Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Jam

This is a first draft. I think it's going to need a lot of effort to make this work the way I want it to.

Jam

Inside the sky
a long arch of leaves

and inside the arch
four lines of cars.

Inside a black Mercedes
behind a partition

a man organises
what’s left of his life.

*

‘Is she young?’ she asked.
He was thinking about

Gruyk’s theory, and finding it
lacking in logic, raised

a Budvar can and drank in
the news that she knew.

What difference does it make?
he thought out loud.

*

The awful crem harmonium
squeaks psalms in his head.

Deadlines on Friday, lunch
with Sue on Saturday –

‘I’m an architect,’ he told her
on first meeting. Collect

the casket on Monday. Smoke
from the funnel is ash-free.

*

Cause of death unknown
to spare his feelings,

the undertaker whispered.
He dumps the verdict

in a rarely-dusted corner
of his brain; everything

has its own cell. It takes
three weeks with paracetamol.

*

Sue is young. The car
crawls down the tunnel

of leaves. Saturday at ten
they will make love;

he will kiss only Sue’s lips.
She stood near the back

at the crematorium.
Good of her to come.

*

He locks away
fifteen years of marriage

in the love-cell.
The homily he keeps

for public admiration,
stores it like stained glass

in a cathedral. What he
can’t see, can’t hurt him.

*

The leaves are thick,
but thin strips of light

spindle down his black tie.
When he sees the road ahead

mirror the sky’s naked glare,
he fears losing

himself in so much space,
in white and boxless air.

*

Beyond the partition
outside the car, the trees

draw back their branches,
and the sky waits

for a cloud, for a haircut
on Tuesday, for a man

it doesn’t know to step out
and leave the door ajar.

7 comments:

Paula said...

Hi, Rob, This is interesting; we become voyeurs of what happens inside some cars stuck in a traffoic jam. Will follow how it develops.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks Paula. There are various ways I could progress it. I'm hoping something really good will occur to me soon.

Scavella said...

What I like: the form, the boxiness, the narrowness of it, which mirror the narrowness of the man's situation.

What needs work: some of the details. The story's a little disappointing, frankly; the set-up is good but the tale lets us down. Maybe there are two many prepositional phrases. Part I takes too long to get where it's going. The tunnel of leaves is a good idea that needs honing. Not at all sure about the death though; seems a little easy, a little simple a solution to a problem that seems to be under control anyway.

I don't know if I'm making myself clear. If not, ask me.

Cheers.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks Scavella. That's very useful feedback.

I think I understand what you mean. The death is almost convenient to him. Why should it be a problem? Clearly, I need to show why it's a problem and introduce enough complications to make the story more interesting.

And yes, I need to think out the story better. It's a little hazy in my own mind at the moment, so it's liable to be even more so on paper or computer screen.

And again, yes, it could certainly move faster.

Good luck with your blog. It's interesting so far.

Heather O'Neill said...

I really like what you've got so far. I think the jam the N has got himself into is written in a unique way for the treament of the subject matter. He seems jammed in the way the traffic is jammed, and thinks about his situation while stuck in the jam.

The form or structure you chose to write with is interesting to me. After every two lines I feel a bump in the road, or a mile marker as the N. moves along.

Why does N. seem unsure about the death of his wife? But the cause of death is unknown (so the undertaker says).

The N. takes everything in, but 'sweeps it under the rug'.

For me, this seems to be the crux:

"When he sees the road ahead

mirror the sky’s naked glare,
he fears losing

himself in so much space,
in white and boxless air."

Out of pure curiosity, who is Gruyk? I could find nothing.

Creating and maintaining stability and structure on the N.'s part, from what appears to be chaos, seems to play a part in the poem, at least from my perspective.

"The homily he keeps

for public admiration,
stores it like stained glass

in a cathedral."

These lines read a bit vague for me. "Stores" throws it off, and I can't tell what meaning I'm supposed to glean.

It feels like he's trying to say (thougout the poem) that because he has stored these thoughts away, he can't see them, and because he can't see them, they can't hurt him.

The only nit I might have is the length and that the poem meanders from thought to thought. But,then, it feels justified to do that because of the nature and fit of thoughts the N is having. So much change.

"The leaves are thick,
but thin strips of light

spindle down his black tie."

I like the ending. It seems to sum up how he will conduct his future actions. Black tie.

Thanks for the read.

Heather O'Neill said...

I really like what you've got so far. I think the jam the N has got himself into is written in a unique way in regards to(edit out:the treament of) the subject matter should read:in regards to. He seems jammed in the way the traffic is jammed, and thinks about his situation while stuck in the jam.

Rob Mackenzie said...

Thanks Heather for that useful feedback.

You asked about Gruyk - well, I made him up (sorry)!

The narrator knows the cause of death (paracetamol), but is told the cause is unknown to spare his feelings. I've blundered a bit here, to be honest - it should be the doctors who tell him, and they should put something like "kidney /liver failure" on the death certificate to spare his feelings - that's quite common in cases of suicide by paracetamol.

I've let this lie since I posted it. I might start looking at it again in the next few days and see what I can do with it.