Why I Don't Wave Back

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ray miller
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Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by ray miller » Sun Jun 14, 2015 8:55 am

I’d just left school when my father confessed
that he and my mother were nobodies,
in a sneaky attempt to raise my chin off the floor.
But everyone knew she was Marla, so-called
because she featured Flash Gordon’s bit of stuff;

who parted my hair the wrong side of my head
and had the best legs in Longbridge, according
to Steak Lee, whose granddaughter was dating
a Bee-Gee, and whose pronouncements upon
such matters were thus afforded great respect.

That’s why my mates would always arrange
to call round for me, and not vice versa;
to ogle mini-skirted Marla, even
in her rollers, hanging out the washing,
a peg in her mouth and basket full of nappies.

Sometimes she’d make us pieces of jam
or cut a thin slice of Battenberg cake,
and though no one was fond of marzipan,
we didn’t protest, or ask why she cleaned
at the DHSS when she could have been on TV,

exchanging a smoke and small talk
with some punk outside the Sloppy Joe cafe.
Ever inventive Marla, who extracted the wax
from my ears by means of a hairgrip
and dug out blackheads with the blunt end

of a nail file. Whose glamour survived
the ravages of breast cancer, down to
the very last wig in the very last week,
who left us a poem asserting that
the only bad thing a mother does is to die

and leave you alone. I carry this torch
to shine in the eyes of every face that I surmise
is waving past or through me at Marla,
still hovering round the wrong side of my head,
taking all the time in the world over a parting.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by dedalus » Sun Jun 14, 2015 11:42 pm

very atmospheric, introducing a huddle of characters, yet in some ways quite bleak and lonely.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by JJWilliamson » Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:56 pm

Very clever and moving poem, ray.

I was held all the way to that great close and found myself nodding the nod of recognition.
ray miller wrote:I’d just left school when my father confessed
that he and my mother were nobodies,
in a sneaky attempt to raise my chin off the floor.
But everyone knew she was Marla, so-called
because she featured Flash Gordon’s bit of stuff; ...lost me a bit with this line.

who parted my hair the wrong side of my head
and had the best legs in Longbridge, according
to Steak Lee, whose granddaughter was dating ...Steak Lee? Was it a nickname?
a Bee-Gee, and whose pronouncements upon ...like the internal rhyme and the absurdity of 'Bee Gee'
such matters were thus afforded great respect.

That’s why my mates would always arrange
to call round for me, and not vice versa;
to ogle mini-skirted Marla, even
in her rollers, hanging out the washing,
a peg in her mouth and basket full of nappies. ...great imagery

Sometimes she’d make us pieces of jam ...Ah, I thought 'piece' was Scottish. Oor Wullie and The Broons often enjoyed a jam piece.
or cut a thin slice of Battenberg cake,
and though no one was fond of marzipan,
we didn’t protest, or ask why she cleaned
at the DHSS when she could have been on TV,

exchanging a smoke and small talk
with some punk outside the Sloppy Joe cafe.
Ever inventive Marla, who extracted the wax
from my ears by means of a hairgrip
and dug out blackheads with the blunt end ...Do you mind, I'm trying to eat a sausage roll.

of a nail file. Whose glamour survived
the ravages of breast cancer, down to ...Very effective switch. I didn't see it coming.
the very last wig in the very last week,
who left us a poem asserting that
the only bad thing a mother does is to die ...Very moving and caring

and leave you alone. I carry this torch
to shine in the eyes of every face that I surmise ...another effective internal
is waving past or through me at Marla,
still hovering round the wrong side of my head,
taking all the time in the world over a parting. ...clever. poignant close
I liked the poem in its entirety and believe it should be nominated for something.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by Macavity » Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:44 pm

...and believe it should be nominated for something.
Agreed. Thoroughly enjoyed this Ray. I don't understand the pieces of jam though.

all the best

mac

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by Firebird » Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:55 pm

Really good poem. I love the ending - absolutely love it. Please ignore my nits if you wish - they are probably just me.

ray miller wrote:I’d just left school when my father confessed
that he and my mother were nobodies, (I love this line for so many reasons)
in a sneaky attempt to raise my chin off the floor.
But everyone knew she was Marla, so-called
because she featured Flash Gordon’s bit of stuff;

who parted my hair the wrong side of my head
and had the best legs in Longbridge, according
to Steak Lee, whose granddaughter was dating
a Bee-Gee, and whose pronouncements upon
such matters were thus afforded great respect. ('thus afforded' sounds a bit to formal for the tone of the piece. I love the comedy here, though)

That’s why my mates would always arrange
to call round for me, and not vice versa;
to ogle mini-skirted Marla, even
in her rollers, hanging out the washing,
a peg in her mouth and basket full of nappies. (Sorry, I find this image a little worn, even though she's a sexy women)

Sometimes she’d make us pieces of jam (if 'piece of jam', is dialect, as I don't understand it, maybe there should be some more hints of accent and dialect so it isn't anomalous)
or cut a thin slice of Battenberg cake,
and though no one was fond of marzipan,
we didn’t protest, or ask why she cleaned
at the DHSS when she could have been on TV,

exchanging a smoke and small talk (love this line, with 'sm' and 'k' sounds in 'smoking' being repeated in 'small talk'. Great sonics IMHP)
with some punk outside the Sloppy Joe cafe.
Ever inventive Marla, who extracted the wax
from my ears by means of a hairgrip
and dug out blackheads with the blunt end (great stanza break)

of a nail file. Whose glamour survived
the ravages of breast cancer, down to
the very last wig in the very last week,
who left us a poem asserting that
the only bad thing a mother does is to die (excellent stanza!)

and leave you alone. I carry this torch
to shine in the eyes of every face that I surmise
is waving past or through me at Marla,
still hovering round the wrong side of my head,
taking all the time in the world over a parting.
(fantastic ending)


Thanks for a great read.

Tristan

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by Ros » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:38 am

Another great one, Ray. Getting just a touch prosy with this bit?

Ever inventive Marla, who extracted the wax
from my ears by means of a hairgrip
and dug out blackheads with the blunt end

of a nail file. Whose glamour survived
the ravages of breast cancer

I've come to recognise the clever double meaning in the last line as a Ray favourite. Works well here.

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
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ray miller
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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by ray miller » Wed Jun 17, 2015 11:38 am

Thanks all. I'm really surprised it's been well received. When I posted it I thought it was rubbish, but I'm always prepared to be persuaded otherwise.
Bren - it's tough at the top.
JJ - Flash Gordon's girlfriend was called Marla. My mother looked like her, apparently, hence the nickname. Steak was Sidney, Steak and Kidney. His granddaughter really was dating a Bee-Gee.
Mac - a piece is a sandwich in Birmingham/Black Country - and in Scotland, according to JJ.
Tristan - you're probably right about thus afforded, I had an eye on the rhyme with according.
Ros - fair point about the prosy bit. You mean parting, yeah, I have used it once before - only once!
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by cynwulf » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:18 pm

Certainly not rubbish-too much angst and feeling in this slice of Brummie lifefor that to be so. The last line I have to agree is a touch of absolute brilliance.
Best wishes, c.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by ray miller » Fri Jun 19, 2015 10:18 am

Thanks very much, Cynwulf.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by David » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:17 pm

Great plaudits already, Ray - all well deserved.
ray miller wrote:I'm really surprised it's been well received. When I posted it I thought it was rubbish, but I'm always prepared to be persuaded otherwise.
Strange, isn't it? Anyway, you should be thoroughly persuaded by now.

All I have to add are nits (which seems appropriate for a largely tonsorial poem) ...

L5 - I agree with JJ: I can see what you're saying, but - if you look at how you've worded it - it seems to have come out a bit garbled, doesn't it?

In fact that's it. This is the result of the Isle of Man jury: Ray Miller, one nit. (That may not have come out right either.)

For this is not a nit at all, but corroborative evidence: my mother fed me and my sister on pieces of jam too. Actually - as JJ says - jam pieces. At an early age they might well have been jam piecies.

Terrific ending, of course. Moving, but obliquely. Brilliantly done.
JJWilliamson wrote:I liked the poem in its entirety and believe it should be nominated for something.
A novel, but very good way of putting it.

Cheers

David

P.S. Vanessa, being a devotee of gardening programmes (and especially the life and works of Monty Don), has developed a hankering to visit the Malvern Show next year. You don't know a good pub in the area, do you?

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by ray miller » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:03 pm

Thanks, David. If I use resembled instead of featured in line 5, does that help?
I know a few good pubs in the area, though I'm more familiar with the bad ones. Do you mean a pub to stay at or to visit? Seems a long way to travel just for some flowers.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by Antcliff » Sat Jun 20, 2015 11:47 am

Late too this, Ray. To be praised. I join the chorus.

Very good ending. And lots of colour of the time and place.

Not sure I understand why she "featured" said girlfriend. Does "featured" here serve as a cinema metaphor, as in "the main feature was"?

Seth
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Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by ray miller » Sun Jun 21, 2015 7:33 pm

Thanks, Seth. I meant featured as in resembled, with a nod at the cinema. I should probably go with resembled.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Why I Don't Wave Back

Post by David » Sun Jun 21, 2015 7:45 pm

ray miller wrote: If I use resembled instead of featured in line 5, does that help?
Yes it does, but I missed the applicability of "featured" to the films first time around, and it's a shame to lose that. But it just doesn't work, I think, so "resembled" is better.

The Great Malvern Floral Festival is in May, apparently - and obviously enough, now I think about it - and very much on Vanessa's must-do list. (Along wth Chelsea and the Gardeners' World show at the NEC in Birmingham.) I don't mind spending a day looking at flowers, but I like a good pub to look forward to at the end of it.

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