In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

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

In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:53 am

For whatever it's worth, this is the language I finally settled on. The second stanza still has more rhymes in it than the first stanza, but somehow that seems rights:

A sigh from a lost age, or so this letter reads,
written to my mother from a friend
in nineteen-fifty-three, apologizing
for a missed visit, and asking for advice
on a matter I didn't think my mother
would have understood even in her prime.
Why, in two-thousand-ten, is a missive
so old — crisp as if written yesterday —
tucked inside her night stand when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because her mind was failing?

It was a battle ship that sank today.
She worked and she built and she forged,
at home, in the world. She sailed a sea
that she herself had poured. She struck fear
in all our hearts but got things done.
My mother’s world has passed away, and I —
I feel drawn, but not to any shore;
I’m a tugboat lost at sea, unsure where I
belong, or who I am without a ship to lead
(or perhaps it was the other way around).
The churning waters call to me.

Original post:

[I haven't yet incorporated all of Ros's suggestions.]

A sigh from a lost age, or so this letter reads,
written to my mother from a friend
in nineteen-fifty-three, apologizing
for a missed visit, and asking for advice
on a matter I didn't think my mother
would have understood even in her prime.
Why, in two-thousand-ten, is a missive
so old — crisp as if written yesterday —
tucked inside her night stand when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because she had dementia?

It was a battle ship that sank today.
She worked and she built and she made,
at home, in the world. She forged a sea
that she herself had poured. She struck fear
in all our hearts but got things done.
My mother’s world has passed away, and I —
I feel drawn, but not to any shore;
I’m a tugboat lost at sea, unsure where I
belong, or who I am without a ship to lead
(or perhaps it was the other way around).
The churning waters call to me.

-end-

Two days ago I posted a poem and then deleted it when I realized that I wasn't sure what I was trying to say. In the past day, it has evolved into a tribute to my mother (much to my surprise). My concern is whether my loosy-goosy writing style -- almost metered but not quite -- is right for it. Also, the second stanza is full of rhymes and off rhymes, while the first has fewer. How much of a problem is that?

I'm already aware that the second stanza could stand on its own, but it's not in my nature to jump into the thick of a subject without an introduction. Please try to appreciate the poem as a whole before you advise me to cut it.

Poem as originally conceived:

Looking in a Drawer

A sigh from an antique age, this letter
dated nineteen-fifty-three, to my mother
from a friend, apologizing for
a missed visit, and seeking advice
about a private matter, a matter
I didn’t think my mother would have
understood even in her youth.
Why, in two-thousand-ten, is a missive
like this, crisp as if written yesterday,
tucked inside her night stand at a time
when she can no longer climb the stairs
to read it, nor comprehend it because
she has dementia? My mother’s world
has passed away, and I — I follow
not far behind, perhaps more closely
than I should.
Last edited by Perry on Sat Feb 23, 2019 11:25 pm, edited 40 times in total.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After Her Funeral

Post by Ros » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:05 am

I like it as it is, and think the style fits the poem well. It might be good to introduce a few more half-rhymes into the first verse, if possible. Like you, I think it needs both verses. The only cut I'd suggest is 'to heaven ' - it spells it out rather, and I like the idea of her climbing without the destination defined.

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: In My Mother's Bedroom After Her Funeral

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:28 am

Ros, I so seldom get positive reviews that I am very appreciative to get one from you. To me the poem sounds kind of quirky, starting out discussing a letter as it does (in language which is somewhat choppy), and then segueing to the metaphor of a ship with a tug boat.

I agree that the first stanza would benefit from more rhymes; I'm sure I can do that. As for "heaven", I was afraid that if I weren't literal, not everyone would get it. Perhaps what I'll do is to switch in some other word for heaven.

My writing process is such that I keep going back to a poem for a couple weeks after I've written it, switching words in and out. Before I'm done, it will flow better than it does now.

Thank you!
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After Her Funeral

Post by Ros » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:24 pm

My pleasure!
hmm, I thought heaven was implied anyway, but reading it again, I wonder if it would be so obvious she had passed away without it. But I do feel something a bit less literal might work well.

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: In My Mother's Bedroom After Her Funeral

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 08, 2019 11:02 pm

I agree with you that "too literal" is bad. I threw in "heaven" without thinking -- I just wanted to get the concept in of her being a powerful woman who made her own future. I haven't yet looked for an alternative.

I've smoothed out the language somewhat since you first read it. By "forged", I wonder if it is clear that I mean "travelling through" [the sea]. Originally that line read "She walked with pride on the road she laid", but I changed it to make it consistent with the ship metaphor.

Thanks again for your feedback.

The poem was partly inspired by a TV show I saw about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of our Supreme Court justices. In her law class, she was one of nine women out of 500+ men. At one point, one of her male professors gathered all nine women together and scolded them for taking nine slots in his class that, in his opinion, should have gone to men, who, in his opinion, would have made better use of a legal education. Can you imagine?

====================

I guess this would be worse: "The stair she climbs to God was shaped on her own lathe."

I assume that "God" would be even more literal than "heaven".

I don't even believe in heaven.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13692
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by David » Sat Feb 09, 2019 5:57 pm

Perry, I think this - the second revision is all I've read - is excellent.

No, I'm not over-compensating for having irreverently associated you with Onions. I value my critical integrity (such as it is) to much for that sort of thing.

I genuinely think that.

I may have actual recommendations after further reads, but I'm pretty sure I won't be asking you to cut it dramatically - which is the (poetical) bane of your life, I know.

Cheers

David

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Sat Feb 09, 2019 10:02 pm

Thank you, David. I do indeed believe in your integrity, so I know you wouldn't praise a poem of mine just to be nice. (I do that sometimes, which I shouldn't.)

I'm glad you like it, and I'm looking forward to your comments.

I have a specific concern about the poem: In the first stanza, I say that my mother couldn't climb the stairs to her bedroom at the end of her life (which was true). But then in the second stanza I have that metaphor of her climbing stairs to heaven. Is that a redundancy, or is that an acceptable parallel?

I'm not happy with the "heaven" line. Unlike Ros, I don't mind mentioning heaven, but the line feels awkward to me.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:03 pm

I think I have fixed a significant problem in my poem. I replaced this:

The stair she climbs
to heaven was shaped on her own lathe.

with this:

She struck fear
in all our hearts but got things done.

Ros didn't like the mention of heaven, and I agreed. Also, having mentioned stairs in the first stanza (stairs to her bedroom), it sounded redundant to mention a completely different kind of stairs (stairs to heaven) in the second stanza (although that could have been interpreted as parallelism). The new lines are less original than the old lines, but I may still find something better to insert in that spot.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by 1lankest » Mon Feb 11, 2019 5:48 pm

Wow. Terrific stuff, Perry. This is wonderful:

‘She forged a sea
that she herself had poured‘

Only one thing: do you need the explicit mention of dementia? I’d drop it, and ‘nor comprehend it’, too. But only that. Otherwise, don’t change a thing!

L

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:10 pm

Thank you, Luke.

My original line was, "She walked with pride on the road she laid" -- which I loved -- but then I decided to go with the ship theme.

I'll reexamine the lines you don't like to see if there is a more poetic way of saying those things. However, there are only so many ways to say that a person has lost her marbles. If other people object to the explicit language, they should let me know.

Here is the second stanza with just a few changes towards the beginning. I think this may be an improvement.

It was a battle ship that sank today.
She worked and she built and she forged;
she wasn’t wise, but she was brave. She cleaved
a sea that she herself had poured. She struck
fear in all our hearts but got things done.
My mother’s world has passed away, and I —
I feel drawn, but not to any shore;
I’m a tugboat lost at sea, unsure where I
belong, or who I am without a ship to lead
(or perhaps it was the other way around).
The churning waters call to me.

[I decided against it.]
Last edited by Perry on Tue Feb 12, 2019 5:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

capricorn
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:49 pm
Location: Birmingham UK

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by capricorn » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:45 pm

This is a wonderful poem, Perry. Very moving. It reminds me very much of my own mother who had dementia later in life. I agree that it is better not to mention dementia directly but hint at it in some way.

Great writing
Eira

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:57 pm

Thank you, Eira.

With two votes against "dementia" I'll definitely try to find alternative language.

My mother had Alzheimer's, but so far it appears that her children are avoiding it. One of my brothers sent me an article about a new line of inquiry into its cause: poor dental health. They have found bacteria that normally live on the teeth inside the brains of people with dementia. They have also found the bacteria in the brain's of normal people, but they theorize that those people simply died too young to develop the disease. My mother died at 90. Taking care of one's teeth -- for this and other reasons -- seems to be important for overall health. Both the teeth and the sinuses provide a fairly direct route into the brain.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

capricorn
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:49 pm
Location: Birmingham UK

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by capricorn » Wed Feb 13, 2019 7:19 pm

Perry wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:57 pm
Thank you, Eira.

With two votes against "dementia" I'll definitely try to find alternative language.

My mother had Alzheimer's, but so far it appears that her children are avoiding it. One of my brothers sent me an article about a new line of inquiry into its cause: poor dental health. They have found bacteria that normally live on the teeth inside the brains of people with dementia. They have also found the bacteria in the brain's of normal people, but they theorize that those people simply died too young to develop the disease. My mother died at 90. Taking care of one's teeth -- for this and other reasons -- seems to be important for overall health. Both the teeth and the sinuses provide a fairly direct route into the brain.
That is so interesting, Perry. It just shows how important it is to care for your health in many ways - all seems connected.
My mother wore dentures, so this may not have been her problem - she appeared to be having mini strokes. Your right that teeth and sinuses are a direct route to the brain - a bit worrying as I have always suffered from sinus problems. Thanks for sharing that information.

Eira

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:34 pm

I have read about mini-strokes. Apparently, they are more prevalent in people with low blood-pressure than high blood-pressure. I have had one mini-stroke, which happily cleared itself in about two hours. A subsequent MRI showed that my brain was normal.

Regarding sinuses, here in the U.S. (I don't know about England), there are parasites that live and reproduce in some of our ponds. If you go swimming while they are in their reproductive cycle, and if you accidentally get some water in your sinuses, the parasites can get into your brain and kill you.

Lovely stuff, eh?

As a replacement for "dementia" in the poem, all I can think of is "senility", but I'm not sure that works, especially the phrasing:

when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because she had senility?

Senility sounds as medical/technical as dementia does. Also, the normal expressions are that one "has" dementia but "suffers from" senility. "Was senile" doesn't work for me.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

capricorn
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:49 pm
Location: Birmingham UK

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by capricorn » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:04 pm

Hi Perry, thanks for the warning about parasites -yuk! I don't go swimming outside. Indoor public pools are treated with chlorine in UK to kill the bugs - although the chlorine itself can irritate my sinuses. :roll:

Yes senility is similar to dementia and a bit medical. Perhaps something like mind became confused.

when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because her mind became confused

Eira

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:26 pm

Thank you, Eira. I'll keep working at it.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Ros » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:04 pm

Just a thought... Could you say something like
... could not now comprehend it...

And leave the dementia left unsaid? I think the reader would still understand.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:11 pm

Ros wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:04 pm
Just a thought... Could you say something like
... could not now comprehend it...

And leave the dementia left unsaid? I think the reader would still understand.
I came up with this:

Why, in two-thousand-ten, is a missive
so old — crisp as if written yesterday —
tucked inside her night stand when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because her mind was failing? (or -- her mind had failed?)

The first time you read the poem, you seemed satisfied with "dementia", but I guess that has changed.

I appreciate that you came back to look at the poem again. I still feel that the second stanza has too many rhymes and off-rhymes in it. Here is the whole poem again with a few words changed:

A sigh from a lost age, or so this letter reads,
written to my mother from a friend
in nineteen-fifty-three, apologizing
for a missed visit, and asking for advice
on a matter I didn't think my mother
would have understood even in her prime.
Why, in two-thousand-ten, is a missive
so old — crisp as if written yesterday —
tucked inside her night stand when she
couldn't climb the stairs to read it, nor
comprehend it because her mind was failing?

It was a battle ship that sank today.
She worked and she built and she forged,
at home, in the world. She cleaved a sea
that she herself had poured. She struck fear
in all our hearts but got things done.
My mother’s world has passed away, and I —
I feel drawn, but not to any shore;
I’m a tugboat lost at sea, unsure where I
belong, or who I am without a ship to lead
(or perhaps it was the other way around).
The churning waters call to me.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by lotus » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:19 pm

`


A sigh from a lost age

tucked inside her night stand

a battle ship that sank today

She forged a sea
that she herself had poured

My mother’s world has passed away, and I —
I feel drawn, but not to any shore;
I’m a tugboat lost at sea,
unsure where I
belong


~~~~~~~~~~~

dear Perry

these are a few gems that knit together
in a way that keeps speaking to me


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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:29 pm

Thank you so much, Lotus. To make the rhymes in the second stanza less obtrusive, I changed the word "forged" to "cleaved", but otherwise those lines remain the same.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by JamesM » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:48 am

Hello there,
i'm not sure forged/poured works: cast/poured, yes. 'Cleaved certainly won't'.

Regards
James

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:01 am

Thank you, James. I had too many words with long A sounds clustered together, which is why I've been moving words around.

I'm not sure from your comment where you think that "cast" should go. Where "forged" is now (in the post right above)?

So, in your view, water can't be "cleaved" by the prow of a ship?
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by JamesM » Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:27 am

Hello there,
Probably best to post the most current revision above the previous version. As is, you have bits all over the thread, and clearly that will cause confusion. My reference was that you can't forge a sea that you pour: they are two different processes. Your revision in another part of the thread changes the metaphor appropriately.
regards
james

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

Re: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by Perry » Mon Feb 18, 2019 11:00 am

Thanks, James. I'm still not sure what you're saying -- sorry.

Forging a sea just means travelling on it (I'm not usuing "forge" in the sense of "create"). Metaphorically speaking, it seems to me that you can forge a sea you created (poured) yourself -- the idea being that she was such a powerful figure that she created the environment in which she operated. As I said to Luke, the original line was "She walked with pride on the road she laid", but then I brought in the ship metaphor so I had to change it to a sea. It doesn't work as well.

Sorry for spreading sections of the poem throughout the thread.
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: In My Mother's Bedroom After the Funeral

Post by JamesM » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:20 am

Hello there,
perhaps it is the previous working and building and making that promotes the meaning of 'forge' as create. I do think, however, you'll need a preposition; poetic licence aside we: forge ahead, usually. In any event there was a mis-direction occured for the reasons I've mentioned. The original idea was one of making so it's possible a sort of coctail of ideas has merged over the course of revision.
regards
James

Post Reply