the listening shack

In Africa, she wants to tell him, waiting for a message means there is no rush. She wants that sense of faith. When he was in Italy, he felt there were too many Italians. Not enough space. Behind them is the mountain village with the good french fries and the Russian waitress. In front of them the park.

 They drive through Yellowstone listening to Mozart, counting and not counting the herds of buffalo. No one ahead or behind stops to take a photo. Later they pass twenty people, each with a camera focused: one buffalo eating one tuft of grass beside one hell-bent river.

 They don’t stop for this.

 Their cottage is waiting, on a hill swept free of tourists. It has an outside wall which vibrates when she turns the air conditioner on. She leans against the stucco, feels the cool air.

To her right he reads a novel. Straight ahead a window. There is a crack–she is broken. Through the doorway waits the sky, blue bolts of fine linen spun from cloud to cloud. Here, there–farms laid out like table settings. Such order, such function. Every fork a purpose, every lamb born to obey some god.

 **
I am curious. Which format do you prefer? Above or below?

**

The Listening Shack

In Africa, she wants to tell him, waiting
for a message means there is no
rush. She wants that
sense of faith. When he was in Italy, he felt
there were too many Italians. Not enough
space. Behind them is the mountain

village with the good french
fries and the Russian waitress, in front
of them the park. They drive through
Yellowstone listening to Mozart,
counting and not

counting the herds of buffalo. No one
ahead or behind stops to take
a photo. Later they pass twenty people,
each with a camera focused:
one buffalo eating one tuft of grass beside one
hell-bent river.

They don’t stop for this.
Their cottage is waiting, on a hill swept free
of tourists. It has an outside wall
which vibrates when she turns
the air conditioner on. She leans
against the stucco, feels the cool air.
To her right he reads a novel. Straight ahead

a window. There is a crack–
she is broken. Through the doorway
waits the sky, blue bolts
of fine linen spun from cloud
to cloud. Here, there–
farms laid out like table settings.
Such order, such function. Every fork
a purpose, every lamb born
to obey some god.

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About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit and YB Poetry Journal. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

20 responses to “the listening shack

  1. tough call. i think i prefer the poem form. it is easier to “see” the poetry that is inherent in your writing.
    and now i am going to go read more of your posts – i’m faint from not reading enough of your blog lately! famished.

  2. since I know nothing about poetry besides iambic pentameter, explain what is the difference between the two formats? Are there any rules at all? I “got” everything I think except the last paragraph, then I was totally lost.
    I wonder if this is normal 😉

    • redmitten

      katy- i often read something in the block format and realize- oh wow this is a poem. i mean, if you heard it and didn’t see it- you’d think “poem”. so your observation is spot-on. when i first wrote up this post, it was just the poem version and then i thought about how some in the poetry world would say it was just prose. and vice versa. the last paragraph is not wanting to say out loud that she feels hemmed in, that she is living a life that is serving everyone but herself. her spirit is broken, but she still is in an orderly/ordered life. that said, i see a few wonderful poets have made comments on why they prefer the poem version, and have offered up better line breaks that can further the poem. in this type of poetry, where the line stops can become a loaded moment, so to speak. i’ve come to count on hearing from you, by the way! you keep me centered in ways you most likely don’t even realize. 🙂

  3. above-why-to me the words just drip off the tongue like runny honey

  4. Kathleen Kirk

    I like it as a poem. But I still might fiddle with line breaks. For example, the line:

    rush. She wants that

    briefly suggests that she wants rush, but, as the thought continues past the break, it turns out she wants “that / sense of faith,” which is not “rush” but patience, perhaps. So you have to decide if you want to “trick” the reader like that (by eye, by thought). We say ambivalence is good in poetry, a mix of complicated feelings, suspended…floated, sustained…but is this desire for rush what you really intended? If not, you might want to break the lines differently in that section.

    LIkewise, below:

    Such order, such function. Every fork
    a purpose, every lamb born
    to obey some god.

    If you are suggesting you want order and function, you might want to parallel the “Every fork” hanging line thing.

    Such order, such function. Every fork
    a purpose, every lamb
    born to obey some god.

    The hanging creates a natural suspense, and we know a fork has a specific purpose so when we land there in the next line we believe it. Creating that natural suspense again with “every lamb” would lead to the surprise/inevitability of “born to obey some god” in the same way.

    It depends on what you intend, your OWN purpose, eh?!

    • redmitten

      kathleen- oh this is great. i plan to print this out and refer to it when i revise the poem. and outside of the poem- what is wild about your comments is that you’ve also pinned down some conflicts in said N. ha! how she wants the rush and the patience. and the order, and yet the lack thereof (wanting the rush…). the counting and the not counting. some sort of tug-of-war. and i like the way you wrote about ambivalence and the way poetry is such a good format to further that. all this to say that i am still liking the poem format as i see it will suggest what i’m not wanting to spell out. 🙂 thanks for your help!!

  5. kmerrifi

    Definitely the poetic version, Sherry. It transmit the sense of waiting and quiettude better…allows the reader to pause to absorb meaning…and become the lamb of the poet.

  6. redmitten-hope you find a copy of the book-sure you will love it!

  7. Sherry, I think I will always gravitate to your prose, which is, of course, poetry. In this case, the line breaks do add something, a few words here and there could be omitted (as you always tell me), but it works splendidly as a poem. As a series of stories, I prefer your prose, the ongoing mystery, the astonishing use of pronouns, the sudden recognition of human flaw and human grace, bracketed in story. So I can’t decide. I think it depends on how you wish to have it read, not a cop-out really, but it does throw it back to you. Also, I think that as a stand alone poem, it is more likely (of course who am I to guess?) to find a home in a poetry journal. But a sheaf of these ias prose is a book of its own. All the more astonishing.

    • redmitten

      risa- i so appreciate the time you’ve spent considering this question. and . . . *blush* the compliments (!)

      since i’ve been writing, i’ve come to realize that something organic is pushing me to the keyboard, the pen. i recognize this in your poetry as well. you have something to work out, something to share, to explore. to . . . solve? discover? resolve? so this is where it starts with me- there is something i need to say and as i write, it begins to surface. so much discovery. the question of whether to use poetry or prose as a tool is secondary. i so appreciate that you are connected to what is coming out in these posts and poems (the human flaw, the human grace) (you said it so much better than i can). i am quite drawn to a sheaf of these as prose. there is much i am still sorting out (beyond the poem or prose question) and so as i write, i am listening to what ends up typed upon the page. thank you so much for visiting with me on this. i’m sure it won’t be the last time i’ll ask for your consideration.

  8. It is likely too late for me to learn where a line needs to break (focus, intention and energy in finite amounts) and so I choose prose. I come at your question from a place of, as you mentioned, a need to explore, discover, resolve. As you are fluent in both forms, which expresses more clearly what wants to be said? Regardless of your choice, I am a fan of your writing, always, however formatted. xo

    • redmitten

      marylinn, super to hear from you. so often your comments help me pinpoint what i am trying to unearth. i think- oh, i should just go talk to marylinn! thank you for the kind comments.

  9. Rose Hunter

    This reminds me of a site I go to in my Photo Friday wanderings, it’s called “Black-and-White or Color?” and shows the pic in both versions. That’s all I’ll say…. 🙂
    Oh and that this is a really cool post.

  10. Rose Hunter

    I like the pic too. Is that a horn of some sort? Is the prose the horn and the poetry the shoebox or the other way around? Did you look in the shoebox?

  11. Either way. To me this is prose poem, is it not? Then it’s a matter of aesthetics. In the poetic form you can play with line breaks/enjambment, but I think it neither adds nor detracts from the listening itself. It’s exquisite, and I love her ambivalence. She’s a rebel poet, she is. 😉

    (Too many Italians in Italy–not enough space. Precious!)

    • redmitten

      jayne- ah! the essence is still in both, then. i’m glad to hear that. and cheers to the rebel poet in each of us! you are a fine listener, btw.

  12. Sherry, I prefer the “above” reads easier and no short lines to make my eyes jerk left!

    • redmitten

      shel! and read aloud, it sounds more like the version above, too. good to hear from you. i still have a phone call planned in my head with you. when we both have some hours to stretch out between us. have been thinking of you.

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