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  #1  
Unread 05-13-2022, 07:42 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Buffalo Creek

Revision II

Buffalo Creek

On my morning walk
across the flood-plain park
geese stroll the pond
or roll off the water
to flock on the grass,
forcing me to step
on the balls of my feet
past the swing sets
and the rusty slide
onto the footbridge
over Buffalo Creek.

When the geese sleep
in drifting circles
their black heads
tilt forward, fold
over on the white
strips around their necks
like fine, old napkins.

The geese share the park
with orange-breasted robins,
red cardinals, two mallards
with treasure-green heads.
A hawk with driving dark eyes,
onyx shiny feathers
that always seems wet,
a sharp, yellow beak,
waits high in the red maple,
watches me cross the bridge
over the slow-moving water
that feeds the dark pond.
There is no color there,
only black surface,
though so much lies
beneath that water
where life began
shallow, savage, supreme,
no green branches stretch
across a fresh pyre,
no fire will ever flame,
yellow and orange,
across a walker's dawn.

***

Revision


Buffalo Creek

At the flood-plain park
geese stroll the pond
or roll off the water
to flock on the grass,
forcing me to step
on the balls of my feet
past the swing sets
the rusty, old slide
on to the footbridge
over Buffalo Creek.

When the geese sleep
in drifting circles
their black heads
tilt forward, fold
over on the white
strips around their necks
like fine, old napkins.

The geese share the park
with orange-breasted robins,
red cardinals, two mallards
with treasure-green heads.
A hawk with driving dark eyes,
onyx shiny feathers
that always seems wet,
a sharp, yellow beak,
waits high in the red maple,
watches me cross the bridge
over the slow-moving water
that feeds the dark pond.

***

Buffalo Creek

One block down the hill
at the flood-plain park
geese stroll the pond
or roll off the water
to flock on the grass,
forcing me to step
on the balls of my feet
past the swing sets
the rusty, old slide
on to the footbridge
over Buffalo Creek.

When the geese sleep
in drifting circles
atop the water
their black heads
tilt forward, fold
over on the white
strips around their necks
like fine, old napkins.

The geese share the park
with orange-breasted robins,
red cardinals, two mallards
with treasure-green heads.
A hawk with driving dark eyes,
onyx shiny feathers
that always seems wet,
a sharp, yellow beak,
waits high in the red maple,
watches me cross the bridge
over the slow-moving water
that feeds the dark pond.

Last edited by John Riley; 05-17-2022 at 01:39 PM. Reason: Cut the two lines suggested by Rose.
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  #2  
Unread 05-13-2022, 12:49 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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I think it's lovely, John. I do wonder whether geese - or anyone / thing - can stroll a pond. There's something about the word "stroll" - to me - that doesn't work there. And should there be a comma after "sets"?

I love the single image you depict in S2.

I would lose the first four lines of S3. Cut straight to the hawk. That's what I think, anyway.

This is a pleasure to read, though. I'd like to be there.

Cheers

David
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  #3  
Unread 05-13-2022, 08:01 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I think you have a gift for these short-verse narratives, where the metronomic tick of the line breaks plays against the smooth onward flow of your storyline. The description's keen observation and apt vocabulary - you know the birds you are looking at - is another pleasure.
Nabokov had a student walk into his office at I'll say Columbia and say "I want to be a writer." Nabokov said ""Name that tree outside my window," which the student could not do. Nabokov then said "You'll never be a writer." Not that I like Nabokov, but it's handy to be able to name things.
I like this too.

Cheers,
John
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  #4  
Unread 05-14-2022, 09:58 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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David, glad you enjoyed the read. When I watch geese move up and down or across and across a pond, paddling with feet I can't see, seemingly moving aimlessly, although we can never know for sure what they are doing, I think of that as strolling. I nicknamed one of the geese, my current favorite, Robert Walser. I'll have to think more about it.

John, you flatter me because I have worked a long time to try to write precise imagery. Many of my favorite writers, of both poetry and prose, are deep lookers. I'm not advocating any "deep image" school, no more than Bishop or Herbert or Crane or Hemingway or Flaubert or Chekhov did. Thanks for the Nabokov anecdote, although it reveals yet again what a bastard he was. The student could have learned tree types, he could have even learned how to look and actually see. Instead, he's kicked out the door. IMO, Nabokov's silly elitism is why he is in the end a minor writer, regardless of how much I like his stories and Pale Fire. (Lolita, in the end, is old man porn.)
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Unread 05-14-2022, 12:35 PM
Rose Novick's Avatar
Rose Novick Rose Novick is offline
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As usual, John, you've written a forceful, nearly fatless poem that lets its images speak for themselves.

I say "nearly fatless" because at a few points I think you have a turn too many. The most notable is in the second stanza, where "atop the water" makes explicit what was already inherent in "in drifting circles", and so weakens the image.

I feel less strongly about, but recommend a close look at the first two lines—I might keep one, but probably not both. I am not sure the specificity of "a block down the hill" does anything to deepen the poem.
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Unread 05-14-2022, 02:02 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I agree, deep looking is not limited to any deep image school, and that point seems worth making. I also agree with you about Nabokov.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 05-14-2022, 02:29 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Rose, I don't usually respond so quickly but your two nips are spot on. I will do them now.

John, to be honest, I never understood the theory behind the deep image school. I like imagery. The way Uzo kept the camera at knee level when he shot interiors of mid-century Japanese homes, or David Lean in everything. I've named that quality "stareability" for my own understanding. It's necessary, IMO.
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Unread 05-14-2022, 02:33 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I don't know Uzo (to my knowledge), but Kurosawa is amazing, and the end of The Seven Samurai is certainly stareable. Also, David Lean! Dr Zhivago. Lawrence of Arabia. Bridge on the River Kwai. Thank you for making me think of him.

"Madness... Madness!"

Cheers,
John
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  #9  
Unread 05-14-2022, 03:32 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Watch Tokyo Story ASAP
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  #10  
Unread 05-14-2022, 05:22 PM
John Boddie John Boddie is offline
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What I came away with was the impression of a very good image stuck between two pedestrian lists.

S1 sets a scene with geese at a pond, a playset and a footbridge. S3 gives me a list of birds followed by the bridge and the pond. In S1, you need an “and” after “sets”, but you don’t need the comma after “rusty.” A comma after “slide” would help keep the narrative in order.

In S2, you might consider “fine linen” napkins to replace “fine, old.” You currently have “,old” in the previous stanza.

In S3, the first four lines are laying out the colors of the birds but aren’t doing much for the narrative. Up to this point, the poem seems monochromatic and the attempt to pack as many colors as possible in S3 unbalances the piece. Further, starting with “A hawk” you serve up a run-on sentence that you should consider breaking at some point. In L7, shouldn’t the feathers “seem” wet, rather than “seems” wet?

The use of first-person pronouns in S1 and S3 acts to hold the reader at arm’s length in a piece that appears to have the goal of drawing the reader into the scene. Is that what you intended?

You have some good material in here, but to my ear you’re going to need some significant surgery to make this memorable.
JB
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