Inclusion

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ray miller
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Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:50 pm

As we pull into the car park of St Margaret’s church,
they come dribbling along like a defeated army:
the disabled, the autistic, those who simply
find learning difficult, those who make us uneasy.
Most have walked the ten minutes from school to church,
others have been pushed, or carried,
and the big blonde boy whom I recall from Sports Day,
with the face of an angel and the physique of a god,
requires two adults to guide him along
the straight and narrow. It isn’t because he’s aggressive,
it seems, only possessed of an urgent desire
to be somewhere other than where he is.

My wife returns to the car for a pack of tissues
and when we enter the church, Sheila hands us a programme.
She is Sheila, and not Mrs Lines, because
all the teachers and children are on first name terms.
The programme appears skilfully designed
to produce the tears those tissues are intended for -
stick-like drawings, poorly spelt prayers
and grammatically exotic expressions of gratitude.

The headmaster calls himself Ed the Head;
he addresses the assembled and the hubbub subsides,
apart from what sounds like an aeroplane humming,
but which I’m informed is a boy called Robin
and this is the noise Robin makes all day long.
Ed the Head reads the names of the year 6 leavers,
all 23 receiving a round of applause and I whisper
to my wife that he sounds like Mr Tumble,
the lovable children’s entertainer.
He does! she laughs, they must come from the same area.
Or, it occurs to me that special school staff
might need to pretend they are someone else
to get through each day and Mr Tumble is an astute choice.

Sat next to me is a child in a wheelchair,
whose name is Mohammed, who is silent and immobile
despite the best efforts of his Teaching Assistant,
who’s been speaking and signing to Mohammed throughout.
A group of children sing My Love is like a Mountain,
and she takes his hands, swinging and clapping,
but Mohammed remains unmoved.
He is unmoved even by a rousing rendition
of My School is a Good School
which has most of the children and teachers
bouncing around in their chairs.

Then all the year 6 leavers sing Lean on Me,
the old Bill Withers number.
They are remarkably harmonious, and make a decent stab
at leaning on each other in unison, all except
for Thomas, who stands apart from the rest,
spinning circles like Bez from the Happy Mondays.
I ask my wife if she thinks this has been choreographed,
but she’s buried her face in tissues.

The song ends.
Robin’s humming aeroplane re-enters the atmosphere,
punctuated by sniffles, the phut-phut of engines failing.
We find our daughter, her face contorted by tears,
her autographed school top a tattoo of love.
One of her classmates hugs her, we hug her.
I cannot speak.
I cannot speak for fear that I too might break down
or break up and relinquish my pose of detachment.
I am pretending to be someone else to get me through the days.

As we are leaving I notice the blonde boy
still endeavouring to escape his handlers.
In the car I ask my daughter where she thinks
he is trying to get to. The dining room, she replies,
matter of factly, and I burst into laughter and tears.
It’s like God has come down to earth, I say.
My wife glances at me, smiles and says nothing.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by NotQuiteSure » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:29 pm

.
Hi ray,

For me this only really starts working in the final three stanzas,
the majority of the opening just seems to be scene setting.

S1: liked 'dribbling along' but I wasn't sure about 'defeated army'
which implied a weariness that seemed unlikely here.
Would have preferred 'crippled' to 'disabled' (as the latter seems
synonymous with 'learning difficulties' at least and probably 'autistic' too.)
'those who make us uneasy' is a terrific observation, but it's somewhat
lost in the undergrowth (as it were). Likewise the description
'possessed of an urgent desire...'

S3: not at all sure about 'pretend they are someone else' - too much
(judgemental) authorial projection perhaps :)

S4: Can't help myself. I really want the poem to start from/with
Mohammed remains unmoved...
(A mountain and a Mohammed? Sneaky :) )

S6: 'relinquish my pose of detachment' is all tell, no show.
But I like the 'I'm pretending to be someone else...'

S7: The ending (in terms of the final line) lacks a bit of punch.
Could you not have ended on 'matter of factly' ?

I like the story, and a lot of the observations, but it lacks your customary
bite. Too much wool, not enough leather!


Regards, Not.


.

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Perry
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Re: Inclusion

Post by Perry » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:38 pm

I like this poem in a lot of ways. It is frank and unsentimental. It is written in plain English without any pretenses. It tells an interesting story.

The question is whether it is good art. There is certainly enough raw material to hammer a good poem with artistic qualities out of it. In its present form, it feels rambling and undisciplined. It reads very much like prose.

The point of the story doesn't seem to be well-focussed. Even a narrative poem which just gives us a "slice of life" needs a unifying point, so that is, first and foremost, what I think the poem needs. Having said that, I'm guessing that you do see a central point in the story, but to me it isn't clear.

The narrator, at one and the same time, seems to be annoyed or repelled by the scene, but also affected by it. Is that the central point of the poem? There is a clear statement about society in the poem, so perhaps that is the central point.

To give the poem some structure, I might suggest putting it in a loose meter, but I'm not sure the subject-matter lends itself to meter.

So, focus and form is what the poem needs in my opinion, and perhaps a little trimming. However, I don't have any specific suggestions as to how you might accomplish that.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by bjondon » Fri Jan 04, 2019 1:00 am

Hi Ray,
if your aim was to gently walk the reader to that point
of laughter through tears then you found the right formula.
No slant rhymes, no alliteration . . . the cadence and scene setting
do all the necessary work. Excellent story telling.
Regards,
Jules

ray miller
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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Fri Jan 04, 2019 4:46 pm

Thanks fellas. More story than poem and I don't think I can change that much. Maybe when I'm in a more destructive frame of mind.
NQS - I like the Mohammed stanza least, that would definitely be the first to go. I don't mind scene-sttin, but maybe it goes on too long. Yes, I've messd the ending up, I should end on " matter of factly".

Perry - yes, too rambling, I guess the narrator's ambivalence is the central point.

bjondon - Ooooh, I love it when someone damns with faint praise, and so tactfully too!
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by bjondon » Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:15 pm

impliment n : something that starts out as a genuine
compliment but for one reason or another is received as a criticism.
J!

ray miller
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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Fri Jan 04, 2019 6:25 pm

Jules, I wasn't being arsey or over-sensitive. I think your original comment is probably better than the poem itself.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Tamara Beryl Latham
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Re: Inclusion

Post by Tamara Beryl Latham » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:34 pm

Ray, this poem is nicely written and details a wonderful story that focuses on the medical condition of a significant amount of children on a global scale today. Your imagery is exceptional and you make the reader feel as though he or she is also present at the school and in the classroom. Overall, quite an enjoyable read.

I can only offer the following:

"the disabled, the autistic, those who simply
find learning difficult, those who make us uneasy. "

Is it necessary to list each disability?
Why not those with special needs, who make us uneasy?


"Sat next to me is a child in a wheelchair,
whose name is Mohammed, who is silent and immobile."

Sitting next to me...

"A group of children sing My Love is like a Mountain,"

I may be incorrect, but I think titles of songs should be in quotes.

A group of children sing, "My Love is like a Mountain."


He is unmoved even by a rousing rendition
of My School is a Good School

"My School is a Good School,"


Lean on Me,

"Lean on Me,"

Ray, the last verse was filled with emotion and your daughter's, matter of fact, comment shows she is exceptionally aware of what's going on around her. Truly amazing!

I loved your poem's story-like quality.

Thanks for sharing and I hope I've been a bit helpful. :-)
Last edited by Tamara Beryl Latham on Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
"Truth, like light, is often slanted"...Tamara B. Latham, ©2019

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Re: Inclusion

Post by JJWilliamson » Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:11 pm

I think it's a great story well told, Ray. It held me all the way to the end, which didn't disappoint, even though it could've easily slipped into sentimentality. The combination of humour and sadness was well done, and the educational side of things was illuminating, at least it was for me.

Got to love Ed the Head. :)

Enjoyed

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

ray miller
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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:44 pm

Thankyou very much, Tamara, JJ. I think it does lurch into sentimentality, myself, but I'm glad you found something entertaining and interesting in there.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by David » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:00 pm

I like the whole thing. It takes as long as it has to. In fact, it takes its own sweet time. I didn't begrudge any of it. And by the end I was looking for tissues of my own.

Cheers

David

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Re: Inclusion

Post by churinga » Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:16 am

Hi Mac

I'm with David, I like the whole poem, it is prose like but it is so well observed and concise that it didn't matter to me. I like the ending which I found very moving, It is also funny and to combine the two is no mean feat.
My only suggestion is to put the God line in quotes or italics to signal it's dialogue. On first reading I thought is was authorial comment and it seemed preachy but as dialogue, as a quip, it works just fine.
I wouldn't end on 'factly,' it is too abrupt, by incorporating both you and your wife into the ending we get a sense of family, a sense of relationship.

cheers

Ross

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Re: Inclusion

Post by JamesM » Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:11 am

Excellent Ray.
More flash fiction...or fact than a poem so I would lose the verse format. I'd also cut the last sentence. Yours and our conversion is nicely satisfied with that final lyrical lift.
Regards
James

ray miller
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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:21 am

Thankyou, David, Ross, James. I'm thinking about the ending and italicising the God line. I've seen the phrase Flash Fiction many times and I assumed that I knew what it meant, but I've just discovered that I didn't. I guess a lot of my stuff might be re-assigned to that shelf.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by capricorn » Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:18 pm

I really like this prose poem of yours, Ray. As a parent of an autistic son I found it very moving, yet there is a sense of humour there. It does take a sense of humour to cope with a disabled child. My son is adult now but when I read your poem I recognised each child as one in my son's school. An honest and warming read.

Eira

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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:05 pm

Thanks, Eira. Yeah, a sense of humour helps, children with learning difficulties aren't easy. But then, they do take you places you'd never otherwise have visited.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by HonourStedman » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:40 pm

This poem is a tricky one for me, Ray. If I am perfectly honest, I would have preferred this to be in prose form rather than a poem - a sort of vignette or a little fable. I don't feel that the verse form used here quite fits the text, and prose would have allowed a greater degree of freedom to explore the scene. :)

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Re: Inclusion

Post by Ros » Sat Jan 12, 2019 4:31 pm

I liked it too - agree you could end a little sooner, as discussed.
I think Perry has hit on something - I'd imagine this could be true: "The narrator, at one and the same time, seems to be annoyed or repelled by the scene, but also affected by it." - a sort of attempt to stay a bit distanced from it all, but impossible not to be moved by it.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by churinga » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:11 pm

I will just use the first verse as an example of how poetic this is and how it works sonically in a way a prose piece would not.

As we pull into the car park of St Margaret’s church, ......repeated 5 lines down
they come dribbling along like a defeated army:
the disabled, the autistic, those who simply
find learning difficult, those who make us uneasy. .....the 'y' ending of these three words
Most have walked the ten minutes from school to church,
others have been pushed, or carried,
and the big blonde boy whom I recall from Sports Day, ......the 'd' of carried is repeated in Day and god
with the face of an angel and the physique of a god,
requires two adults to guide him along
the straight and narrow. It isn’t because he’s aggressive, ....the aspirated 'a' of 'along' is repeated in 'aggressive'
it seems, only possessed of an urgent desire the 'es' of desire is repeated in 'is'
to be somewhere other than where he is.

Some of these rhymes and repetitions might be accidental, some may seem a stretch and maybe Ray was unaware of them, maybe not, but all these sonic repetitions would have no impact if they were lost inside a prose piece. Also the poem has a metrical flow which is equally important.

cheers

Ross
Last edited by churinga on Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ray miller
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Re: Inclusion

Post by ray miller » Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:35 pm

HonourStedman wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:40 pm
This poem is a tricky one for me, Ray. If I am perfectly honest, I would have preferred this to be in prose form rather than a poem - a sort of vignette or a little fable. I don't feel that the verse form used here quite fits the text, and prose would have allowed a greater degree of freedom to explore the scene. :)
Thanks, Honour. I wouldn't disagree with any of that, though as far as allowing for more freedom, I feel I've taken enough liberties already.


Thanks, Ros. I wouldn't say I was repelled, made uneasy describes it. A certain amount of annoyance with myself, too, for succumbing to the schmaltz.


Thanks, Ross. I do pay a lot of attention to sonics and metrical flow, so I appreciate your remarks. I can't speak for Mac.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Inclusion

Post by churinga » Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:30 pm

Sorry about that Ray, I forget my own name at times.

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