Nosebags and Donkey Stones

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barrie
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Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:55 am

Remember when milk carts were horse-drawn?.
My father would shout,
I’d go out with spade and bucket
to shovel up horse shit,
dropped at dawn,
bit by steaming bit.

Remember when you got on buses
at the back
and bus conductors all wore black,
or dark blue?
The stairs arced left
to a poison gas
of woodbines and black shag,
where anyone who didn’t cough
was either dead or too dog-rough.

Remember the rag and bone man’s horse,
with a nosebag on its face?
A donkey stone was the price he paid
no matter how much junk you gave.

In kneeling posture every week,
upon the pavements women toiled
with donkey stones, in rivalry
for spotless step supremacy.
The turbaned lines would rub away
all of last weeks grime,
as if their scrubbings cleansed their souls,
or eased false guilt they’d slowly built
from shreds of wasted time.


* donkey stone …….. http://www.pittdixon.go-plus.net/donkey ... stones.htm
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by Elphin » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:03 am

Before my time barrie - but not the women scrubbing the tenement "close". It was a battle and what abuse one would get if they missed their turn.

To the poem - evocative of a past era. Particularly impressed by the unobtrusive rhyming - shit/bit, back/black.

This, below, is excellent, both in construction and in the truth of the statements in the last three lines. What guilt would they have built if they'd had washing machines, dishwahsers and tumbledryers?

The turbaned lines would rub away
all of last weeks grime,
as if their scrubbings cleansed their souls,
or eased false guilt they’d slowly built
from shreds of wasted time.


I'll leave you with a thought - the last stanza is the guts of the poem and the penultimate stanza with the rag and bone man critical to setting it up. What about the two before that - smashing pictures but do they dilute rather than add. One for you to ponder.

elph

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by Oskar » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:55 am

Barrie

An evocative backwards look at the Good Old Days of horse shit, lung cancer and endless toil. I like the unsentimental way in which you go about your business. The dry humour and ruefulness that runs through it is to be savoured. S2 is a good example of this -
barrie wrote:Remember
when you got on buses
at the back
and bus conductors all wore black,
or dark blue?
The stairs arced left
to a poison gas
of woodbines and black shag,
where anyone who didn’t cough
was either dead or too dog-rough.
A wonderfully mournful observation.

The subtle use of rhyme preserves the poem's conversational quality. You've saved the best 'till last with your final stanza. I detect a bit of trouble scene setting with it's first four lines- but you give us a Rolls Royce delivery with the last five.

Elph has made a very good point about the first two stanzas possibly diluting the impact of the poem. I've read it over several times, with and without S1 and S2. I started off wanting to keep it all intact, but I ended up preferring the shortened version - but that's just my 'umble opinion.

Cheers
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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by emuse » Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:57 am

I love this. I would think twice, thrice before taking out the first two bits. Reading this from a cultural viewpoint I find the images evocative of the "old England" I knew of in storybooks and film. I think you'd do the poem an injustice by truncating it. If you look for U.S. pubs I can bet they would find it interesting. Maybe it's the UK pubs that would thumb their nose, I don't know. Horse-drawn milk wagons must have been as late as the early part of the 19th century. Now you're not that old are ya? Here they probably went out in the very early 20's but perhaps stayed along on the farms. I also like the refernce to the uniformed men, another evocative image. There is something about uniforms whether miltary or government servants that adds a characterization and atmosphere when mentioned. That's my take.

My nit might be to not separate out the "remembers" in the first two strophes. I don't think it does anything for impact.

Now who was the rag and bone man? There is a terrific anthology of poems called The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart but I never new it had a special significance.

e

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by dogofdiogenes » Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:42 pm

Remember
when milk carts were horse-drawn?.
My father would shout,
I’d go out with spade and bucket
to shovel up horse shit,
dropped at dawn,
bit by steaming bit.

I have to agree here, barrie. shit/bit is great, very understated. Dog-rough I also enjoyed and the notion of people going around on buses and dying and no one noticing was great. I have a few patients who smell like they've died but it's not true.

Remember
when you got on buses
at the back
and bus conductors all wore black,
or dark blue?
The stairs arced left
to a poison gas
of woodbines and black shag,
where anyone who didn’t cough
was either dead or too dog-rough.

Remember the rag and bone man’s horse,
with a nosebag on its face?
A donkey stone was the price he paid
no matter how much junk you gave.

In kneeling posture every week, -does this imply any kind of churchlike devotion?
upon the pavements women toiled
with donkey stones, in rivalry
for clean doorstep supremacy.
The turbaned lines would rub away
all of last weeks grime,
as if their scrubbings cleansed their souls,
or eased false guilt they’d slowly built
from shreds of wasted time.

I also liked the way we began with what the men were doing and then finished with what the women were doing. Alsp agree with e about the remembers thing.

Enjoyed that, like a good beer. Many thanks.

proudtoworkforthenhshound :lol:
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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by twoleftfeet » Sat Jul 19, 2008 6:15 pm

The new ending to S1 is an improvement IMHO, also "shreds of wasted time" is better than "any wasted time".

"for clean doorstep supremacy."
- I still think the meter here clunks a tad on this line, given that the rest of the stanza flows so freely e.g
"for doorstep-clean supremacy" would fit nicely, but having said that, is it English? Hmmmm.

Apart from that, I can't fault it.

Geoff

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by beautifulloser » Sat Jul 19, 2008 9:17 pm

Bazza

I really admire the craft in this piece, but no I don't remember when milk carts were horse drawn, I barely remember my Dad hustling the milk-man over half hour conversations at the door conning him out of an extra pint in the middle of the nineties recession . . .

That said, the drag back to days before my conceptualisation - you know, my mum and dad fancying a jump, I mean - are aided by the warmth in the piece which for me, is it's most attractive niceness, it does suck you in even though you can't answer the questions . . . or something. Memories are warm though, why conjure them otherwise . . . .

S2 is magic.

The stairs arced left
to a poison gas
of woodbines and black shag, - I love to pieces.

I think you could lose S3, personally. As No, I don't remeber that either . . . needless to say I could spurt your own verbal helpfulness about audience and such at you, but then, that's down to you . . . You know, we all know you're an old and knowledgeable haberdasher of cerebral fabrics, sort of thing.

Last stanza is magic though, really. House-wife, true and honest connotation . . . srubbing steps and that.

Incidentally, I'm just playin' Devil's advocate, it's your poem. Just poking really . . . in the hope of being helpful, but nothing other than admiration, such is the fisting of opinions.

Enjoyed

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by barrie » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:48 pm

Thanks Elph, Oskar - I take your point, but I see the first couple of verses as a sort of prelude, building to the final one with the rag & bone man verse as a link. I can’t mutilate it - I bet you two used to pull wings off flies.

Thanks e and dog - I think you’re probably right about the two remembers hanging loose - They shall be assimilated.
e - we still had horse drawn milk carts in the sixties where I lived. Rag & bone men were the recyclers of their day - rags for paper, fabric etc, bones for making glue and any scrap metal they could lay their hands on.

Thanks Geoff - How about - ‘spotless step supremecy’ - ?

Thanks Beau - Mr Devil’s Advocaat - that’s an eggy Dutch drink you know! The verse you want rid of is the link between the first and second part, besides, if I get rid of that I also lose half my title.
It’s nowt cerebral, just relating what I remember - a ‘bittervistry’ (‘a bit of history’ for those of you who can’t speak proper English like what I can).

Thanks all

Barrie
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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by David » Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:33 pm

Remember when milk carts were horse-drawn?

No I don't, although I do remember when they were electric floats (and I remember Steptoe and Son as well).

Essentially, I suppose, this would boil down to "we were poor but we were happy" if it weren't for the sting in the tail in those five last lines, which effectively deflate - and complicate - such an obvious message. I think turbaned lines is a fantastic image, but if there is a significance in the use of shreds in the last line - and I'm sure there must be - then I'm missing it.

I seem to remember Simon Schama going on about Dutch huisvrouwen and their almost obsessive cleanliness, and linking that to Dutch prosperity and self-esteem. This is a much easier read.

Nice, gritty, authentic. (And I love e's idea that you remember these horse-drawn vehicles from the early part of the 19th century. Ye gods, you'd barely be a babe in arms then.)

Cheers

David

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:00 am

Thanks David
David wrote:Nice, gritty, authentic. (And I love e's idea that you remember these horse-drawn vehicles from the early part of the 19th century. Ye gods, you'd barely be a babe in arms then.)
- Babe in arms? No - I was teaching alchemy and the black arts to Cagliostro and the Comte St Germaine before that time. I spent many decades learning from the Wandering Jew before he opened up a second hand shop in Whitby.

cheers

Barrie
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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by twoleftfeet » Thu Jul 24, 2008 9:51 am

barrie wrote:Thanks Geoff - How about - ‘spotless step supremecy’ - ?
Perfick!

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:11 am

OK - Done.

cheers
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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by brianedwards » Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:38 am

Excellent barrie. Very evocative of time and place and the V is clear and consistent.
No nits or suggestions from me - just praise for a very well done piece.

Cheers.

B.

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Re: Nosebags and Donkey Stones

Post by barrie » Mon Jul 28, 2008 8:11 am

Just to thank you for your comment, Brian.

cheers

Barrie
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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