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Seree Zohar 09-18-2021 11:36 PM

things the mind tries to grasp
(which cd be a title. or not)


A chink from the past opens its eye.
Did it rain? the door slam? was it autumn, a fury wind?

Peculiar, the flourish of an out-of-cycle fallow year's flourish
weaving drunk through the garden. In your armchair,
our hopeful dog. And your voice,
that goose-bumped my nape, that I know
I'd glued to memory – where? –

Did you know that the mantel-clock could tak-tak-tak
into corners, cram beneath the kitchen table, clamp itself
around too much food in the pot –

Silence, imposed: the hue of tarnish. A concept glossed
in conversation is tendrilings in ways we did not foresee:

unmussed sheets; chores –
now unshared, become endless; lost socks –
no more: they remain bolled in their wooden box;
and emailers, well-wishing, expecting thanks –
remind me...? Ah. You can't.
Another storm hits my cheeks.


Martin Rocek 09-19-2021 09:21 PM

Hi Seree,
N seems to be recalling a breakup or divorce. The images are strong, the feelings are well evoked. Is it really the mind that is trying to grasp these things? Or what is conventionally called the heart?

I have some questions about a few word choices--why tak-tak-tak rather than the expected tic-tic-tic? Unless there is something that I'm missing, it just seems distracting. Why sox instead of socks? And do you really mean bolled rather than balled?

Sorry for discussing only these superficial things; I need to reread the poem more times to give you more substantive crits.

Thanks for the read


PS One further comment--the phrase "conversation tendrils" is a bit confusing; is conversation being used as an adjective for tendrils, or tendrils as a verb?

Sarah-Jane Crowson 09-20-2021 04:10 PM

Hi Seree,

I like some of this very much - the overall effect of the narrative is very strong, and very clear, without being a direct ‘narrative’ which in a short poem is difficult to manage, so kudos!

The many, many things I like include the very strong self-reflective position - the narrator, although not deliberately painted, is strongly ‘felt’ by their thoughts - the poem very much ‘shows’ rather than ‘tells’ us things. I love some of the aural specificities too - the sound of the mantel-clock, for instance (unlike Martin, I don’t find the surprising digraph of the sound - if that’s the right word - offputting). And the details of the narrator making too much food, reinforcing a sense of embodied, domestic, loss.

I love some word-level choices, too - ‘fury wind’ among them, and the specificities of ‘nape’ rather than the more usual ‘neck’.

Things I think perhaps work less well (from my very subjective perspective) would be the ending, which I think sounds as if the poet is trying hard to think of a more interesting way to say ‘tears’, and sometimes the plainer evocation is stronger than the poetic substitution, perhaps?

Like Martin, I felt that ‘tendrils’ was a bit confusing - I can read the meanings in context, but it felt like a further ‘chosen for interesting poesy’ word. I also quite like the ‘emailers’, whom I read as sending condolences for a death, but I think that this bit might be worth considering leaving, as the poem is strong enough without third parties being invoked so late in the day.

The unlost socks are poignant and moving, for me - a symbol of order when chaos is longed-for, the irritation of unmatching lost, and with it, a huge grief. ‘Hopeful dog’ is hugely moving, too.


W T Clark 09-20-2021 05:12 PM

I've kept this in my mind for a few days now which hopefully explains the lateness of my comments.
The syntax here seems to me as part of the poem as the language. In poems, the best use of grammar, the best use of, or fracturing of, syntax, occurs not only when a grammatical system is properly followed, but when the substance of the poem applies. Here, the grammar, the em-dashes and the commas, serve more than just "grammar" itself, they serve to open holes in the poem, that represent to me, at least, the holes of memory, the gaping jawlike silences down which a relationship, a face, a year, vanish with astonishing quickness. That ability to evoke silence, present noticeably in other poems of yours I have read, seems to have risen to the fore, here, startlingly.
I've banged on about your phrasing before. Maybe it's because in my own work, I value phrasing so greatly, that "people" have remarked it is both a strength and a weakness, and therefore maybe I am attracted to your poems, to this poem, in a similar way that I am attracted to Emily Dickinson's work, because phrasing here is so vitally distinctive: so vitally alive; and also because your phrasing is not just description, but becomes the very fabric of the emotion of your subject -- as well as evocating memory's twisting, snake-like corners, many of them, when they need to, cut, too.

I'm going to go through this line by line.

(which cd be a title. or not)
I think the title should be something very like but not quite "things the mind tries to grasp", but something much more like that than "album"


A chink from the past opens its eye.
I envy your opening. All the genius rests in "chink" made animate.
Did it rain? The door slam? Was it autumn, a fury wind?
Do you think that losing the capital letters after each question mark would create the sense of a more urgent stream of questioning? Would you be aiming for urgency, there?

Peculiar, the flourish of an out-of-cycle fallow year
This reads as overly stuffed. But I have tried removing either "out-of-cycle" or "fallow" and I find the loss weakening.
weaving drunk through the garden. In your armchair,
our hopeful dog. And your voice,
"hopeful dog" is melancholically very fine.
that goose-bumped my nape, that I know
"goose-bumped my nape" makes from its sound an effect of goose-bumping.
I'd glued to memory – where? –

Did you know that the mantel-clock could tak-tak-tak
I don't see why you shouldn't have "tick" instead.
into corners, cram beneath the kitchen table, clamp itself
around too much food in the pot –
I wonder if you should have silence afixed to that line, so you can end the stanza on silence: the following white, a visual imitation.

Silence, imposed: the hue of tarnish. A concept glossed
in conversation tendrils in ways we did not foresee:
I can see how others find this strained, a little too strange to convince. But "tendrils" has that ring of strange unpleasantness that I believe the poem wishes to demonstrate. In many ways, "tendrils" seems rightful to the poem.

unmussed sheets; chores –
now unshared, become endless; lost sox –
I do not understand the spelling of socks as sox, either. Is it a pun on the Internet love term "soxoxox"? In any case, I'm left more confused than stimulated.
no more: they remain bolled in their wooden box;
and emailers, well-wishing, expecting thanks – remind me...?
Another storm hits my cheeks.

I think the poem would benefit greatly if the last line were cut entirely, and your penultimate line were to be your ending. That seems much, much better option. I find the current ending rather clichéd, melodramatic, and obvious.

It should, from the critique, go without saying that I think this poem is very alive.

Hope this helps.

Martin Rocek 09-20-2021 05:14 PM

Hi Seree,
I'm back after a few more reads, and reading Sarah-Jane's comment. I'm not sure that you need the lines
"Silence, imposed: the hue of tarnish. A concept glossed
in conversation tendrils in ways we did not foresee:"
at all.

I'm also finding myself a bit confused about time. The dog and the armchair suggests it is all quite recent. But
"And your voice ..., that I know I'd glued to memory – where? – "
suggests it is more distant.

Unlike Sarah-Jane and Cameron, I like the last line the way it is.

Sorry for the contradicting suggestions.


Seree Zohar 09-21-2021 01:48 PM

I super appreciate all your in-depth insights.

Easiest to deal with is 'sox' - I think it's maybe just a residual ozzie thing ;) so that's a simple fix, since really nothing was meant by a variant spelling.

Next: title: in light of responses, yes, I'm tending to "Things the mind grasps at."

As for your other comments - firstly, I want to come back and respond in detail, but at the immediate level, I've made some erasures, leaving the original words there but struck out and reduced in size; and some tweaks which I've colored a brighter blue. I need to let them brew for a a day or two while I see how they reflect back to me.

In response to tak-tak-tak: in situations where nothing is its usual and normal, regular sounds and schedules often take on a weightier atmosphere or effect; in the usual state of the N's being part of a couple, a clock would likely hardly be heard but in this non-usual silence to which the N is still unaccustomed, the sound draws attention to itself and sounds exaggerated. That's what I'd hoped to achieve: more a sense of hammering suddenly noticed than a faint background sound.

Back soon.

So, I'll be back to this soon.

Matt Q 09-21-2021 03:22 PM

Hi Seree,

I wrote this before you posted your response and revision, so apologies if I cover already-covered ground.

I'm reading this as about a bereavement. Largely, I think because of the loss of memory of the voice, which had been glued to the memory. And because socks are still there, and I take them to be the beloved's socks. Also, I guess, "your armchair" remains and the dog is still "our dog". I'd say the bereavement is recent enough that well-wishers are still calling. I don't see that fearing that one has forgotten a loved one's voice requires a long time to have passed. I could imagine that happening even a week later.

I think the poem is really good, and I find lots to like here: The hopeful dog, the pervasive oppressive ticking of the clock. The irony that the socks, whose pairings tended to break up, are now forever together in their pairs, unlike the N. The voice "glued to memory". The opening is great. I can read the second line as a list of things that might have disturbed the chink, and either spoken by the N or by the chink. I also like the way you are (mis)using em-dashes to end stanzas 2 & 3, so that we expect something to follow, the sentence to continue, then it doesn't. The em-dashes are rather like the hopeful dog in this respect.

Like Martin, I wondered why "sox". Is it there to visually emphasise the rhyme? I also wondered about "bolled", though I understand it: it sounds like a combination of "balled" and "rolled". Or maybe you intend a reference to cotton seeds? Seeds put away and stored?

"tak-tak-tak" works for me though. It seems to be a more aggressive, oppressive sound that "tik-tik-tik".

Like others I'm not fond of the final line. It just seems over-obvious compared to the rest of the poem.

A general thought: The imagery here is mostly addressing two senses: what can be seen and heard, and I wondered if there was scope for an olfactory image. A smell that recalls the beloved, or show their absence somehow. And/or a taste, maybe?

OK, so maybe now I should go and look and your revisions.


I really like new ending. It's much better.

All the other changes, though, I preferred the original. I like the unusualness of "tendrils" over the passive "is tendriling". "the flourish of an out-of-cycle fallow year" sounds more natural to me than "of an out-of-cycle fallow year's flourish", which I find a bit of mouthful. I liked the capital letters in L2, which made it a series of short sentences.



Seree Zohar 09-25-2021 01:05 PM

Hi Matt - It’s very interesting, reading what amounts to your 2 crits – the comparisons. Yes, the now-mouthful fallow line is a mouthful for me too. And your input on the new final line is helpful, as is your input on the changes. I'll be taking it all into account when I get to finalizing this one.

Martin – Just a quick response about the element of time: from the way I hear others describe loss of a close one, it seems that the same aspect can become a lost memory for one person faster than for another. I've been told that a person’s voice is one of the hardest things to hold on to because the remaining person usually can't produce the identical sound. So whereas tangible aspects – especially visual items – will ‘hang around’ a lot longer, the intangible – voice, touch – seem to get lost very fast. I was hoping to capture something of that.

Cameron – Sarah-Jane - tnx so much for the detailed inputs. So, as you see from the previous response, yup, I'll be cutting “Album” as a title, and tnx for pushing on that last line. I'm still not happy with it but knowing what isn’t working for most is also good. Really appreciate the feedback – tnx so much.

Sarah-Jane Crowson 09-27-2021 03:46 AM

Hi Seree,

Just to quickly say that I like your new ending, and the start of the poem now locates it much more in personal, past experience which I think works for this poem (although some of the other work I've read from you I really like as it's situated in (as I read it) a kind of universal-world, that is both part of and detached from individual experience.

But for this one the past tense works.

(I'm still not sure on tendriling, but maybe sometimes it's just that people see words as different things. I see beans and curly green shoots and fairy-tale illustrations when I read 'tendriling' but I suspect that's just me! I like it more with the edits than I did before.)


Seree Zohar 09-30-2021 01:58 PM

Hi Sarah-Jane, - tnx so much for coming back to this one. It's good to hear what is and isn't working, esp since I'm still in six minds over this myself. I think the end still needs work, or an aha moment to round it off. tnx

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