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  #1  
Unread 11-28-2020, 08:39 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Default Obliquity

Obliquity

Walking through the park
I walk through every day
the maples are flaming red,
falling leaves commission me
with epaulets of orange and brown

a creek cuts through the park—
a guardrail on the bridge is loose—

once safely on the other bank
I think of how her white hair
webbed across the pillow
when I touched her neck
to unlatch the silver necklace

the skin my mother wore
beneath the brilliant sheets.
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  #2  
Unread 11-28-2020, 09:03 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Lovely, John, especially the mother scene. I like the suggestion throughout of bonds and breaches, closeness and separation.

Not sure about "epaulet" for the leaves, since for me that conjures the big military shoulder decoration, not very leafy or autumnal:

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  #3  
Unread 11-28-2020, 09:49 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Hey John.
I like were this pulls me as a reader. I get a crossing over and back/Orpheus-as-son sorta image from it. I know it is better in the slant rather than too direct but if the once safely on the bank could be tied to returning "home", more cycle of the park than the linear path through the park it might be pretty cool. Seems like a minor phrase could pull that off but maybe it is unnecessary.

I like the idea of being badged by the leaves falling on you though I also found epaulet the only word I balked at. It has alot of baggage in my head. But maybe it has different valence for you and you need it. I did like the monochrome of red against the white hair/skin of your mother. It almost made the brilliant sheets red and aglow. But the brown and orange of those leaves dulled it a bit. Could the leaves be xxxxx of yyyyy and zzzzzz where y and z are qualities of fire not visual but tactile if that makes sense. If all this intrudes too much I apologize. It is all thoughts and images that your words provided, not too much my own thing I hope.

Regardless, strong piece that also informs the bodies of water in other recent posts of yours. Together they build. Nice bit about the boundaries growing thin with the guard rail. And all anchored in the normal experience.
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Unread 12-01-2020, 11:32 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks to both Andrews for reading and commenting on this little poem. I thought "epaulets" would be the word that jumped out. I don't think of them as always being the big, silly ones of the upper brass but it is an idea that lingers. I'll have to think about it.

Best
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Unread 12-01-2020, 02:16 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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John, two things first: I love the title. I think of it as a nod to Emily: tell it slant. Oblique is the direction of the meandering thought we take when walking, the way that particular moment in the park, the crossing of the bridge, leads directly (obliquely) to the mother's hair on the pillow, her skin.

The other: I love epaulets! I can see it! Decorative. Leaves falling on the shoulders. And I see dignity in it, and formality. And of course that leads me again to Emily -- "After great pain, a formal feeling comes".

This poem is so lyrical, it's music is lovely, lyrical. A lovely loose meter to it, a mix of trimeter and tetrameter lines, mostly. It may be as close to a metrical poem as I've seen you write.

And again, as always, I love your sense of line. I keep returning to the first two lines, because the lines allow me to read them two ways: I can read it as one continuous utterance meaning I'm doing the same walk I do every day. OR, with a slight pause at the end of line 1, I get the sense the two lines are saying that in this walk through the park, I am walking through every day of my life. The walk is an activity of the memory. And sure enough, the memory emerges. It is the dying mother.

The crossing of the river could be the River Styx. So the portrait of the mother could be her on her death bed. White, silver, the skin of death. And the brilliant sheets -- what a great word for the death bed sheets! So exciting to see that word there, in that context!

This simple thing is so full of life, of grief, of loving touch, of autumn and winter, and finally, with that extravagent word 'brilliant', something like hope, even joy, and acceptance. The end brings me back to the park, with its flaming red leaves.

It's a beautiful act of memory. A memorial.

Cally
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Unread 12-01-2020, 02:43 PM
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Steve Bucknell Steve Bucknell is offline
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Default Emily!

John,

The sense of the daily walk becoming something other, becoming reverie and memory is beautiful:“ I walk through every day”. I have no trouble at all with “falling leaves commission me/ with epaulets of orange and brown” I see gold flashes on the shoulders as soon as I read it, and the “ commission me” sounds that ironic note of military formality that Emily Dickinson often used, I think. And it’s meaning of being instructed or commanded to cross the bridge to face these memories is strong.

If the poem had concluded at “to unlatch the silver necklace” I could feel the image was complete in some way, but the last two lines are a transition too far for my imagination to grasp; I found it difficult to form a clear visual image of what was there. I wondered if this was the intentional “Obliquity” the title refers to.

Steve.

(I wrote this earlier today, before I’d read Cally’s post.)

Last edited by Steve Bucknell; 12-01-2020 at 02:49 PM.
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Unread 12-02-2020, 07:47 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I take back what I said about "epaulets." Actually, I was more hesitant than sure I didn't like it. I love it now. Not only that, but I keep seeing brown (the fall foliage here doesn't have such brilliant colors) epaulets all over the ground! They are big plane tree leaves, with fringes, so every time I see them I've been thinking of your poem. This is one of the things that poetry can do, it can make you see things you didn't see before. So thanks for those epaulets.

As a postscript I'll note that, so often, I find that the very thing that might seem "off" at first in a poem ends up being one of the best things in it. Go figure.
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Unread 12-02-2020, 12:47 PM
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Moving in all the ways noted so far. For some reason the continuation of lines 11-12 to the final couplet doesn’t sound right, and I wonder if a reversal of those two lines would matter.

when to unlatch the silver necklace
I touched her neck ?

Might just be me before finishing my first cuppa caffeine.
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  #9  
Unread 12-02-2020, 06:06 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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Quote:
As a postscript I'll note that, so often, I find that the very thing that might seem "off" at first in a poem ends up being one of the best things in it. Go figure.
Andrew -- this is so true.

Cally
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  #10  
Unread 12-04-2020, 08:49 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Cally, thanks so much for reading. I am very grateful for what you say and am proud you picked up on the responsibility the narrator assumes and the repetition. All a writer can ask for is for at least one reader to work at appreciating what is attempted. Thanks for crossing the creek with me.


Steve, thanks for reading and commenting. I like it that Emily D. keeps coming up because I didn't think of her while writing. I do read her all the time--the Franklin reading version of her poems is always beside me--so I guess her work permeates my own at times. I know the ending is a reach but that is what I wanted. I wanted the reader to also be reaching for the necklace and then, while tilted, notice the skin on the body. It may be too much.


Andrew, I appreciate you returning and engaging with my little poem again. I'm encouraged by your change of heart. I live in the middle of North Carolina and we have lots and lots of trees and leaves.


Ralph, thanks and I will consider the suggestion.
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