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  #1  
Unread 04-03-2021, 01:35 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Default Standing Up #2

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Standing Up

When he wandered off the crest
he only thought of how
solitude had fed
fears that, like a bitter breeze,

kept him hovered up
the rocky crag to try
to hide his fading faith
in the circumference of the swell

of ridges and mountain tops.
So when the town dwellers
circled up and roped him,
charged him with disturbing

the joy of the buttercups
rolling down the glade,
tying the horizon
to the starry, spying sky,

he relaxed into the cuts.
The shining blade cut deep.
He watched the blood drain down
and thought of screaming out—

but stayed with the quiet at hand.
They waited for him to die,
then turned and walked toward home.
At first, they cheered as one,

but soon grew still as trees.
He traveled the other way.
All in all, there was no peace
in being dead, blood-drained

with thick, deep cuts across
his thighs and wrists, although
he knew it could be worse.
He wasn't holding his head,

trudging up the rolling
range of hills, red dust
barely lifting when
he lifted his booted feet.


****

Standing Up

His crime was never talked
of in taverns or on the streets.
No steps were built, no noose
hung from tree or roof,

he never knew his blood
so soon would flow to dry
in patterns along the trail
up toward his mountain tent.

When he wandered off the crest
he only thought of how
solitude had fed
fears that, like a bitter breeze,

kept him hovered up
the rocky crag to try
to hide his fading faith
in the circumference of the swell

of ridges and mountain tops.
So when the citizens
circled up and roped him,
charged him with disturbing

the joy of the buttercups
rolling down the glade,
tying the horizon
to the starry, spying sky,

he relaxed into the cuts.
The shining blade cut deep.
He watched the blood drain out
and thought of screaming help—

but stayed with the quiet at hand.
They waited for him to die,
then turned and walked toward home.
At first, they cheered as one,

but soon grew still as trees.
He traveled the other way.
All in all, there was no peace
in being dead, blood-drained

with thick, deep cuts across
his thighs and wrists, although
he knew it could be worse.
He wasn't holding his head,

trudging up the rolling
range of hills, red dust
barely lifting when
he lifted his booted feet.

Last edited by John Riley; 04-07-2021 at 12:59 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 04-04-2021, 01:18 PM
RCL's Avatar
RCL RCL is offline
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John,

Merry Easter!

The time sequence isn't entirely clear to me; S3: he’d, he had? Nor is there any hint that he’s possibly a grotesque or criminal (or imagining the "swell" is a tumor?) cut up by (doctors?) imagined or real vigilantes. And if they watched him die, how was it that his spirit's boots raised dust? Just a couple of things that bothered.

I'm wrong about "swell," ignore.
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Ralph

Last edited by RCL; 04-04-2021 at 01:30 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 04-04-2021, 05:00 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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John, I'm glad you stayed with this piece.

I think the details of the first two stanzas (and to some extent the next two, too) limit the meaning of what's happening in the poem to a particular individual and a particular community, who couldn't be anyone else. I'd like it to feel more universal. For that reason, I wish the poem started at the current S5L2 (or at the current S2L1 if you want to keep that "bitter breeze" of fear), so that the reader could be left more free to imagine whatever circumstances, possible motives, etc., they want to.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 04-04-2021 at 05:05 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 04-05-2021, 03:30 AM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

I really like this, too. I read it like a folk-song - a place-specific ballad.

I enjoy that, and don't have an issue about not knowing the details of name/place because there are enough buried atrocities in each place for me to relate to this one. It reminds me of all the places in the UK called 'hangmans hill' or 'gallows hill'.

I liked the first version, but it crossed over into a 'zombie film' space - this doesn't. This reads like a real person, and their story preserved. The end is deeply sad, deeply real in a kind of buried subconscious level (for me) and the whole rings true.

I'm sorry this is short. I will try to come back if I can.

Sarah-Jane
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  #5  
Unread 04-06-2021, 08:34 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks for the help. I apologize for taking so long to respond. I've started this job contact tracing Covid positive people and what was supposed to be part-time has turned into more than full-time. Covid is not going away folks. Anyway, I wonder if this has too much throat-clearing at the top. I have to think about it. I won't be answering all the where and who questions. That is stated clearly in the poem and that reason makes about as much sense as the other things that set off such events. Truth is, I have no idea what this poem means nor do I care. It came from an image and that is about all I know. I'll keep working on it.

Best regards
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  #6  
Unread 04-07-2021, 01:00 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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I decided to cut off the top two stanzas. It seemed obvious after looking it over. I am wide open to feedback on anything else.

Best
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  #7  
Unread 04-07-2021, 02:00 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John,

I think cutting the opening was a good move for the reasons Julie gave. This reads to me like a fable about how no external punishment can be greater than the internal ones we inflict on ourselves. That’s how I read it anyway. About guilt, perhaps, or depression. It’s very effective in its stark, archetypal imagery. The only thing that threw me was the word “hovered” in S2, the sense of which I can’t quite get. Sometimes an oddly placed word feels right in its “wrongness” but I’m unsure about this one.
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Unread 04-08-2021, 09:55 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks, Mark. After a couple of days, I agree cutting the first two stanzas is an improvement. I will think about "hover." It very well may not be working.
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Unread 04-10-2021, 04:18 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

For me, this just works very well. I'm sorry I don't have more to add. I have read it several times and spent time with it. But, from my perspective this poem reads finished, done.

I like the way it blends a kind of universal narrative of persecution with a particular story. At first, I thought of ballads and folk tales, and I still think that there are aspects of this here.

I also find myself empathising with the slightly bewildered, accepting the voice of the narrator in S 7-9. There's a detachment there, and a kind of storytelling that isn't like a ballad, that lives between the kind of ballad-telling of these stories and the kind of post-modern very self-conscious zombie narrative, and about, ultimately, for me, a person. Who is not a very 'real' person, but a person, walking, feeling things, nonetheless.

I like how it sits between all these different dominant narratives, makes something all of its own.

Sarah-Jane
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  #10  
Unread 04-11-2021, 03:39 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks, Sarah-Jane, I think you have touched what I wanted. I don't think that I, as often as I should maybe, have a theme when I start and am often the last to discover it if I am so lucky to make one. This probably came from reading Juan Rulfo recently. His novel and stories do permeate the outer membranes and I would love to do that in fiction or poetry. That absoluteness that is a mirage. Know what I mean? Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting and I'm so happy you like it.
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