He was reading a book on Family Therapy

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

He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by ray miller » Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:04 pm

I was reading R.D. Laing on Family Therapy
while watching an FA Cup 4th round replay
and listening to Bringing It All Back Home,
when Frankie snatched the album from its orbit, snapped
it in half, then into four, brought it up close
and swore he’d slit my throat with a shard
if I didn’t stop doing what I did any more.
I considered the glamour that being wounded
and scarred by a slice of Dylan would afford, but Frankie
had been in the army two years and might settle
for no less than murder. The needle clicked empty
and I wondered if Frankie meant to mimic those
who picked songs to bits in their quest for meaning.
But Frankie wasn’t looking very avant-garde
and Dylan was knocking on the ceiling.

We’d been to Bogart’s and I’d spent the evening
blagging the barmaid who never wore anything
but blue denim. Dylan had never been Frankie’s poison
and he loathed those he called the denim brigade,
their patchouli oil, their shoelessness and sewn-on badges.
It wasn’t always that way. Once we played Jesus
and John the Baptist - but I lost my head
to a painted face and Frankie had joined the army.

Yeah, Frankie joined the army, on the sly, so to speak,
camouflaged in green and brown faceless shit
while I was dodging spit at Clash and Pistols gigs.
Why? To become someone else, to please his old man
who still fought The Battle of El Alamein
at number 17 Tessall Lane every day of existence;
because his mum had died at an early age
and Frankie had no art to express his pain.
Now he’d brought his world of bombs and booby traps
and laid them down inside my top floor flat.
He’d lost his mind in Belfast, seen blood bubble out
from the caverns of his buddies’ mouths,
the litter of limbs and roadkill brains,
resistant to soap and the sweep of the broom.

He’d grabbed a few days leave and came to see me,
to gain enlightenment on LSD, my trips and flashbacks,
so as to feign the symptoms of mental derangement
and manoeuvre his way out of the army.
I was flattered, of course, and tried on the suit
of shaman-guru; it fit my mood, both burdened
and bemused, that I’d found a part that might be any use.

So I told him about the flying ship, how out of the blue
I could stare at a clock and its hands would rotate
at great speed in an anti-clockwise state.

Is that all? Frankie asked. Yeah, that’s as bad as it gets,
and he downed another straight whisky and wept,
lamenting that it wouldn’t be nearly enough.
But I’d seen how much he drank of this stuff, how early
he began, saw his body stiffen at the roar of a train,
at the shouts from the kids pouring off the school bus.
I said maybe you don’t need the flashbacks, mate,
maybe you really don’t need to pretend,
maybe just being yourself would be enough…..

Subterranean Homesick Blues kicked off –
Join the army, if you fail,
look out kid, you’re gonna get hit –


Frankie drew the sword and our paths diverged,
he became patient and I became nurse
oozing empathy and gliding through the therapy biz,
while he slid around on the pills and the piss,
out of one diagnosis, into the next, on a roll
of ill-thought-out suicide attempts.
I’m grateful he gave me the opportunity
to be the person that lurked internally.
Frankie could never say the same of me.
Last edited by ray miller on Fri Dec 27, 2013 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

ljordan
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:30 pm

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by ljordan » Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:40 pm

Ray, quite masterful. The control of the cadence playing on the internal as well as end rhymes is simply musical. The volumes of detail amplify the narrator's character as well as play into the music. With a few more reads, I may change my mind, but for now the part about the character's relationship acting out the biblical story seems a bit off-key. It's like it's self-consciously surreal and it stands out, especially when they settle into nurse and patient. The end doing its haunting work of realizing ourselves in others. Kind of illustrates the value of the crazies in our lives.

larry

Elphin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2947
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Elphin » Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:24 pm

A very real read, Ray, made all the easier by the cadence (as Larry says) and the tone.

Loved the Dylan references.

This is one that would only get better in hearing it spoken.

Not a poem to be nit picked on -- not that any nits came to me.

plaudits

elph

Antcliff
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6599
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:35 am
Location: At the end of stanza 3

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Antcliff » Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:56 pm

Elphin wrote:A very real read, Ray, made all the easier by the cadence (as Larry says) and the tone.

Loved the Dylan references.

This is one that would only get better in hearing it spoken.

Not a poem to be nit picked on -- not that any nits came to me.

plaudits

elph
Ditto

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

User avatar
twoleftfeet
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6761
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Standing by a short pier, looking for a long run-up

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by twoleftfeet » Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:12 pm

Brilliant, Ray!

Larry has summed it up superbly, although I have to say that I like the JC/JtB reference
because "I lost my head to a painted face" is so equivocal!

I have but one nit -

Would either of you ever use the word "buddy" ?

Geoff
Instead of just sitting on the fence - why not stand in the middle of the road?

Antcliff
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6599
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:35 am
Location: At the end of stanza 3

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Antcliff » Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:36 pm

Reading again..
I considered the glamour that....wounded and scarred
by a slice of Dylanabilia would afford
Felt the need for a "being" here. May just be me.

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

User avatar
twoleftfeet
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6761
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2005 4:02 pm
Location: Standing by a short pier, looking for a long run-up

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by twoleftfeet » Sat Dec 21, 2013 2:02 pm

Antcliff wrote:Reading again..
I considered the glamour that....wounded and scarred
by a slice of Dylanabilia would afford
Felt the need for a "being" here. May just be me.

Seth
Yes - I think you could just have "that being scarred/by a slice of..."
Instead of just sitting on the fence - why not stand in the middle of the road?

Macavity
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6105
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 10:29 am

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Macavity » Sat Dec 21, 2013 3:48 pm

Like this Ray. Very readable. Read it a few times.

These made me smile:

I lost my head to a painted face

and

Dylan was knocking on the ceiling

These I found prosaic:

He’d lost his mind in Belfast

and

had been in the army too long

I wondered if 'fit' should be 'fitted' and well done for resurrecting shard from poetic cliche.

cheers

mac

Nash

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Nash » Sun Dec 22, 2013 9:33 am

Terrific read, Ray.

Not really a crit, more of a passing thought, but how would you feel about losing the line breaks and having it as a prose poem/flash fiction type of a thing. I thought the same about another recent one of yours, was it called 'The Secret', the one about the wine and cheese party?

Nash.

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

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by ray miller » Tue Dec 24, 2013 2:24 pm

Thanks for all the comments. I've been rather busy, testing the omnipotence of the local authorities, but hoping to get back to business as usual now.
Larry - I'll have a think about the John the Baptist stuff.
Elphin - I'm thinking I need to get back to performing so that's nice to hear.
Geoff - I recall some of my mates using the word buddy, but I'll have a rethink.
Seth - I felt something was wrong with that passage but couldn't work out what. Now I do, cheers.
Mac - yeah, I'll look at again at the prosaic bits.
Nash - I've done many a long poem in one fell slab and someone usually comes along advising more white space!
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Ros » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:38 pm

I was a bit confused by the first verse, and I'm not sure it needs quite such a long intro, but when you get into the rest of the story it's fascinating. Favourite lines:

Now he’d brought his world of bombs and booby traps
and laid them down inside my top floor flat.

Quite a tour de force.

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

User avatar
bodkin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3181
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 9:51 pm
antispam: no
Location: Two inches behind my eyes just above the bridge of my nose.

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by bodkin » Tue Dec 24, 2013 5:14 pm

I might need to re-read to be sure I am taking it as you intended, but thus far I am impressed by the characters and energy in this and definitely enjoyed it.

I too did also wonder a little at John the B, the head-loss maybe seemed a little obvious?

Ian
http://www.ianbadcoe.uk/

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

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by ray miller » Fri Dec 27, 2013 8:50 pm

Thanks, Ros and Ian. I take your point about John the Baptist. I think I've even used him in similar fashion in another poem so I really should get rid.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

User avatar
bodkin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3181
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 9:51 pm
antispam: no
Location: Two inches behind my eyes just above the bridge of my nose.

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by bodkin » Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:26 pm

ray miller wrote:Thanks, Ros and Ian. I take your point about John the Baptist. I think I've even used him in similar fashion in another poem so I really should get rid.
On the other hand he fits nicely here...
http://www.ianbadcoe.uk/

Antcliff
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6599
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:35 am
Location: At the end of stanza 3

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by Antcliff » Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:41 pm

Nash wrote:Terrific read, Ray.

Not really a crit, more of a passing thought, but how would you feel about losing the line breaks and having it as a prose poem/flash fiction type of a thing. I thought the same about another recent one of yours, was it called 'The Secret', the one about the wine and cheese party?

Nash.
Ray, I like Nash's suggestion. But not one of those prose poem slab paragraphs. Rather, long lines. The rhymes would still be there. Summat like this maybe... (just using the example of first stanza).


I was reading R.D. Laing on Family Therapy while watching an FA Cup 4th round replay and listening to Bringing It All Back Home, when Frankie snatched the album from its orbit, snapped it in half, then into four, brought it up close and swore he’d slit my throat with a shard if I didn’t stop doing what I did any more.

I considered the glamour that being wounded and scarred by a slice of Dylan would afford, but Frankie had been in the army two years and might settle for no less than murder.

The needle clicked empty and I wondered if Frankie meant to mimic those who picked songs to bits in their quest for meaning. But Frankie wasn’t looking very avant-garde and Dylan was knocking on the ceiling.



Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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

Re: He was reading a book on Family Therapy

Post by ray miller » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:53 pm

Thanks for that, Seth. I was thinking while writing it that it was turning almost into a short story so maybe I'll do something with it along the lines you've suggested.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

Post Reply