Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #17

Smoldering
by Peter Dudley


As slow as winter, fear seeped into our speech.

Its icy tendrils crept among our minds and
Insinuated themselves around our hearts.
Its fragments latched onto words and tumbled
Through our cabled veins on the blood
Of twenty-four seven news.

Politicians and pundits coiled and bit,
Rattling their tails and sabers.
Their forked tongues spit venomous words:
FascHISSt. SocialHISSt.

TerrorHISSt.

We wrapped ourselves in unfurled flags
Against fear’s relentless freeze.
In the false heat of patriotism,
We danced around crackling pages
Consumed
Focused on the flames
Ignoring
Ashes that rose and collapsed
To smother us under
a silent, colorless blanket.

Buried deep, our collective soul
Smoldered and survived
Until the blue, white, and red embers
Of our better selves rekindled
Melted away our fear
To shine and sparkle once more.

39 comments:

Aniket said...

I think this will be the first time I'll see a poetry piece going to top 5. The use of phonetics to bring out the horror on such a strong issue, is pure genius. Take a bow, Pete.

With you participating, it should be called just Top 4. ;)

Beth Harar said...

I'm in awe of your writing. Aniket hit it on the mark - your use of phonetics creates a rhythm and mood that touches the soul.

fairyhedgehog said...

Cool! You made the forties club. And well deserved too.

Precie said...

I think I find this creepier than any of the other entries I've read so far. Even though the ending suggests hope, the fire and destruction that come before it sound terrifying. Ditto Aniket about the alliterative quality and the rhythm

Sarah Laurenson said...

The poet lariat strikes again. Awesome job, Pete. I love the hissing! Very chilling and yet you give us hope. Adding this to my short list - of course.

Jade L Blackwater said...

Very nice - your poem is audible and effective, and I really like what you did with the photo prompt to clinch the finish.

Catherine Vibert said...

I think you hooked me on this one with the snakey hisses. I already gave you my effusive response on Facebook but wanted to add that. Very effective, as Aniket says.

Peter Dudley said...

All y'all are way too kind. Those of you who know my email address, feel free to send your REAL critiques to me. Those who don't, feel free to ask.

Aniket, you are pace to be the first comment on the majority of entries again. You're a machine. The kindest, most friendly machine ever.

Beth, thank you so much! I will take "in awe" any day.

Hedgie (which is what my boys call their tiny hedgehog stuffed animal), thank you! I appreciate you reading it even though you're not entering.

Precie, creepy is OK with me. Terrifying is better. :-)

Sarah: I like to rope 'em in with my words! Ha ha ha, I'd forgotten the Poet Lariat thing. Thanks!

Jade, thank you so much. I appreciate the word "audible" to describe it. Ironically, I just realized that in writing it I sounded it out in my head but never actually read it aloud.

Cat, yours made it too! Congratulations! I will go and read it today. And thanks also for your comment on Facebook.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

That was absolutely amazing! Gorgeous poem. :)

Katherine Tomlinson said...

Ssssplendid. Powerful poetry--stunning content.

Peter Dudley said...

Oddyoddyo13, thank you! I am fascinated by your name. Very cool.

Katherine, Many thankssss!

jelismorgan said...

I really loved this poem. It's the third one I've read on this contest and it is so far my favorite for its originality.

I'm also so glad you ended it on a hopeful, patriotic note mainly because I believe so deeply in America and it's people. I'm a second generation immigrant. It took my family ten years to get our citizenship. None of us ever take that, or America and it's freedoms, for granted.

Thank you for this. Made me think hard and appreciate.

Michael Morse said...

Wow. Great Stuff. Thanks for reminding me how powerful words can be.

Aerin said...

It would have been a lot better if you'd just come out and said that a certain former president was Slytherin.

(Crazy week for me, Pete, but I will return your FB message soon)

Chris Eldin said...

Bravo, Pete. Captures much of my sentiment as well, especially the ending.

sea minor said...

The opening line is powerful. From there you have lovely runs of sounds, the i's, the p's , the 'ss' etc. All of those things help the reader and mean it would be fantastic read aloud. It has good structure, then, but is also moving forward. Very good. My only reservation is the theme of renewed patriotism - I hope that, if it is indeed born of the 'better selves', it will be of a new breed altogether - more caring and accepting of differnce, less aggressive as you suggest, lest frightened and less inclined to lash out in fear. Fingers crossed and well done.

Robin B. said...

Beautifully done, Pete!

Peter Dudley said...

jelismorgan, thank you! The immigrant perspective is a powerful one, and I thank you for sharing yours.

MIchael, thanks! Words are powerful indeed. That whole "mightier than the sword" thing.

Aerin, thanks for your message. Contrary to what people who know me might think, this was not all about Bush and Obama. That plays into it, of course, but my statement isn't really about that.

Chris, nice to see you! Haven't heard from you in a long while. Drop us a line some time, eh?

sea minor, thank you so much for the comments, both the specifics on the poem itself and the thoughts on the new patriotism. "Yes we can" is on everyone's minds, but I'm thinking more of the role of media and demagoguery in our society today. Hopefully our better selves will in fact prevail.

Robin, great to see you again, too! Thanks for your kind words, few though they be. :-)

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Peter!

Excellently done, tough subject to tackle, and you do it with such grace.


Dottie :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is powerful! I LOVE the "cabled veins on the blood of..." Really great imagery here interspersed with emotion. :)

McKoala said...

By far my favourite poem entry!

Deb Smythe said...

Wow. Now that's a poem.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

Powerful poetry!

Whirlochre said...

Rays of hope are best found bursting from verse and this is tub-thumping stuff.

JaneyV said...

Peter I'm so glad you went with this entry. It proves the power of poetry. From the insidious chill of whispered warmongers who used fear to forward their agenda, to the hope that the decency of the people and the ideals they stand for can overcome that chill, you had me saying "yes! yes! yes!" in a way that raised my husband's eyebrow a tiny bit!

Wonderful stuff Peter. Yes indeed!

Joni said...

Powerful!
The hissing really resonating.

Great poetry.

Peter Dudley said...

Dottie, thank you! Grace is always something to strive for, so I'm thrilled with the comment.

Michelle, thank you! Powerful is a great compliment, and special thanks for calling out a specific part that worked well for you.

McKoala, thanks for saying mine is the best of three. Hmm. Backhanded compliment? Harumph. (OK, ok, since the other two are terrific, I'll take it as a glowing endorsement!)

Deb, thanks! Now that's a comment. :-)

um... twiddle Sameera: Thank you! Powerful is what I was going for.

Whirlochre (does anyone use your full name, or do we all just call you Whirl these days?): I deeply appreciate the kind words. I hold a special awe for your style and creativity.

Calamity J: Awwww, shucks! Of course, I often have that effect on women.

Joni: Thank you so much, especially for calling out a bit that resonated.

All, I deeply appreciate the comments. And if there's anyone out there reading and not commenting: I appreciate you reading.

bekbek said...

Wow. I'm quite bowled over for this.

I'm with sea minor about the end, just a moment of... discomfort, I guess, because I see the whole red-white-blue thing so horribly co-opted by what my husband calls "faddish patriotism." But then, my heart thumps proudly when I see my maple leaf, so I can understand the love, and I do like that it came around to hope after all.

Really, really great and going into my top-contenders list.

Stephen Hill said...

I found myself carried along by your poetry, ensnared by the grim but wonderful prose, until the spark of hope that concluded it. Vivid, great. Kudos.

Laurel said...

There is some seriously great stuff to love here. But THIS:

Politicians and pundits coiled and bit,
Rattling their tails and sabers.
Their forked tongues spit venomous words:
FascHISSt. SocialHISSt.

TerrorHISSt.


bowled me over.

Holy hell, Pete. My favorite so far. Also, can I just say thanks for the spirit of optimism? I'm over hearing about how everything is going to hell in a handbasket.

AidanF said...

Nice opening image of winter seeping (nice assonance in this line). I liked the HISS which nails the poem for me. I liked this.

Vincent Kale said...

I don't have the space here to list everything I loved about this poem, but I'll try!

The sound of it is positively lyrical. "As slow as winter," "cabled veins," and "false heat of patriotism" are some of my favorites.

The progression of the piece builds like a fire, from icy despair, to warm, false hope, to a true rekindling. Fantastic!

Everything for me conjures imagery of forging steel, from dousing in icy water to remove impurities and stoking in the flames to strengthen and give shape. Extract metaphors from that as you will.

And you manage to strike a deeply patriotic chord of what it means to be American without resorting to getting religious or political. That in itself is an achievement.
Well done!

The Author: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.Sonberg Larson said...

This is brilliant.
Gripping fear, serpentine politicians (loved the hissing),reflection and finally hope. A powerful and impressive read.

February Grace said...

What more can be said?

It is terrifying and absolutely magnificent. Words like yours are the reason that making the 'forties' means so much to me.

A true honor, to be indexed along words such as these.

bru

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

My first impression of this was of the tail wagging the dog in a frenzy of CNN news reports, and the panic that ensues.

The hopeful note at the end was so satisfying!

Beautiful, rhythmic prose, my dear Pete. I'm not usually into poetry, but yours strikes a chord.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Sounds so very very patriotic. My only regret: That I'll never be able to hear John Wayne reading it.

Kimberly B. said...

Amazing poetry. I love the onomatopoeia and the likening of fear to winter's cold. It seems to add a hint of hope even before the closing lines of the poem. Very well done.

Peter Dudley said...

bekbek, I totally agree with the "faddish patriotism" idea. At times, a country's flag may be co-opted by one group or the other as a symbol of their particular views. Such jingoism is offensive to me. But there is nothing inherently jingoistic in true patriotism... in a free country.

Stephen Hill, thanks for the kudos!

Laurel: Yay! It didn't swallow! And any day I get you to say "Holy Hell" is a good day. Paris next year. Bama the year after. OK?

AidanF, thank you for calling out a particular item you liked. I appreciate it. And, since I'm actually an engineer by education, I think I'm allowed to admit that I had to look up assonance. Thanks for the kind words!

Vincent Kale: You overdo it with the praise, kind sir. I mean, really. I am overcome.

C. Sonberg Larson, I will take "brilliant" any time you like to say it. "Powerful" and "impressive' are good, too. Thank you!

February Grace: I just dropped by your blog because I love your online name so much. Left a comment. Congrats on your HM! Thank you so much for the kind words!

Sandra, dog wagged by tail is definitely an appropriate interpretation. But in our world, the tail has grown pretty darned big. Glad I could strike a chord with someone not into poetry! :-)

JRT: Ha! John Wayne reading this? One wonders if he would. Yeah, I'd love to hear that.

Kimberly B, "amazing" is a compliment I'll treasure. Thank you for your very kind words!