What we thought was true…

We thought it was a sign, the sudden
shattering of the sky. The screaming prophets
scrying doom in lint balls scraped from the darkest corners
of their mystic pockets.

We thought it was a sign, the flying out of orbit
of the world; but maybe it was just a storm becalmed
in a cup of coffee, sipped by normality on the fields
of Armageddon.

We thought it was a sign. Yet in the street
slow traffic still gangles past the doors and windows,
fast bolted against the ominous black sea
of superstitious feathers.

We thought it was a sign, but the crones tell us
it’s not the sky above us we should fear.
Instead, we should fear our own unstable witness
of this unwilling moment.

We thought it was a sign. But later – if later comes –
we will know it was only the skreeling of fear
prophesying its own dreadful fulfilment in the confusion
of our lonely hearts.

This started life as a chain poem on the poetry collaborative. 14 poets each contributed a line, and we were then invited to do our own revisions of the original draft. This is my revision – click here to see the original poem and links to other people’s revisions. Many thanks to  Jo, Dana, Leslie, Rethabile, Dave, Nathan, Blythe, Christine, Susan, Whirling DervishSchmutzie, Kay, and Jessica for their inspiring creativity!

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10 responses to “What we thought was true…

  1. It’s fascinating to hear this poem in different voices. This is great lirone. That “sipped by normality” is wonderful and I really like your last stanza too.

  2. maybe it was just a storm becalmed/in a cup of coffee,

    very nice.

    Where some writers like lean, sparse lines, it seems you like to embellish. And here, you’ve opted to add modifiers and introduce even more imagery. For the most part, I think the added adjectives weigh the images down. I was taught and I believe it is good advice to ask myself how much mileage do I get out of my word choices; if I have to pad a word to strengthen it, is it possible there is a better option?

  3. Lirone, this is a great take. I love the lush sounds here.

    Did you want this piece critiqued or wokchopped? I just wonder given Susan’s comment, since I didn’t see a note on your post saying you were looking for a critique.

  4. Oops: “workshopped,” not “wokchopped.” I must be hungry for somethin’ tasty from the wok.

  5. Susan, thanks for this thoughtful critique. I do agree that it’s a good principle to make each adjective justify its existence! Though I can understand why it might not seem so from reading this, I did think carefully about what I added 😉

    Sometimes the modifiers are there for rhythmic purposes, especially in the last line of each verse, where adjective noun is part of the pattern I’m using (though I couldn’t find a partner for Armageddon that didn’t dilute the impact of the line.)

    “Dreadful fulfilment” – I wanted the double meaning of dreadful – similarly for “fast bolted”.

    “Mystic pockets” I liked the sound of, as well as the way it poked fun at the prophets.

    “Ominous black sea” is probably a bit too much though…. will see what I can do to that!

    Generally, I agree that I do tend to revise longer, most of the time – I find it hard to get rid of images once they make their way into my mind!

  6. I really like what you did here. I think the poem uses the original well but you’ve made it all your own. The repetition is effective.
    I also think that was a rather carelessly worded critique, Susan…….just my own m.o. — if I desperately feel the need to crit someone’s work, I usually email them, so much less embarrassing for all parties……

  7. Dana – bring out your wok and shop me!

    I was going to say that I’m happy to have any of my poems critiqued, but actually there are several poems here which are very personal to me, where critique might inadvertently touch on vulnerable spots. Poems I wrote out of a need to express a wound that’s still hurting.

    So though critique is really valuable, and there are lots of poems where I’d love to get honest feedback, I’m not quite ready to declare open season!

    Please feel free to share your reactions to any poem on this site – whether the poem is deeply personal or less so, it’s fascinating to know what it stirs in readers.

    But probably it’s best for all concerned if you don’t pull things entirely apart unless I’ve said I’m interested in critique – I will try to say so in future – and similarly to make clear when the content of the poem means it’s something I’d rather protect a bit.

    As this poem is a product of collaboration rather than anythin too personal, I’m very happy for people to weigh in with woks, cleavers and any other instruments that come to mind!

  8. Lirone! You made this poem into an integral piece, and used a lot of daring to do it. You weave a thread of numinosity throughout the poem that’s suggested in the original but not as fully developed. It takes creative courage to do that, and I admire you for it.

    It is so enjoyable for me to read here how it was you saw the lines, what they meant to you as a poet.

    And it was fun to work with you on this chain poem!

  9. Pingback: yo, another co-po : mygorgeoussomewhere.org

  10. Lirone,

    I struggle to lengthen works.

    I should go back to school where it is acceptable to say what I think works and what concerns me. In the meantime, I’ll censor. Thanks for your kind response.

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