Remembering Zeus

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:14 pm

The same selfish, implacable man
who beat his wife and children ‘til
their mouths bled, later in life owned
myriad dogs and cats which he left out
in the North Carolina cold, night
after interminable night, to cry
and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical shield
that could protect anyone from anything —
a cat’s paper ears from an ice storm
or Icarus from the sun — while he,
the deity of his domain,
slept under sheets and blankets as
the pipes chimed and the furnace sang.

Would that I had had fur when the fists came.


Original:

The same selfish, implacable man
who beat his wife and children 'til
their mouths bled, later in life owned
myriad dogs and cats which he left out
in the North Carolina cold, night
after interminable night, to cry
and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical shield
that would protect a deer from wolves,
a lit candle from an ice storm,
or Icarus from the sun, while he,
the deity of his domain,
slept under sheets and blankets as
the pipes knocked and the furnace sang.

Would that I had had fur when the fists came.

-end-

Line 2: "until" instead of "til"? Line 4: “that” instead of “which”?

I titled the poem “Remembering Zeus” because my father would have fancied himself the ruler of the gods, but I am wondering if there might be a more suitable Greek god whose name I should use.

(Since posting the poem I have made changes.)
Last edited by Perry on Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:01 am, edited 10 times in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

1lankest
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1698
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:12 pm

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by 1lankest » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:12 pm

Don’t get the title but I really like the poem. Perhaps my favourite of yours so far. It has a mystery and intrigue that others of yours can lack. Some great lines, too.

This passage is really good, great imagery and sounds.

and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical shield
that could protect a deer from wolves,
a lit candle from an ice storm,
or Icarus from the sun, while he,
the deity of his domain,
slept under sheets and blankets as
the pipes knocked and the furnace sang.

‘Would that’ is slightly archaic. Why not just ‘I wish I’d had fur for when....’

Luke

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:33 pm

Thank you, Luke.

"Zeus" is a reference to "the deity of his domain" line, meaning that my father was such an egotist, he not only fancied himself to be a god, but the king of the gods. (Actually, he wasn't quite that bad, but I used poetic license to make the poem more dramatic.)

I'm glad you liked the lines you quoted. I wasn't sure if the reference to the deer, the candle and Icarus would make sense to people.

I know that "would that" is an archaic construction -- or, at least, pretentious. However, "I wish that" just sounds so ordinary to me. Millay used "would" in that way in these lines:

I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And oaths were not so brittle as they are,

Her poem was facetious, and my poem is deadly serious, so I think that helps to keep that use of "would" from sounding pretentious. Also, the unusual construction adds a moodiness to the line that I like.

However, "Wish I'd had fur when the fists came" isn't bad, and it eliminates the repetition of "had".

Thanks again! When I post what I think is a good poem and no one responds for a day and a half, I find myself thinking the worst. Your comment was a nice surprise.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Ros
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 7965
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:53 pm
antispam: no
Location: this hill-shadowed city/of razors and knives.
Contact:

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Ros » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:09 pm

This is very effective, and it like it. I wonder though about the last line - you've already implicitly mocked the idea that fur could protect, so for me the narrator wishing for it when he already knows it doesn't work seems wrong.

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:25 pm

Ros wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:09 pm
This is very effective, and it like it. I wonder though about the last line - you've already implicitly mocked the idea that fur could protect, so for me the narrator wishing for it when he already knows it doesn't work seems wrong.
Thank you, Ros.

That's irony, isn't it? -- to mock the father's conceit, and then to sarcastically accept it. The final line is very condensed in meaning. Imagine that the narrator is saying to his father, "If fur were such a powerful shield, I should have had some when you were beating me." That's the meaning that I take from the final line. If you don't agree that that is the implied meaning, then that is a concern for me. However, Luke seems to understand it.

Let me put it another way: The syntax of the final line is unusual. In normal syntax it would be, "I wish that I had had fur when the fists came [i.e., when you were beating me]." There is sarcasm in that -- do you see it? We know that it must be sarcasm because the narrator has already rejected the notion that fur has some maginal power.
Last edited by Perry on Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2159
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Firebird » Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:52 pm

I love it Perry. Another cracker. I’ll give it a closer reading later and be back.

Cheers,

Tristan

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2159
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Firebird » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:42 pm

Hi Perry,

I’ve read it quite a few times now and still really like it. I think I agree though with Ros about the last line. I don’t think the irony in the last line quite work although I understand from your comments what you were going for. I don’t think the poem would be any less for finishing it on the penultimate line, which is very strong IMO.

It’s a good poem.

Cheers,

Tristan
Perry wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:14 pm
The same selfish, implacable man
who beat his wife and children 'til
their mouths bled, later in life owned
myriad dogs and cats which he left out
in the North Carolina cold, night
after interminable night, to cry
and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical shield
that could protect a deer from wolves,
a lit candle from an ice storm,
or Icarus from the sun, while he,
the deity of his domain,
slept under sheets and blankets as
the pipes knocked and the furnace sang.

Would that I had had fur when the fists came.

-end-

Line 2: "until" instead of "til"? Line 4: “that” instead of “which”?

I titled the poem “Remembering Zeus” because my father would have fancied himself the ruler of the gods, but I am wondering if there might be a more suitable Greek god whose name I should use.

(Since posting the poem I have made changes.)

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:46 pm

Thank you, Tristan. I'll consider what you are saying. I think the final line is very powerful; but if it is confusing, it has to go.

However, in addition to what I've already said about irony and sarcasm, there is an additional implication in the final line: that the narrator (a victim of violence) is still, at some subtle level, accepting his abuser's rationale for being violent; that the victim is still blaming himself. (Or maybe I'm just imagining all those meanings in the final line.)
Last edited by Perry on Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2159
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Firebird » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:04 pm

Hi Perry,

Before you make a decision, wait to see what others say. I may be wrong.

Anyway, I really like the poem.

Cheers,

Tristan

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Fri Dec 14, 2018 11:15 pm

Thank you!
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
JJWilliamson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3245
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:20 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by JJWilliamson » Sat Dec 15, 2018 8:28 am

Yes, I also like this one, Perry. It held me to the end and the switch from domestic abuse of the family to pets was
particularly impressive, given the vulnerability of all concerned.

In the close are you saying if only you'd had fur it would have protected you from the blows to some degree?
The fur protects the pets but only for so long, yet that might have been enough to dampen the pain. An if only moment?

I didn't really pick up on the self-blame but it is there in a subliminal way, as if the speaker is kind of shrugging at his inadequacy
or physical misfortune. The closing line has power and I can understand your reluctance to drop it AND the poem wouldn't suffer
for its inclusion, so it's your decision.

Would "blood" instead of 'fists' work in the close, to imply a soaking up effect of both blood and pain? Just a thought.

Personally, I think the title weakens the power of the poem a bit, unless you have a Greek family connection, and even then I'm not sure.
It takes me away from the reality, mainly because his exploits were ludicrously far-fetched and unbelievable, as was the flight of Icarus.
Greek mythology, at best, is highly entertaining fantasy, and at worst just plain daft. The connection struggles to serve.

That said, I found power and believability in this piece, despite certain reservations.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus

Post by Perry » Sat Dec 15, 2018 10:09 am

Thank you, JJ.

My father wanted to be in control of someone or something, and if he didn't have humans to control, he would adopt pets. Let me say, however, that he wasn't quite as terrible as the poem makes him out to be. He only started beating members of the family when the marriage was falling apart, and he was losing control. I used him as a model to write a poem about domestic abuse. To my mother's credit, she got out of the marriage pretty quickly when he started beating her.

To me, the meaning of the final line is absolutely obvious, so I am puzzled that people are struggling with it. I am the one in this group who doesn't usually pick up on implied meanings. Part of the problem may be that the final line is referencing feelings that not everyone has experienced.

To me, "when the fists came" is the most intense part of the poem. Anyone who has been beaten will understand the feeling of anticipating the next beating. Since one's blood isn't something that "magic fur" could protect a person from, I think I should stick with the word "fists".

Any suggestions for a new title?

Thanks again!
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus (very minor changes)

Post by Perry » Sun Feb 17, 2019 12:47 pm

I've made very minor changes, perhaps not significant enough to post. I'm most concerned about the word "some" which has a vernacular quality.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
lotus
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 361
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:29 am

Re: Remembering Zeus (very minor changes)

Post by lotus » Sun Feb 17, 2019 2:01 pm

i find something positively quite special
with the added ( very minor changes )
it embraces how memories change

silent lotus
“A poem should have the touch ... the way sunlight falls on Braille.” .......silent lotus

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus (very minor changes)

Post by Perry » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:30 pm

Thank you, Lotus! I'm glad you like them.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Remembering Zeus (very minor changes)

Post by JamesM » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:42 am

Hello there,
i like this in spite of my misgivings, shared by JJ. You deserve credit for the rhetorical muscle of the main strophe that supplies weight to that final pay-off line. There's something of the adolescent's yearning in an unjust world: a tone purpose built for this theme. But, the leap from 'fur' to deer etc. can't hold up in the same way the final line bonds so strongly with the father's glib philosphy. Basically, the underpinning examples you use as a counter-example don't work and are saved only by the strength of how effective that last line is. You could almost cut the deer/candle/icarus lines and still have the same basic poem.
regards
james

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 974
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Remembering Zeus (very minor changes)

Post by Perry » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:26 am

Thank you, James. To some extent, I agree with what you said. I did write a version that didn't have the deer/candle/Icarus lines, but it didn't sound as powerful:

The same selfish, implacable man
who beat his wife and children until
their mouths bled, later in life owned
myriad dogs and cats which he left out
in the North Carolina snow, night
after interminable night, to cry
and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical thing
that could shield anyone from anything,
while my father, the deity
of his domain, slept under blankets
as the pipes chimed and the furnace sang.

Would that I had had fur when the fists came.
=====
"Anyone from anything" doesn't have the power that listing those improbable events has. I should note that other people didn't object to the list.
=====
I wonder if just throwing in Icarus as an example of what fur can do might work better for you:

The same selfish, implacable man
who beat his wife and children until
their mouths bled, later in life owned
myriad dogs and cats which he left out
in the North Carolina cold, night
after interminable night, to cry
and shiver, because they had fur,
as if fur were a magical shield
that would protect anyone from anything --
perhaps even Icarus from the sun --
while he, the deity of his domain,
slept under sheets and blankets as
the pipes chimed and the furnace sang.

Would that I had had fur when the fists came.
=====
I actually like that. The list of three examples was problematic to me too. Mentioning only Icarus neatens it up and gives it a literary touch.

By the way, accompanying your criticism were some compliments on my writing ("rhetorical muscle", etc.), and I definitely noticed and appreciated those.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Post Reply