The First Time I Drank With My Father

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
Ravallion
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:53 am

The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Ravallion » Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:03 pm

Nurses wash you with long hair 
trailing over ribs and rigging,

faint blue outline 
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

In the Liberation of '44
you sailed the Champs Ellysees
with the swagger of conquest. 

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers. 

Now you've pissed yourself again. 

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,
side-step through piles
of soiled linen.

Fetid air masks 
the two shots and a beer 
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.

NotQuiteSure
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2213
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2016 4:05 pm

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by NotQuiteSure » Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:38 pm

Hi Ravallion,
enjoyed the read. Liked the consistent tone
(dark) and the reveal satisfies, nicely done.
Some (very small) niggles.

Nurses wash you with long hair
trailing over ribs and rigging,

Maybe change the word order to:
Nurses, long hair trailing
over ribs and rigging,
wash you

(just to delay the reveal).

faint blue outline
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

Not keen on 'custard', doesn't sit
that well with 'Spanish' but the overall
description is very nice.

In the Liberation of '44
you sailed the Champs Ellysees
with the swagger of conquest.

'swagger' after 'sailed' doesn't work
for me, keep the nautical theme going
(maybe 'on the tide of conquest' ?)

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers.

I think you might cut the fourth line
(or the second), stick to the three
line verses.

Now you've pissed yourself again.
Cut 'now' and join this line to the
following couplet?
I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,


I side-step through piles
of soiled linen.

Got a bit lost with the bed-clothes
(are they pyjamas?)

Fetid air masks
the two shots and a beer
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.

(not sure about 'foetid' after the more
blunt language of 'pissed', plus, it's
implied by 'soiled')
Again, to keep to three lines, maybe:
I side-step through piles
of soiled linen.
Fetid air masks

the two shots and a beer
it takes to [make] the last
of your sons come.


Regards, Not.


.

Ravallion
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:53 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Ravallion » Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:13 pm

Thanks Not. Bed clothes are indeed pajamas.
There are poems I think benefit form couplets, tercets, etc. No harm in it *except* when content is sacrificed to form.

The balance of your comments wilk be given consideration, and I thank you for a good, balanced critique

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1052
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Perry » Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:39 am

Since there are nurses and orderlies in this poem, I assume all this happens in a hospital.
Ravallion wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:03 pm
Nurses wash you with long hair (not sure whose long hair it is)
trailing over ribs and rigging, (rigging? Sounds like something on a ship, or is rigging found in hospital rooms?)

faint blue outline 
of a Spanish tri-master (don't know what that is -- a model airplane?)
on custard colored skin. (your father's skin?)

In the Liberation of '44
you sailed the Champs Ellysees
with the swagger of conquest. 

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers. 

Now you've pissed yourself again. (I would say pissed ON yourself; maybe your dialect is a little different from mine.)

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,
side-step through piles
of soiled linen. (I guess this just means you are at the hospital late, but why would a visitor come in contact with dirty linen?)

Fetid air masks 
the two shots and a beer 
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come. (This is where the title comes in. These two shots and a beer would seem to be the first time you have drunk with your father, but it sounds like you had the drinks to prepare for the visit, so did you actually have them WITH your father? Can people drink in a hospital?)
As you can see, there are lots of things I don't understand. My comprehension isn't always the best, so I suspect I am missing or misinterpreting some things. I haven't said much about whether I like the poem. I'd like to understand it all first.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Macavity
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6214
Joined: Tue May 10, 2005 10:29 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Macavity » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:13 am

hi Ravallion,
I picture a figure wasted with illness, mind and body, time cutting the 'swagger' in youth to an enfeebled, unheroic end. The use of custard made me think of jaundice, perhaps liver damage due to drinking. Although, you lose alliteration, perhaps mustard would be closer to the colour (more associated with war rather than slapstick?) I presumed the Spanish tri-master was a boat tattooed on his skin.

Ravallion wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:03 pm
Nurses wash you with long hair..............this line is open to a confused reading
trailing over ribs and rigging,

faint blue outline 
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

In the Liberation of '44
you sailed the Champs Ellysees
with the swagger of conquest. .................rather than liberation!

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,......................................sense of elevated to...
litter your path with flowers...........................why the negativity of litter? acerbic because triumph is illusory?

Now you've pissed yourself again...............................effective contrast, the isolated line reinforces the impact 

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,
side-step through piles
of soiled linen.............................................contrast to the flowers

Fetid air masks ...........................like the sonic thread faint/first/fresh/fetid...translates the 'anger'
the two shots and a beer 
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.
The title was a good hook, but I don't get the concluding connection (I tried conception, in the womb, but couldn't rationalise that reading).

hope that helps some

mac

User avatar
lotus
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 392
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:29 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by lotus » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:06 am

Ravallion wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:03 pm

The First Time I Drank With My Father


Nurses wash you with long hair 
trailing over ribs and rigging,

faint blue outline 
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

In the Liberation of '44
you sailed the Champs Ellysees
with the swagger of conquest. 

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers. 

Now you've pissed yourself again. 

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,
side-step through piles
of soiled linen.

Fetid air masks 
the two shots and a beer 
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.


Ravallion

`
dear Ravallion

i've reposted the poem as i found it, not knowing if you have made any changes.
for me it is a very fine canvas of the here and now as well as time travel
which to my ear blends well. so please allow me to offer my applause

silent lotus


`
“A poem should have the touch ... the way sunlight falls on Braille.” .......silent lotus

User avatar
Binz
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 150
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 11:16 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Binz » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:56 am

very good capture/expression of how a life changes and a sadness of relationship.

I read 'bed clothes' as sheets, so a change to pyjamas would avoid that confusion.

"Now you've pissed yourself again." That scored a hit. IMHO it works best as a standalone line and I'd say keep the 'now' as it immediately brings the reader back from '44 Paris to a hospital in the present day.

At 1st I thought the title didn't make sense as surely the son would have had many times drinking with dad before then - then the penny dropped. Nice one.
If you want to fly, you must first spread your wings.

Ravallion
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:53 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Ravallion » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:23 am

Thanks all. Many insightful comments.

As an aside, the Liberation was the stated goal of D Day at Normandy

U.S. Army printed posters showing seductive French girls who were "waiting" on American soldiers as a means to motivate the GI's.

From August 19- 25th, hundreds of rapes and assaults against French women were reported.

29 US Soldiers were executed, 25 of these were African American.

General Eisenhower authorized the importation of an experienced executioner, a civilian, to hang these men.

I don't believe my father participated in anything like that. Though I chose to make the poem about him and me,the historian in me could not tolerate failing to mention some historical background.

I did in fact have these events in mind with "swagger of conquest" "litter your path....." with him as an archetype all these years later, attended by women, helpless and with the loss of all self pride and dignity.

On an interpersonal level, we were never close

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1052
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Perry » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:40 am

Wow, I didn't know all that stuff. Rape is certainly a bad crime, but men aren't usually hung for it. I imagine that none of them got trials. As a person who despises racism, it is disturbing that it was directed mostly at black men.

Keep in mind that the readers of this poem probably won't know all that history.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Ravallion
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:53 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Ravallion » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:59 am

Perry. No the reader wont have a clue ✌

1lankest
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1714
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:12 pm

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by 1lankest » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:42 pm

Great stuff. This really moved me - the subtle and the hard hitting work in fierce contrast to good effect.

I like the use of custard (this, I know, being a favourite in homes for the elderly) - ‘coloured’ seems clumsy though. Any way to shed this word?

Wonderful, clever ending.

Title: it leads on but doesn’t lead on. I was expecting it to roll into the first line but it doesn’t. A little distracting.

L

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13711
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by David » Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:58 pm

I think this is really good. I just stumbled over the last stanza, which I found really hard to follow. And to unravel.

Oh, and over (polyglot pedants' corner here) Champs Ellysees for Champs-Élysées - unless the former is what your father called it, in which case it is well chosen.

Cheers

David

User avatar
Mirrorball
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 251
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2018 6:45 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Mirrorball » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:50 am

Hello again Ravallion,

I keep coming back to this poem to see what I can learn from the other reviewers.

I read the last stanza similar to Perry in that it's dutch courage and you say you were not close to your father so it could be that you never had a drink with him. I ultimately read 'with him' as in associated with him rather than along with him. Please don't feel you have to reveal all. I like the mystery of the poem.

I agree with Mac on custard. It's a bit silly for me even though I get the connection with nursing homes. You could use the French word 'jaune' or, for the armed forces link, the TNT used in munitions factories was yellow (as in the Canary girls).

Your sequencing could be improved as some have already suggested.

Nevertheless, I think it's a great poem and very personal so I can understand if you don't want to change it much.

Ravallion
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:53 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by Ravallion » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:52 am

Thank you so much guys.

Excellent comments

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6578
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: The First Time I Drank With My Father

Post by ray miller » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:40 am

Now you've pissed yourself again. - that's very well put, as is the final stanza. I don't really get the 2nd stanza, what is meant to resemble the Spanish tri-master and if I ever see skin the colour of custard I shall stop taking the drugs.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

Post Reply