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August 15, 2006

Straight talking,
that was what
was needed, so
you said. And

you smiled a thin
and final line,
and you turned,
as they say,

on your heel,
on a sixpence,
and you strode,
straight-limbed, along

the coastal path,
direct, unswerving,
to the jetty, walked
its slick rectangle

to where the ferry
rode at anchor.
Just in time:
the straining lines

released, the anchor
hauled, the ferry
drove a silver
track, straight as

a rail, towards
a flat horizon. And,
as I watched
unmoving, you

slipped at last
around the slow
unyielding curve
of the world.

by Dick Jones of Patteran Pages

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  1. August 15, 2006 at 8:35 am


  2. August 15, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Every time I read this poem, I find it beautiful, and absolutely devastating. Your sure control over the tone, and the choice of language, makes the inexorability even stronger. Thank you, Dick.

  3. August 15, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    Wow! I really like this. It has a sense of irreversible motion. And sadness.

  4. August 15, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    I liked this so well that I unconsciously plagiarized the title for one of my own poems last week! (I told Dick; he was very understanding about it.) Despite its apparent simplicity, as Beth says, it does bear repeated re-readings.

  5. August 15, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Yes, this is wonderful. I like how the repetition of straight lines climaxes in a curve visually and emotionally.

  6. August 15, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    God, you’re good, Dick. This has to be one of the shiniest among so many stars.

  7. August 15, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    The reed that won’t bend will break.

    I join the applause, Dick. I like the strong insistence on straightness (so many permutations of it, but none feels forced) until the world takes over and brings in the bend.

  8. Bill
    August 16, 2006 at 10:06 am

    But I am afraid I must ask for the “facts”: are ferries really said to “ride at”, and “to haul anchor”? The twice mentioned and metaphorically weighted anchor troubles me when I think it has no real place in the narrative.

    Shiver me timbers and smack me with a mackerel if I’m mistaken!

  9. Bill
    August 16, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Dear Dick,

    Hope you don’t mind the flying shards as I grapple for your poem on the high shelf.

    I do love the anchor thing. Your poem has kept me happily occupied. Throughout the morning the anchor has come and gone; become stuck and unstuck, leaving me wondering if the ship or the smile were ever really there. But of the anchor I am certain.

  10. MB
    August 16, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    Beautifully crafted.

  11. August 16, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    i like how the poem draws you inexorably down the page until it too disappears with the object of desire around the unyielding curve of the world.

  12. August 16, 2006 at 11:29 pm

    What Beth said. I enjoy this very much.

  13. August 17, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for the stone, zhoen. I shall polish it regularly!

    And thank you, Beth, for such fulsome praise.

    In fact, many thanks to all who have commented – mb, Dave (that title must be in the common domain!), Marjea-Leena, Natalie, Teju (good to see a new blog from you), MB, Mikey & Peter. I’m very gratified by the appreciative reactions to the poem, but also a little surprised. It languished for a long time in its notebook, unaltered since it was written during a poetry workshop writing exercise in which one had to produce a piece in 15 minutes (a process that eventually had me quitting the group!) As someone who sometimes has poems gestating for years, maybe I should trust the ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ process more!

    Bill, I’ve emailed you concerning your reservations about anchors ridden & hauled. And I’ve made some adjustments, which I’m confident should satisfy the demands of the most demanding of Patrick O’Brian fans!

  14. August 18, 2006 at 3:43 am

    i like the spareness of these lines

  15. August 19, 2006 at 2:15 am

    I considered briefly the Pythonesque option offered by Bill of shivering his timbers & then smacking him with a mackerel were he incorrect concerning the use of an anchor. But he’s actually right: no ferry would lie alongside a jetty & also ride at anchor, nor, therefore, would it haul said anchor either. Ferries are moored fore & aft by cables. In drawing attention to this, Bill bypassed the effete, unworldly poet in me & located the pedantic ubernerd beneath. I propose, therefore, the following alterations: ‘…to where the ferry
    tugged its moorings. / Just in time: / the straining lines / released, the cables / stowed, the ferry /
    drove a silver / track…’

  16. August 19, 2006 at 2:18 am

    Sorry, Kasturi. Effete, unworldly poet here: thank you for your comment. Keeping the piece as spare as possible, both in terms of its selection of language & in its line lengths, was a principal aim.

  17. August 21, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    The revision works for me. You even replace a line image with two others.

    Dr. Maturin wouldn’t have gotten it right, either.

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