Flowers

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Perry
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Flowers

Post by Perry » Tue May 14, 2019 7:12 pm

An arrangement of creative wit, these flowers
in bloom on the sill, where foolish, compassionate
hands have placed them in your hospital room,
turning them just so — hyacinth and jonquil —
to show their painted charm.

Such faith they had once to crane their faces in
the breeze, and reach green arms to birds and sun;
the motherly sun, which warms my nervous thighs,
which nurtured once their petals’ sheen, will presently
turn their petals dry ...

in this hospital room, now suddenly still,
now that lunch trays and push-carts have been removed,
and weary patients take their fleeting rest,
some, perhaps, to find their final view —
not you, I pray, not yet.

What strange reward life's loving effort brings,
that decades of work, friendships and desires,
dreams — all those things that passion made —
and personhood — in a wheezing cough expire.
I remember you

when no sorrow dulled your will for very long,
when youthful hubris leapt unbound, and then
when age brought rich unfoldings of the soul —
how senseless, how unreal, that those should pass
to dead flowers in repose!

Stir your limbs, my friend, and let us take the air.
Let us walk the avenue and feel the rain,
and crush the grass again with careless feet,
and laugh and cry and hold our glasses high
without fear, without pain.

Stay with me, friend, just a moment longer;
I am not yet ready to know
that my own fair flower will yield to mold.

-end-

This is a very old poem, more than 35 years old. It was inspired by a friend dying of AIDS.
Last edited by Perry on Sat May 25, 2019 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Harbal
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Re: Flowers

Post by Harbal » Thu May 16, 2019 8:03 pm

You have complimented me on my ability to rhyme, perry, but I would find it much harder to write a poem like this. If I were to attempt something more serious I would probably wish I had the ability to do it in a style similar to this poem, rhyming poetry can sometimes seem a bit too sing-songy, or at least mine can.

What did you mean by "the motherly sun, which warms my nervous thighs", btw?

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Re: Flowers

Post by Perry » Thu May 16, 2019 10:59 pm

Thank you, Harbal.

I think the ability to write serious poetry comes from your life experiences. I was pretty much a miserable person from an early age, so writing about serious stuff came naturally to me.

"the motherly sun, which warms my nervous thighs"

The flowers were put in the window, and the sun is streaming in, which will cause the flowers to wilt. The sun is also hitting the narrator's thighs. The sun is "motherly" because it makes all life on earth possible, and the narrator is nervous because he is visiting a dying friend, and the idea of death makes him uncomfortable. My meaning may seem obscure, but most people will get it.

My problem with rhyming is that it limits my word choices. When writing, I always think about the meaning first, so the words stream out without any rhymes. Backtracking to put in the rhymes is very difficult for me. Some people -- I suspect you are one of them -- have rhyming foremost in their minds when they write.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Flowers

Post by Harbal » Fri May 17, 2019 8:56 pm

Perry wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 10:59 pm
My problem with rhyming is that it limits my word choices. When writing, I always think about the meaning first, so the words stream out without any rhymes. Backtracking to put in the rhymes is very difficult for me. Some people -- I suspect you are one of them -- have rhyming foremost in their minds when they write.
Yes, it has also occurred to me that adhering to rhyme will very often prevent the right word for the job from being used. I'm afraid that, like most who are not educated in poetry, I find it difficult to think of it without rhyme. I can only hope that, at some point, I will get over that barrier.

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Re: Flowers

Post by Perry » Fri May 17, 2019 11:22 pm

Harbal wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:56 pm
Yes, it has also occurred to me that adhering to rhyme will very often prevent the right word for the job from being used. I'm afraid that, like most who are not educated in poetry, I find it difficult to think of it without rhyme. I can only hope that, at some point, I will get over that barrier.
It has been my experience that rhyming every other line is much better than rhyming every line. Rhyming every line not only can sound sing-song, but it severely limits one's word choices. I have written a couple poems in the last few years -- "Dancing Girl" and "Heaven Waits" (both posted on this forum) -- in which I rhymed every other line, and it wasn't that difficult.

I would like to suggest that you read "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden. Reading that poem was an eye-opener for me. It is not rhymed, and it is not metered, and yet it has all the pleasurable qualities that we love so much about poetry -- a subtle rhythm that perfectly fits the meaning, and words that seem to fit together harmoniously, having good alliteration. That poem, and "The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator" by Anne Sexton -- which sounds metered but isn't -- has shown me that you can achieve the sound of meter without being strict about it.

Harbal, I have to note that you didn't actually critique my poem. What do you think of it?
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Flowers

Post by Harbal » Sat May 18, 2019 6:26 am

Perry wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 11:22 pm
"The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator" by Anne Sexton -- which sounds metered but isn't --
But, presumably, it will have a certain amount of rhythm.
Harbal, I have to note that you didn't actually critique my poem. What do you think of it?
Okay,Perry, I'll try:

In S1; why "foolish" hands? I can see why compassionate hands would place flowers on the sill but don't get what is foolish about doing it.

In S2 I am still puzzled by your choice of thighs as the part of the narrator that is feeling the warmth of the sun, or why the physical sensation of nervousness or anxiety should be particularly felt in them. That is the only line in the poem that made me stop to question. I did like how you drew attention to the thing that gives flowers their vibrancy (the Sun) also being the thing that, ultimately, takes it away.

I think I got the overall meaning in the poem; or at least I came away with the feeling that I understood what it was trying to convey, which is no small achievement, as I don't have a clue what a lot of poetry is about. Yes, I liked it; it evoked memories of feelings I have had in similar situations.

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Re: Flowers

Post by Perry » Sat May 18, 2019 11:06 am

Well, the hands are compassionate because they brought flowers, but also foolish because they set the flowers down on a window sill with the sun streaming in. That's the only reason I said "foolish". (As you said, it's interesting how the sun nurtures a plant until the plant dies, and then it shrivels the plant.)

My experience is that nervousness is often felt in the legs, probably because there is a desire to flee. As for why the sun is hitting the narrator's thighs, his chair is in the sun's path, that's all.

Thanks for your opinion. This is not an obscure poem. There are lots of poems out there which are much harder to understand. I can't even understand a lot of the poems posted on this forum.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Flowers

Post by bjondon » Sat May 18, 2019 12:13 pm

Shades of John Crowe Ransom, Larkin . . . really like this.
I'd drop that last three line stanza, it ends more powerfully with
the preceding one . . . but just a minor niggle . . . well done!
Jules
Yeah, the Hayden is a beautiful poem . . . I note the oo sounds
of too and blue playing against all those hard a and k sounds
in the first stanza . . . and the the double 'know' in the last stanza,
an echo both soothing and sorrowful

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Re: Flowers

Post by capricorn » Sat May 18, 2019 12:59 pm

This is such a beautiful poem Perry - well written.

Reading Jules suggestion though, has made me wonder if this would be stronger without the last stanza.

Enjoyed

Eira

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Re: Flowers

Post by Perry » Sat May 18, 2019 8:21 pm

Thank you, Jules and Eira. My concern about the poem had been that it might sound amateurish or sentimental. My writing isn't so flowery these days, and I now see flowery writing as childish. As for the final lines, the poem sounds incomplete without them, but perhaps that's only because I have been reading them for 35 years. (This is one of those poems that I never felt was complete, so I kept looking at it.) However, I'll try reciting it without the final lines to see if I can get used to a more sudden ending. Thanks again!
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Flowers

Post by David » Mon May 20, 2019 6:52 pm

On the whole, I like it, Perry. It's flowery, appropriately, and rather ornate and ceremonious, but that seems right for the subject. And it's also quite moving. My late condolences to you.

I should say that the use of "thighs" surprised me too. I'm not sure why, but it did.

Cheers

David

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Re: Flowers

Post by Perry » Mon May 20, 2019 8:13 pm

David wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 6:52 pm
On the whole, I like it, Perry. It's flowery, appropriately, and rather ornate and ceremonious, but that seems right for the subject. And it's also quite moving. My late condolences to you.

I should say that the use of "thighs" surprised me too. I'm not sure why, but it did.
Thank you, David.

"Thighs" probably surprised you because it is a sexual image. When I wrote it, I was thinking of the nervous feeling I get in my legs when I want to flee. It would be an easy matter for me to change "nervous thighs" to "restless legs", though I think the latter is a less-original phrase. Also, the term "restless legs" suggests that I didn't want to be there, which I did. For some reason, "nervous legs" doesn't sound right to me. I seem to feel the nascent desire to flee in my thighs. Any ideas?
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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