poetry critical

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a recounting

Again age twelve, again just fledged,
this young magpie Mrs. Holman took down today.
That's IT for you young man,
she scribbles aloud and thrusts paper shot
gun shell lodging in the breast... pocket.  
March yourself, right now, this instant,
down to the Principal's Office.
Trudge the way slowly,  'cos meeting death
is heavy this first and last time
living fate hinges around
this most elementary executioner.
Principal Jamieson is fifty, for now, assured.
He's lean and his white hair and white shirt are
neatness cold backlit by late morning
eyes shooting above a narrow black tie
binding this, a recall of decades.
Well, what is this all about?
I tear, I turned and talked to Becky, twice,
she blew from behind my ear.
That tickles,  you know his glare?
It softens toward gentle.
Why Reid it's so simple. Obey your teacher.
Now go on back.  We'll make no more of this.
So that is that.  
Absolved and free to get back with Becky
and even the field.
It's fine flying weather as this young man goes hunting his tools and supplies and his various
"Sundries At Saunders', The Place For Hard..."
and a CRACK
               and  concurrent  shrieeeek
Run swift to view the next display.
Round this corner, dash to learn what has fallen from high,
or uppermost shelf?
An old man on concrete, as flat as a strip steak,
except that his head-bone is cradled and basted,
with carresses to face and coos where were ears.
A young cashier plays Mary (she who had screamed).
This mother consoling; in profile she's petting
as if the concussed man were an infant
I know him, he's fine, I've seen this before.
Epileptic, the gawkers are standing transfixed.
Eyes open and staring, I see, so I shout,
cardiac arrest,  step aside,  go call help.
On a pillow of paper, a roll of soft Bounty, lilts
the head, angled,  to open the airway.
Now ask for a helper.
Please, you sir, yes, come here.  Yes come on. Here, just compress the chest.
The silents...  amassing as dumb as the walls
except for that ugly one peeling off paint.
Why do you bother?  He's d-e-a-d
Azure fog inches from green
is the calm we are breathing controlling
the count and compress, now exhale,
and go on and one and now two,  and inhale,  and must...
try, please, old man,  try just to breathe
(as urgent a whisper as ever hope heard).
Now hold in that air for four days'...  ablation
to know who the man was who probably died,  though
he surely got whisked quick by that EMT wagon.
Glad I got  his name from a thin black...
...wallet that name.
No reminder bells until The Herald, in tolling obits:
"We note on this morn the passing of Principal...."
In gasping for what? It is I who's not breathing.
Death rattles.
The paper.
It will not lie still.

24 Nov 05

Rated 10 (6.7) by 1 users.
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 — unknown

thanks.  the poem is not easy on the reader, nor on me.  to try to put this entirely-true sequence of events to a poem is baffling for me.   I have no resolution either of the dying man's "thoughts", nor of my own remorse for failing to revive from sudden death that very same man who'd "let be go alive" when i was so young and innocent.   Innocence has been lost.  A need for forgiveness here that can never be granted... for certain.    reid still weeps all these years later.  Nearly forty years since it began.  To let go would be to forget.  I do not choose to forget even if I could.   thanks again,
the magpie, flightless.
 — netskyIam

I found the timeline compelling. The epilogue is particularly powerful. Note: shriek ( "i" before "e" ) Line 90- the paper.... lie still ( intransitive verb) I'll return for rereads, but the sheer energy here carries it beautifully. [ 9 ]
 — graceinmtl

thanks for the concrete helps,  graceinmtl.
have corrected the two words you point to, and adjusted a line break or two.

I wonder.. is this poem (true recounting) too much a downer or personal catharsis
to be considered a good poem? I live in a city of a million people.   I have never before
or since witnessed a sudden cardiac death.  That of all people, it would be Mr. Jamieson, whom I'd never spoken to for all those years... and never thanked for lettting me off the hook back in those dark, early days of corporal punishment in schools.   The reading betrays my continued emotional conflict.  An unfinished poem that won't finish until I am dead too.   Thanks,
 — netskyIam


This is strong, compelling work. The only problem is that posters here aren't very abundant with comments. I'd love for you to get more feedback on this. It is great.
 — graceinmtl

It's not just here, grace....I'm running this poem at a couple other places.  People don't comment on it.  I think it must be a) way too long b)unbelievable or just... I dunno.. it's a puzzle; both the strangeness of the episodes, and how to make a decent poem of it all.  After all, it has been distilling inside me for over twenty years.  I don't usually try for a serious toned poem. Now that I do, it fails.. but for your acclamation, I'd be in a real funk.   Thank  you so much for seeing and for -helping-.   Wooooot mit hugs for you!
 — netskyIam


perhaps instead of breaking into 2, you could jumble it up and make 1.
i think you'd have something more gripping. compelling. there are links between the two events. looksee!! i'm sure you could find a way.


we both know that wont happen.
 — onklcrispy

not quite sure what you mean, oncle.   that principal who I met in life only the one time, years later, he died in my arms.  What are the chances of such a reunion?  That's why I don't think this can be split or sifted too much.  Perhaps some cuts could be made, if it's too protracted a read.  What would be suggested for cutting out?   The timelines, the speech, the actions are all very nearly exact to life.  My line of speech: "it's arrest of the heart" is poeticized, is all.  What I really said was "Get back!  It's cardiac arrest!  Someone call help.  I need a volunteer to do chest compressions".   A Samaritan stepped right  up from the lineup of onlookers.  I gave him directions and he followed through while I did the mouth to mouth.  Staring into those fogged, old blue eyes.... I detached a bit... It was as the EMT team arrived ten or twelve minutes later that I got really agitated, because the death rattle had occured very early on.  There was no further sign of life even after they injected bicarb and adrenaline and defibbed.  Nothing.  Grim, I got his name from the manager, who'd taken the wallet from the body while I worked.  The name James Jamieson did not ring a bell.  I watched the obits.   Then, only then did I learn and start shaking badly.  The shaking (inside) has never ceased.  The poem tries to put you in my place.  Why? I don't know.  I'm lonely.
 — netskyIam

I'lll alter "elder" to Principal.  This may make the connection better for readers.  
Thanks for these helps and for any additional thoughts of any sort from anyone.
Do not be shy.  Be bold.  Proactive is bold.  Shyness gains us nothing,  really.
 — netskyIam

reformed the lines and added punctuations and made minor but key changes to wordings.  
 — netskyIam

NOT A 2.
 — unknown

There's human behind the surety. Interesting story-poem. Some of the descriptions of sounds go with the birdness up top, but then the birdness disappears. Overall, I would say woe, patience. This needs time, sculpting, and deeper poetry. It made me feel too speeded but also to have deeper care for people who are pressured.
 — C

On reading the comments, I don't understand why you feel bad that he died near you after he let you off severe punishment, and told you basically not to go over the top of who was teaching you. I'm still learning this lesson only now the teachers are in spirit and their stops come as intuitions and secreted voices and it's hard to always get them. Wish him well, safe passage, etc. and don't overindulge in guilt you needn't have. Learning from your better teachers now seems what he would want and guiding those who aren't getting it but deserve to. Maybe go and put some flowers or something other organic and worthy on his grave or at the school, and try to let it go with a prayer for both of your good existential health and real faith. Best wishes. Things make me shake like that too. The poem will come greater with the transformations.
 — C

Two short stories, the challenge is to turn them into one poem
 — unknown

thank you---I had not seen these late comments before.
the poem-effort is an early one; I'd been writing for just one year.
Now I am a two year old (so to speak).
Someday I'll try to revise this lonnnng story into a compact thing.

Thanks for your observatoins.  I agree with your points.

 — netskyIam