Friday, November 12, 2010

CombatWords November 12, 2010: Getting It Wrong

CombatWords November 12, 2010: Getting It Wrong

We misapprehend, delude ourselves or just fuck up. Ah, but being aware of the fuck up—THAT is what's interesting. How do we even know we're wrong at all? Getting it wrong means completely misunderstanding. Writers try to understand and get things right, so writing about wrongness is more interesting.

I liked last week's freestyle so much, I'm gonna tack its rules on to this thread. If you're not interested in the combat theme, just wait for someone to write on something you prefer and riff off him/her.

Combat Expiration: 9am PST, 11/14/2010

Critique Expiration: 12am PST, 11/16/2010

Bonuses/Penalties: +2 for posts posts by 7:30pm PST 11/12/2010, +1 for posts by 12am PST 11/13/2010. -1 for posts by 1:30pm PST 11/14/2010, -2 for posts by 6pm PST 11/14/2010

The Rules:

Subscribe in a reader


  1. I watched the sun come up
    from the departures lounge at Schiphol

    Beer tastes different at sunrise;
    something like regret
    but without the bitterness.
    I left you crying in California
    and you said you understood
    as I walked through the gate.
    I suppose the avalanche of clichés
    finally buried your resolve.
    But we both know
    it wasn’t me or you; it was us.
    Me in my cuckold horns
    and you in your orphan rags,
    both reading from a script
    that was half written.
    You held me like I was your father
    the night he walked out the door
    and I fucked you
    as if she were sitting on the foot of the bed.
    It is 6:20 AM
    and I still have some distance to travel.
    I imagine you have cried yourself to sleep by now
    and I am here,
    trying to write a poem
    about the absurdity of humpty
    trying fix a broken tin soldier.

  2. Origin of Paralysis [Combatwords Poem, November 12, 2010]

    Out of the bus I'm assembled.
    My impression is surfacing
    And shoes find the feet; while the glass
    Clears off the cracks and the action
    Is reversing—it's settling
    Inertia. It glides on the road
    Freely it seems, but it's backward.
    And though origins activate
    The aftermath, we've decided
    To blame the instant—blame the distance.

  3. In the winter months
    My day dreams grow darker sooner
    The green garden hose
    Snaked from the tailpipe
    Looks almost black
    As it curls on itself
    And terminates in the window
    Whispering lullabies with a fossilized breath
    Death upon death
    Cakes on like the leaves
    Buried beneath leaves
    Wet and on their way to decomposing
    Slipping like a film from the earth
    Exposing the thick rich dirt

  4. Bad Medicine

    Bedside manners and doing what's best for the patient disappeared along with the glorified idea of the country doctor making house calls in the middle of the night. The kindly physician has been supplanted by the stoic clinician who looks down his nose at those who fall outside the norm as he makes proclamations. “You're allergic to more medications than most people take in a life time. You can't possibly be allergic to this many things.” The experiences of the patient are discounted because a person without a medical degree couldn't possibly know how they react to something without being informed by a doctor.

    What about the doctor who looks at a chart and makes unfounded comments, “I've never seen anyone who takes as many medications as you do. They're why you're ill.” If the medications are making us ill, why are they being prescribed? Do doctors listen to themselves, or each other? Do they listen to their patients? Even kindly doctors, too young to be jaded by the profession, tend to speak without thinking. “What did you do in a past life to have such bad Karma in this one?”

    When a patient's symptoms are outside a doctor's comfort zone the last thing they should say to a patient is that they're an aberration. Calling in a colleague because you've never seen anything like the patient's symptoms before does not inspire confidence in that doctor's methods. A patient is not a lab rat to be gawked at by sundry people but that is what they've been reduced down to. They are no longer people, but guinea pigs to be experimented on. Is it any wonder that when told by an honest doctor “I'm not even going to attempt to treat you” or “I can't do anything for you” patients turn to alternative methods, searching for answers and wellness.

    Sitting in a warm colored office surrounded by idols from cultures other than their own, the alternative medicine practitioner seems approachable. There is a sharp contrast to the cold white walls and lab coat of the Western tradition. But then the worm turns and the truth appears.

    Physical complaints are disregarded because the patient isn't taking control of their life. The alternative practitioner looks for childhood trauma as the root cause of physical illnesses even if they're not trained therapists. They take patients off prescription medication that they'd been doing well on simply because they don't like that it's not “natural.” They discount a patient's past experiences because a person couldn't possibly react to a supplement.

    They don't listen and don't trust that the patient knows when something isn't working or is making them more ill. Medical decisions are made based on “spirit guides” and pendulums and not science. They're pushing their own agenda, not treating the patient.

    Where does a patient turn when the medicine is worse than the disease and the medical profession is flawed? Who speaks for the patient when the patient is too scared to speak for themselves? How many patients die because they're afraid to say no more bad medicine?

  5. You begged for another chance,
    the welt still heating my cheek.
    You said your family was fucked up
    and you learned bad habits
    as if it were a diet of pork rinds and Stroh's
    that had me packing.
    But you always know how to get to me,
    with eyes so lost and scared,
    you swore it would never happen again.
    How could I leave you when
    you were trying to change
    for me
    it must've been your smile and
    memories of cumming so hard
    I'd need to change the sheets
    before curling up in your arms
    and drifting into dream.
    I crave that wondrous peace
    I stayed
    long enough to taste the barrel
    shoved between my teeth,
    long enough to take
    your beloved Chevy Nova,
    ram it down the dark interstate,
    and abandon in urban anonymity.
    But you always know how to get to me.

  6. Paul,
    That was really nice. You captured the dysfunction very well. I especially liked the way you (or the narrator) were trapped by the abusers attempts to change.

    The last bit was brilliant. The line 'ram it down the dark interstate', is perfect.

  7. Things Gary Felks Had the Wrong Idea About

    Pussy does not taste a thing like sour buttermilk.
    I don’t know where in hell he got that notion from.
    Of course, he also said that Stump’s dog wouldn’t bite,
    and that the lump on the back of Gil’s neck was probably nothing.
    The ladies undergarments in lonesome Uncle Ned’s chest of drawers
    definitely do not belong to him, nor does he put them on
    and dance in front of the window at night.
    On the other hand, the pair of lace panties in Pa’s glove box
    really do belong to Ma. She just forgets buying them, is all.
    Black folk really do bleed the same as us. That one didn’t surprise me much.
    It was different from when we were kids, when it seemed to make sense
    that the squirrels, with their jerky movements
    and twitchy tails, just might be made out of clockwork.
    That is, until we opened one up.
    One thing he got right, though. I really wasn’t man enough
    to pull the trigger that night, as he stood there in the living room
    amongst the broken glass, and stared me down.
    I really was a coward. I had to wait until he went
    and turned around.

  8. Love is always a palimpsest
    and Joanna erases and writes,
    erases and writes

    Long ago Daddy
    tried to tell her
    that the solution
    was simple and cruel
    Like a dress of nettles

    Fold another paper airplane Joanna
    You have forgotten your daddy’s words
    and we have no sympathy for your troubles
    (or, to be honest, your beauty)

    We already hated you
    when you drew us a cherry garden
    and as you reach
    for the eraser
    We think only of winter and dogs

  9. No one knows exactly how many priests sunk their teeth into the tender cheeks of timid children as black and purple bruises were easy to hide.
(cassocks are invisibility cloaks)

    Damning reports confirmed the grim truth of organised, institutional abuse and the number of adults seeking counselling climbed through the roof.

    (no longer cloistered away behind closed doors)

    The official body for state-sanctioned solace now wades through floating shells of countless generations hollowed by swallowing alien acid of monsters

    (emotional polyfilla is what they need but it's far harder to whip up than cream)
As the nodding children of babies ripped from wombs by Magdalenes vomit the shame that gives the streets their dirty sheen

    (And still the Diocese rules the local schools!)

    But worry not, those laws writ in stone, by which all men and monsters must atone, make no mention of kiddy-boners, this inconvenience in convents: it's a venial sin
    (just don't finger-fuck the mother and steal the father's pen when he's done signing the annual cheque)....

  10. rToady is a son of a bitch, riding through our bike club with streamers on his handle bars and playing cards on his spokes. I can't help feeling jealous. Really nice work rToady.

  11. @TheHumanist: maybe so, but I'm wearing a little girl's frilly dress as I do so, and when I get home Pa's gonna whup the tar out of me, the way he always does when he gets a good drink on and loses on the Chargers game.

    Besides, I stole that fucking bike.

    (Thanks for the kind words though.)

  12. @Humanist: Thank you for the kind comment. I rather liked your entry also. I'll provide more detail in the critique. My first time doing this though.

  13. Gonna try being stricter this week in my scoring:
    SMG: Liked it: +1
    Many missed chances. I was going to neg you & realized you didn't really do anything 'wrong,' you just didn't go far enough.
    The Humanist:
    "Whispering lullabies with a fossilized breath/
    Death upon death"
    Liked it +1
    1st half is kinda cliche, but not worth a neg
    This was strongest in the middle. Excellent development of theme: +1
    Sloppiness at some critical points (esp in articulating thesis in 1st paragraph): -1
    Paul Van Slett:
    "I stayed
    long enough to taste the barrel
    shoved between my teeth,
    long enough to take
    your beloved Chevy Nova,
    ram it down the dark interstate,
    and abandon in urban anonymity." Liked it. That was the soul of the poem. +1
    Too many cliches: -1
    There was lots to like, more lines than I care to cite. +1
    Hilarious: +1
    "Love is always a palimpsest
    and Joanna erases and writes,
    erases and writes"
    Very strong opening: +1
    Developed theme well & I liked it: +1
    Weird riff off the whole thread. +1
    Liked it. +1
    Some clunky phrases & unsubtle approaches damaged the comp. -1

    Really strong group this week. Helped me realize I was grading too much on a curve. Thanks for the great reads everyone. DON'T FORGET TO SCORE! Also, I'm hoping to see some readers step in to score this week: you don't have to play to score CW.

  14. BTW, Paul, let me know if you have private pages etc, so I can put you on the wall of CombatWords veterans.

  15. Steven,
    Afraid I found this to be a bit of a typical failed romance poem but it was strong in the right places.

    Didn’t like = -1 - Thought it was a bit too plainly stated but that made it...

    Believable = +1 - Allusions to emotion but drained of fire, as is often the case after such a battle of wills (so it seems to me).
Theme = +1 - the departures lounge, travel and distance work well in conveying the different directions the characters move into.
    Total = 1

    I didn’t like this the first few times I read it, still unsure but it has a certain charm.

    Intrigue = +1 - several lines require double-takes to properly absorb.
Cryptic = -1 - it reads like it’s a journey/transformation poem but there’s more that I can’t quite figure and that pisses me off.

    Clarity = +1 - I really like the last three lines. Simple but profound.
    Total = 1

    The Humanist,
    Thought the “day dreams grow darker sooner” line was really neat.

    Liked it = +1

    Smart language = +1 great stroke describing exhaust fumes as “fossilized breath”.

    Clear imagery = +1 

    Disappointing finish = -1 - last three lines just don’t carry through for me. All death poems seem to end in the earth, would have been interesting to perhaps unnatural to complement the suicide as an antidote to all the organic subject matter.
    Total = 2.

    As an essay this would probably be better with some revision to tighten it up. It’s highly subjective and reads like a rant as there’s no attempt to provide some positive points for balance.

    Interesting topic +1 - piqued my interest to begin with but found my attention wandering. 

    Generalisations = -1 - seemed to tar all cases/doctors with the same brush, a bit unfair. 

    Total = 0

    This is a weird one...Don’t really like the poem but like the motivation behind it. People who use their weakness as a weapon, as the second person does, tend to get my hackles up.

    Disliked characters = -1 - weakness on both counts.
    Liked the ending = +1 good to read some strength and assertion

    Theme = +2 There seem to be some sexual signifiers here, almost like dom/sub roleplay, from the begging, welts, oaths, loyalty, desire, pleasure, and then that weird finale with the car that reads like you popped her cherry, fucked her somewhere seedy and then dumped her. Weird but it works.

    Total = 2

    Loved this, it made me laugh although the opening line freaked me out as I’d never heard/entertained such an idea and that will stay with me for a while. Really liked the way it tapped into childhood nostalgia and playground myths, I think I was one of the kids doling out definitions. The squirrel reference, deadly, that really worked for me.

    Imagery = +1
Tone = +1 - like the narrative, it rang true.

    Detail = +1 - So much to work with there. 

    Ending = -1 - felt the details fell away here and it didn’t finish on as solid a final line as I anticipated.
    Total = 2

    The opening line swept me up but it just didn't go anywhere, raised more questions than it answered but they were not the kind we could peruse in our own time and figure out eventually, so seemed kinda pointless.

    Disliked it = -1 - The use of “Daddy” put me off a lot, to my mind that word sounds corny when used by anyone over the age of six. 

    Imagery = +1 - very delicately written, lots of impact words in 'nettles', 'airplane', 'cherry garden'. 

    Substance = -1 - didn’t deliver, wasn’t believable as the solution to love wasn’t delivered and using hatred for no reason seems too strong and unwarranted.

    Weird ending - doesn’t make sense in the context of the preceding lines.
    Total = 0.

    I've never scored before so hopefully can refine my way of doing this in weeks to come!

  16. @SMG
    I liked the mood set in first 5 lines + 1
    Referencing flying and airports without ever mentioning either. +1
    Liked "avalanche of cliches…" metaphor +1
    Liked the inverted nursery rhyme reference +1

    Half written script feels cliche -1
    The break w/o punctuation or capitalization ( perhaps intentional) that initially led me to think that the narrator had fucked her the night the father walked out the door before I had read the next line. -1
    Didn't understand meaning of inverted nursery rhyme reference because I didn't see the narrator try to fix anything, but instead left. -1

    "I left you crying in California
and you said you understood
as I walked through the gate." is exactly what I experienced 11 years ago. 

    "Beer tastes different at sunrise;
something like regret
but without the bitterness." I like this but it also confuses me because my mind keeps telling me that beer is bitter. My own personal cognitive dissonance.

    Total= +1

    Got to admit this one is lost on me. No idea of who the narrator is or what the subject is. -1
    Backward freely gliding inertia? Conceptually makes no sense. -1

    Total -2

    Really like the opening two lines +1
    Like the garden hose description +1
    Like the concept of the delivery of death singing songs reserved for the newly born +1

    Though I understand why the word "terminates" was used, it just feels too clinical & clunky in the poem. Perhaps continue the snake metaphor and replace "terminates" with "hissed." Or even "hissing lullabies in the window with fossilized breath" -1

    Total +2

    "Sitting in a warm colored office surrounded by idols from cultures other than their own…" I like this +1

    Lots of general unsupported statements and reads like a rant -1
    Faulty logic- If I have a Dr who hasn't seen my symptoms before, I want him to call in a colleague who may know. I don't want him pretending he understands what he's looking at just so I have "confidence" in him. -1

    Total -1

    Opening two lines made me laugh +1
    Squirrels being opened up to check for clockwork +1
    Successful surprise ending +1
    Rural syntax & vocab well used +1

    None =0

    Excellently done. I really enjoyed this!

    Total =4

    Use of a very uncommon word in a context that justifies its use +1

    The last stanza made no sense to me -1

    I really like the palimpsest concept and would love to see that explored more deeply in the poem.

    Total =0

    "Cassocks are invisibility cloaks" +1
    "vomit the shame that gives the streets their dirty sheen" +1

    "cloistered behind closed doors" Redundant. -1
    Too much use of asides in parentheses is distracting -1
    "As the nodding children of babies ripped from wombs..." Children of aborted fetuses? Doesn't make sense. -1
    "climbed through the roof" Cliche -1
    Polyfilla. Brand name use of an uncommonly known product that doesn't add anything more than if the word "spackling" was used -1

    Total -3

  17. Nay, these were excellent comments. Specific and to the point.

    I'm afraid mine will not be quite so thoughtful, as I'm tired and stressed out. So, that's my disclaimer this week.

    SMG, I can't see this as much more than a string of cliches, ending with a bizarre nursery rhyme reference that seems out of place with what comes before it. 0 points.

    KW, there's too much emotional distance here, and the piece is too brief; I found it impossible to connect with it, which is unfortunate, because I liked the idea a lot. Worth trying again sometime. 0 points.

    The humanist: another interesting idea, with some subtle and creepy lines: the snaking hose, the film lifted from the earth. Feels like it needs something to me though, a stronger ending, perhaps. Some crucial detail is missing, I'm not sure what. +1

    Vandamir, this is an okay essay, and it asks some important questions, but I'd be much more interested in seeing you work those issues/questions into a work of art rather than just laying them out there. It unfortunately makes for pretty pedestrian reading. 0 points.

    PVS, I enjoyed the emotional rawness and directness of this, despite your dallying in some seriously stripmined countryside. I think you need a better last line though, it falls kind of flat to me. +1

    forpuck: I keep thinking of that Dylan song "Visions of Johanna", and the piece does feel more like a song than a poem. I liked the third stanza the most, but the final verse left me floundering and confused. Feels like it needs to cook a little while longer, but it's a good start. 1 point.

    Nay: Well, no one can accuse you of being too subtle...I like the venom and the focused anger here, but it also feels too obvious and simplistic to me, like much political/issue-based ranting. You've got plenty of fuel here, and a subject which deserves your wrath, but this would be more interesting with some more skewed/original imagery to complicate things. +1

    Again I apologize for the lousy crits; I always have trouble with the point system, and for the umpteenth time, the non-spooling comments drive me batty. But it's great to have more participants, and always good to see some new faces. The more talent takes part, the higher the stakes are, and therefore the more pressure there is to improve. I learn a hell of a lot here. Keep it up, everybody. I'll be out of town for a couple of weeks, but I'll try to participate if I can.

  18. Thanks everyone. Obviously the last stanza makes no sense to anyone, I'll work on it and see what comes out.

  19. Hey ComVets, thanks for the comments so far...I knew this was pretty messy and reading over it, I could have given it proper treatment if time was on my side. I think 'Polyfilla' is grand btw but wow, 'spackling' has a great assonance, thanks for teaching me a new word!

  20. All the poems this week assaulted me with imagery and story (I'm particularly partial to the latter).

    What I see amongst this immense pile of riches, when I close my eyes:

    Paul Van Stett's Chevy Nova, pork rinds littering its floor as it rams down the interstate: +1 for the image and +1 for its wrong love

    Puck's dress of nettles: +1

    rtoady's squirrel with no clockworks inside it: +!
    +1 for Gary Felks being wrong about everything
    +1 for shooting him in the back, a very unsettling ending