Sue: Learning to Count (Apolgies in advance – it's a poem)

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Sue: Learning to Count (Apolgies in advance – it's a poem)

Post by Sue Beasley on Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:36 pm

Learning to Count

Late evening, moonlit, calm;
no breeze to tease the rusting windpump on the hill;
the world in shades of silver-dappled grey
with deep black shadows shaping pools of night.
A house, a garden, country lane,
a tree-clad slope and endless sky.
No more.

Two figures at the garden gate,
small hand in large, a woman and a child,
eyes focused on the vast star-sprinkled sky.
Night sounds surround them: muffled squeaks
with rustling in the undergrowth; soft scuffling in the trees.
A dog fox gives a warning bark, an owl replies:
the hunters seek the hunted.

From out the east, a low-pitched drone,
dark shapes appear above the hill, grow larger, louder,
taking form as they advance to pass near overhead,
black silhouettes of nightmare flying fish,
with huge propellers, taunting windpump sails.
A bombing mission coming home to land,
its night’s work done.

One, two, they come … then three ... then four
the watchers count … five follows shortly … six soon after ...
then together in a rush, seven, eight, and nine,
wheels poised for touchdown, engines cut on landing,
leaving silence, utter silence, stretching close upon its limits,
till broken by a stuttering, stumbling roar as number ten, at last,
limps slowly home.

Tonight the counters at the gate will sleep.

Sue Beasley

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Re: Sue: Learning to Count (Apolgies in advance – it's a poem)

Post by Graham on Tue Apr 10, 2018 5:33 pm

No polgies necessary, Sue. As I think I said in a reply to Susan, I just personally don’t feel as qualified to comment on poetry. I’ve always avoided it unless forced to read it in school or creative writing classes. Maybe it’s time I got to grips with it. I used to be the same with musicals and have come to love them.

When I read this, I found myself doing so with what would be in music a 2/4 rhythm. I don’t mean this in a technical poetry fashion. Each line seemed to have two long beats to it which made it slip through my defences quite easily. I like the subject and how you deal with it in an almost cinematic fashion. There are quite a few evocative images and the sense of time and place in the first verse is vivid.

The only lines that jarred at all were:

     black silhouettes of nightmare flying fish,
     with huge propellers, taunting windpump sails.

Perhaps it was because I was in the mind of the woman and the child and I wanted to see the bombers with relief but the images here didn’t work for me. They seemed more incongruous than illustrative. Everything else reads extremely well.

My former creative writing teacher Katy Gilliam gave us a lot of poetry exercises which I enjoyed. I’ll resurrect some of them for Monday nights.


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Wonderful Poetry

Post by DavidK on Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:04 pm

I love this poem. I take a different view from Graham. The image of the nightmare flying fish works well before the counterpoint of the bombers' safe return. My observations are only in respect of particular words. This is personal and you may wish to ignore all of the following.

1. Windpumps are common in Asia but I haven't heard of them in the UK, I suspect some readers won't know what they are. Perhaps "windmills" would work as well and be generally understood.
2. Black shadows is a tautology. I would drop the "black" or find another adjective. Ditto "Black silhouettes".
3. I think "hunters seek their prey" works better than "hunters seek the hunted"
4. As the adverb police I would take "slowly" out of "limps slowly".

Please consider the above as suggestions, Sue, to accept or reject as you see fit.

Terrific haunting imagery. I'm lost in admiration.



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Re: Sue: Learning to Count (Apolgies in advance – it's a poem)

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