitting – a surfeit of definite articles.


around a false breast on the carpet
that feels unwholesome to the touch,
and the diary with the targets
that she'll miss so very much.


Potentially a contrast with S3; you might use indefinite articles here.


around a false breast on the carpet -
unwholesome to the touch -
and a diary full of targets
that she'll miss so very much.


I think the end point is a good one, but worry about tenses and (a reputation may be in the process of being built) padding. To the point of the last line, it seems everything could sit neatly in the past tense. While I understand that a diary could provide a perspective into the future, I wonder whether that ray of hope should be allowed - clearly there isn´t going to be an improvement. By keeping the past tense, I wonder if that makes the story all the harsher/sadder.


and a diary full of targets
that she missed so very much.

Echoes of the first line, but perhaps they were already there.

Padding – to my eye (or is that ear?), “so very much” is unnecessary to the story. Obviously it´s necessary for the rhythm, so there is a dilemma. No suggestions, I´m afraid.

Sorry if this looks like a hatchet job, but I´m engaging with the poem now.


og

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Stains (revised)

Post by ray miller » Fri Jun 05, 2009 5:32 pm

Thanks for returning og. I'm not entirely sure whether Inco pad is a brand name, it is short for incontinence pad so probably not and I'll make it lower case. Inco pads do usually need to be there!

"a diary full of targets that she'll miss so very much" Originally I had "by" before "so very much".The intention is to convey the idea that future targets will be missed by a long way, an increasingly long way. I don't think, therefore, that "so very much" is padding.

Good advice about the definite articles, hadn't noticed it.

Thankyou. Ray
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

brianedwards
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5375
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 am
antispam: no
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re: Stains (revised)

Post by brianedwards » Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:53 am

Much better to end there I think Ray. Will have another think about unwholesome and also "so very much" --- I think og may have a point.

B.

Post Reply