Friday, October 8, 2010

CombatWords, October 8, 2010: Hello. Goodbye.

CombatWords, October 8, 2010: Hello. Goodbye.

There are various types of 'farewell.' The "have a nice life," one; "see you later today," or; "Not sure if we'll see each other or not." The ways we say goodbye are just as subtle as the ways we say "hello." Hello and Goodbye are more complicated than simple starts and finishes; they represent how we conceive of our relationships with others. Hit any riff you'd like, but be more specific than a simple relationship or interaction—the ways we say hello or goodbye indicates our outlook, our sense of free will or determinism, and so forth.

Combat Expiration: Midnight PST, 10/10/2010

Critique Expiration: Midnight PST, 10/11/2010

Bonuses/Penalties: +2 for compositions posted by 8pm PST, 10/8/2010 and +1 for posts that make it by 2am PST, 10/9/2010. -1 for postings up after expiration, but before 6am PST, 10/10/2010 and -2 for posts that make it by Noon PST, 10/10/2010

The Rules:

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  1. Thank You Note

    I found note and read it.
    I saw it laying on the ground
    amidst the rotted timber
    and rusty nails of a structure
    no longer standing.

    I’m not sure how it came to be there
    and though it wasn’t addressed to me.
    the words spoke to me
    from the yellowed paper.

    I sat for a while amidst the iron, wood
    and debris thinking about the message:

    “When I woke up this morning I couldn’t remember why I was here so I decided it’s time for me to leave. I know I loved you once but the wind has changed direction and I feel the need to follow it. Thank you for the time you gave me, I wish nothing but the best for you. I will understand if you can’t return the favor”

    I dropped the note to the ground
    and left it with the decay and bent
    reminders of what had stood in this place.

    When the afternoon sun began to raise
    fresh beads of sweat on my brow
    I decided I should continue on my way.

    There was a nice breeze blowing;

    I longed to follow it.

  2. Frangipani

    Captain Cook, clubbed in the back of the head, then stabbed,
    falls face-first onto the breadcrumb beach. The surf rushes up
    to cool his face, but he has already departed. “Elvis has already
    left the building.” The island, rather. Cook’s ghost looks on
    as Lawrence Welk sets up his orchestra beneath the palms
    with the marble blue Pacific as a backdrop.
    Unlike his usual program, this show is to be recorded live
    instead of lip-synched, and when the cameras roll
    his lily-white choir launches into “On the Beach at Waikiki,”
    “Pearly Shells,” “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai”.
    I am sitting here watching it on late night TV,
    stoned and floating on a mixture of Vicodin and vodka,
    clutching in my fist that string of grimacing cowry shells
    you always wore around your ankle.
    Lawrence is grinning, a garland of crimson frangipani
    exploding around his neck, as the singers burst into
    “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” then the tune
    that traditionally ends the show:
    And though it’s always sweet sorrow to part
    you know you’ll always remain in my heart.

    The treacle sticks in my throat and I choke,
    tasting the sticky sweet milk of poison blossoms.
    I drift face down, blowing bubbles
    in the whispering tide that rushes up to greet me,
    and even though I know “aloha” is said
    both in greeting and in parting,
    I know in my heart that it really
    only ever means goodbye.

  3. Penny's Worth [CombatWords Poem, October 8, 2010]

    Pennies for rainy days?
    Pennies for suckers.
    I gave her a knife for her birthday.
    The pretense of present to sever the lust
    That I felt for a slut of a friend,
    Who I later considered a slut
    And then nothing at all.
    I heard she became a consultant
    And started a catering company.
    To feed all those women who want to stay sexy
    Arugula, spinach and coconut milk.
    I'm sure that the knife has at least several offspring
    Conceived on the edge of a blade
    As a tuna steak changed into semen and uterine walls.

    Later, I got for a present a similar knife:
    It was 'Global.'
    A razor for carrots.
    Cutlery fit for adultery:
    An offering made by a friend of my bride,
    Who had taped-on a penny to the blade, on the side.
    I thought it an error, a slip of the fingers that wrapped up the gift;
    But my bride had explained it's a way to declare
    That the gift's made in friendship.
    I bet. She was always inviting me out with her,
    Crossing the boundaries,
    Offering something as simple as sheets that were soiled with regret—
    Not for me, that's the story of some other sucker. I dodged that vagina,
    Like others, and tied up my dick in a knot—for a knife is too certain.
    And anyhow, one never knows what it spawns as it rots in the drain.

  4. A Couple (In the Gears of Unrelentless Time)


    (Years ago, we were fresh..)

    I greeted you in a mournful black sack,
    coat burlap, potato physiognomy
    rolling out
    in fractal circumstance.

    (You were in a thrift store state police shirt,
    afraid of the cops at the traffic stops.)

    I was hooded, hearth baked, straight on the fire.

    (Your head was half shaved and you touched
    my hair, as the band played
    wah-wahs, thrumming though the PA.)

    Covered veined tinfoil,
    You twice-baked me. You peeled me.
    You ate my mealey pulp, (metaphorically,)
    skin too.

    I can't say hello, not anymore, not now.
    I can wish you farewell,
    but you are not listening.
    (You are listening.)

    (And in the concert hall
    you took my hand
    and led me to coffee
    and sloughed off all the rest of them,
    and left your gaze on me.)

    (It was Screaming Trees, there were
    14 people there in '90,
    Lanagan hid in the corner smoking
    before the set.)

    (And me, me? You took me away,
    said "Hello?" in an inqisitive voice)

    "Hi!!! Hello..".

    Goodbye, don't miss me.
    Despite all these years.
    Goodbye, please feed the dog,
    (she is an innocent (in fur)).

    "HI!!! Hello..."

    (This is all embarrassing from the slab.
    I am trying to keep a dignity
    on this stiff backed metal bed

    Pale rictus arm, motions for another round.
    It moves like a Henson puppet, lifted by wires.)

    Goodbye, I...
    Goodbye, this, your small laugh,
    which is all of what consumes me
    in this moment.

    I don't have the time.
    I wave, I try to speak,
    (The words come out rough, gargled, like tarmac
    or sandpaper or free jazz horns).

    Hi, I never knew you (enough)...
    Hi, this is embarassing but...
    Hi...marry me?


    Yes!!! (she said yes).


    In a suburb
    you might cry
    and this is not
    what you signed up for,

    I know, as stiff fingers type

    a (goodbye).


    Maria sang
    About true beginnings
    Her hair stripy with sweat

    Coming back
    Calling out from the haze
    Where longing is fueled by cheap wine

    'You are late
    And so am I again'
    These moments never truly happen


    His shit looked bruised, clustered at the bottom of the toilet like coral, the black splotches a reminder of everything he was about to lose. She was going to leave, there was no way around it. He saw that on her face as she watched him in the hospital, sipping a beakerful of liquid charcoal through a straw. It was the only thing on his mind on the way home—not that he had tried to abandon her, burden her with guilt and mourning—but that he was going to lose her. They had driven home in silence, Magical Mystery Tour playing on the tape deck. It flipped over to Side Two just as they pulled into their parking lot. She was already crying by the time Paul said Go, go, go.

    The fan above him hummed. Dust hung from the grates like Spanish moss. He could still smell the ER, taste the charcoal on his blackened tongue. She was out there, lying on the couch, some old black and white movie sweeping its bluish light across the darkened room. He stepped into the tub, cracked the frosted window above him. If he stayed in there, he wouldn’t have to face her. He lit a cigarette and sat on the toilet lid.

    The sun was up. The birds were chirping. Cars began to turn over and back out of the parking lot below. He spit purple foam into the sink, poured himself a cup of tap water. If he could stay in the bathroom, if she never had to see him again, she wouldn’t have to leave. The corner of his mouth dropped and he began to cry. She knocked on the door, asked if he was OK, begged him to unlock the door, told him she couldn’t help him unless he told her what was wrong, started to cry.

    He told her everything was fine. Finished his cigarette. Lit another one.

  7. Shoebox

    The pictures in this shoebox are time-worn,
    some are still in black and white.
    Memories are worth holding tight;
    reminders of the ways we've grown.

    I remove the photos, dirt still under my nails
    and my eyes burn over flared nostrils.
    I know I'm going to lose my shit
    when I feel the box's new weight.

    I'm holding myself away from the deed and drifting in and out of nostalgia in each photo. When the image brings back a feeling too strong I set it aside and know that I'll return to it later, when I'm truly alone. The attic's floor creeks a life of it's own, yawning through another century of just being a floor. What I wouldn't give to just be a piece of wood right now. I leave.

    I can hardly look at that part of
    the white kitchen floor,
    her fur now an off-shade I've never seen.
    A grown man yet I don't know what I'm doing.
    I try to place her limp body into a shoebox.

    the reality of the act sets in and I turn quickly away
    as I start heaving over the sink crying sobbing
    as the child inside me breaks every plate in my mind

    It was March 27th and
    her name was just kitty.

  8. Interesting that both Steven and Ruterger posted pieces which feature a prose section inserted in the middle of the verse. I think it works better in Steven's piece, where the prose is there for a reason, ie it introduces a supposedly outside piece of writing, whereat in Shoebox, the prose interrupts the verse in a way I found distracting; I think it would work better if that block of prose were written in verse, giving an uninterrupted train of thought.

    That said, overall I think Shoebox is the stronger of the two and is my second favorite piece this week, right after Chon's. Ruterger took what could have been a trite scene and made it, for me, anyways, very believable. (I do wonder about the "black and white" line; what, was this kitty 60 years old or something? I guess maybe you could have been an art student or something)

    liked +1
    "the box's new weight" (nice line, and it genuinely puzzled me until the reveal 2 stanzas later) +1
    risk taken with a potentially ubercheesy subject (and still succeeding) +1
    nicely written but ultimately distracting prose section -1

    I can't really find any fault with this one. Great prose poem, tight, concise, emotionally resonant. One of the best things I've read by you. Could perhaps use a bit more of a "steampunk" element though. Noticed that both this and "Shoebox" feature people crying, and yet it didn't bother me the way people in poems crying usually does.

    liked +1
    great images (coral, spanish moss etc) +2
    emotional yet not overly explicit +1

    This one's not quite there for me yet. It seems to end too abruptly' I feel like it's moving toward something and doesn't quite arrive. The first two stanzas are nice, minimal but suggestive, but I felt it fell flat with the third. Plus, I don't quite get it. Is she implying that she's pregnant? And if so, why does it matter? I'm a little confused.
    good first 2 stanzas +1
    ends too suddenly, unsatisfyingly -1

    A Couple
    My first impression is that this just rambles on for too long. (I feel like I say this for all your pieces. Maybe it's me.)
    The parentheses don't add anything to the piece; think it would be stronger without them, as the writing within them is not from a different POV or mode of thinking. The piece flows much better without them in my opinion.
    Also, is the narrator dead? A clue as to how he died would be interesting.
    Overall liked +1
    SOme nice turns of phrase (hooded, hearth-baked, etc) +1
    length -1

    Penny's Worth
    Wow, this is one harsh piece of work. Knives, castration...I've never heard that penny thing before. Not sure about some of the line breaks, it flows a little weird for me, like it almost wants to be a prose piece.
    Liked +1
    Good use of potentially trite (knife, phallus) metaphor +1

    Thank You Note
    Although as I said before, I think your use of prose in the middle of the poem is effective, the note itself could be written better. I found myself cringing a little as I read that part. Also, the setting -"a structure no longer standing"- is much too obvious a metaphor.
    Liked +1
    Corny setting -1

    Sorry this is so long; guess I'm overcompensating for not commenting last week. Thought this was a pretty strong week. Good job, everyone!

    Wait, this is combat, isn't it? SCREW ALLA YOUS is what I meant.

  9. @SMG
    I liked it: + 1
    Prose in the middle worked: +1



    Liked it +1
    Breadcrumb Beach & other poetic word combos +1


    Liked the technique +1
    Liked it +1

    Got too repetitive & psychic distance was jerky: -1

    +2 -1 = +1


    Good set up +1

    Goes nowhere -1

    +1 -1 = 0

    Liked it +1
    Strong pacing +1
    Excellent finish +1


    Grabbed emotional purity out of cliche +1
    Liked it +1

    Didn't like the easy words & maneuvers in the end (sobbing, prose could have been poetry w/ some aggressive chopping & IDing symbol [should have been attic]). -1
    Last stanza was terrible -1

    +2 -2 = 0

    Chon has inspired me. Next week, I think I'm going to try doing some prose instead.

  10. STEVEN
    Very graceful flow, consistent voice: +1
    I liked the incorporation of the text in spite of myself: +1
    Liked the ending: +1

    You were able to write about Hawaii without coming off as "touristy" which seems to happen with a lot of lit based on it: +1
    Captain Cook, Elvis, and Lawrence Welk reference utilized very well: +1
    Very strong ending: +1

    Nice wordplay all through it: +1
    Told a nice story: +1
    Last 3 lines of first stanza: +1
    Knife/penis...I don't know: -1

    Screaming Trees puts it in a very nice "historical/pop cultural" context: +1
    Parenthetical asides were very clever/adroit: +1
    Seemed overlong, but that might just be line breaks: -1

    There's some magic here--Really feels like it's going somewhere: +1
    I don't honestly feel like I can criticize this one yet because it feels incomplete.

    REGINALD ASSBUTTASS +100 for the name
    Really succeeded in straddling the line between sincere and cheesy, which is one my ideals: +1
    The box's new weight--I really liked: +1
    The child inside me breaks every plate in my mind: +1
    The prose section didn't work for me. Feel like it could have been better with linebreaks: -1

  11. @SMG

    +1 for details, details, details. Very imagistic, works well here.
    +1 for form. I liked it so much I tried to modify/emulate it a bit. I agree with KW, yours was more effective in the way it slipped into the piece.


    +1 for accurate depiction of how the human mind works, vegging out w/ TV to try and avoid something unpleasant.
    +1 for a really excellent voice. The form and diction fit the narrator and the situation really well.


    +1 for toeing that line between gross and angry. When we become passionate things get more primal and I got that out of this piece.
    -1 I don't understand what the knife signifies. I feel guilty -1 but it's seemingly central to understanding the symbolism or metaphor and I just don't get it.
    +1 because on a re-read the imagery is disgustingly sexual and that's all lust is. Coconut milk, semen, uterine walls, vagina. Well done.


    +1 for story arc
    -1 because it just didn't feel very coherent to me. I kept getting lost in time, not sure which was past, present or future. I feel like maybe yours is a form that I'm very unfamiliar with and I apologize for that. There's some interesting pieces that I think can be extrapolated and expanded upon (The words come out rough, gargled, like tarmac
    or sandpaper or free jazz horns) but right now it feels very fragmented to me. Again, this could just be me.


    +1 for trying a beginning poem when everything else felt like ending poems
    -1 is this about sex? Beginning sex? Is being late meaning not being able to cum or being pregnant or arriving late? Feel like this could definitely be fleshed out considerably and still maintain its poise.


    +1 for persistant Beatles references, rooting this tale in relatable reality. Another +1 for the characters being realistic and well-defined in such a short time.
    +1 for clarity of detailed prose and for showing without telling. This is one I understood readily and therefore I was able to empathize.

    I want to say thank you to everyone for the feedback and I want to let you all know that I take your comments into consideration as I revise and edit my work. Thank you all so much for your time and for writing, it is my pleasure to be in your intimidating company!

  12. SMG: enjoyed first half/conceit +1
    found the endings sentimentality wasn't bolstered by the text, so it came off weaker than first half -1

    RT: really dig this piece +1
    Lawrence Welk plus Captain Cook concept +1
    great flow to the ending +1
    Without mining the Blue Hawaii angle, Elvis needs not be mentioned -1

    KW: lines 3,4 +1 awesome
    agree with above on wordplay +1
    overall acrimony was a bit heavy -1

    myself: agree on length/coherence issues -1

    JC: dig it +1
    great images +1
    ending (sentiment w/bite) +1

    FP: some good lines (stripy w/sweat)+1
    cheap wine (too easy)-1
    liked ambiguity +1

    R: pet love +1 (my bias)
    didn't think prose section necessary -1
    (could have been another stanza)
    would have liked something stronger for the finish

  13. I just wanted to thank everyone for the feedback. When I wrote it, the ambiguity felt right to me, but I will see if I can flesh it out and still maintain the air of the poem.

    Apologies for not taking part in the critique, I've been soullessly working twelve hour days and there's simply no energy...