View Full Version : Mercy (part II of No Quarter)

12-02-2014, 03:13 AM
Part 2 of No Quarter (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=298881)

If my forgiveness is the currency
to bridge your River Styx,
then I will act as Croessus
and pay your fee.

Take the quarter.
Take them all.
And know,
that I will empty the harbor of truth
I pretended not to see,

when the sybil scrolled your secrets
on a leaf,
and sang the songs
your lyre played as odes
to someone else.

The price for prophecy is steep.
I resigned
my dignity for a sign from
the divine,

and yet.

And yet,
you linger in the shadow
afraid to show the face I've always known
is more honest
than all the pretty words combined.

You are in limbo,
I, in Hell,
for what I already, always knew -
you didn't trust I would follow
when you had to lead the way.

Take the quarter.
Take them all.

And know,
that between the two,
the burden of Divination
weighs much more
than the Absolution
I gave you
long ago.

ETA: this is part 1

No Quarter
I haunt your purgatory shores.
Charon stands sentry
with his oars
and I can't make purchase
no barter
no coin.

(Guilt is heavier than gold
and worth far less)
I digress

and wonder

how I got here.
So close
to your side.
So very far
from my own.

Afraid to move
beyond the shadows
and shades
I flare with the scent
of rosemary
on a wave
of long-dead time.

But no mercy.
No break.
Don't wake.

I skirt the light.

Time is wide
by your river,
not long,
and I can't close my eyes.

I am distant.


And I remain
too stubborn
to accept

Still mulling changes to part 2. There will be a few. Just have been a bit afraid to grab the scalpel.

12-02-2014, 03:33 AM
This needs some tweaks and there are more than a couple strands left untied. I've worked on this since I started writing No Quarter and know the potential hasn't been fully realized. Thought the familiar blue and white of AW might help.

William Haskins
12-07-2014, 05:28 AM
it maintains the tone of the first at its core, and this is both difficult and crucial, so you're off to a great start.

i think the mythological references come so fast and furious early on that they may tip the scale into overkill. some air between them will give them each a chance to more fully establish their place in the broader context of the poem.

i think it can also benefit from some tightening; it's not overly verbose, but it feels a little too elastic in places.

enjoyed it though, especially given its connection to part one.

12-07-2014, 07:58 AM
Stew, I didn't realize this was going to be a poem in progress. I salute you.

I enjoyed it very much. As William notes, you've done a great job maintaining the tone of the first part, and I like the way you've continued the classical themes of the first.

Part II seems to be an answer to Part I from the other side of the River Styx.
"I will empty the harbor of truth/I pretended not to see" "sang the songs your lyre played as odes to someone else" -- I gather infidelity was the sin for which the speaker in Part I could not accept absolution. But the speaker in Part II apparently forgave the infidelity long ago, so it is only guilt and stubbornness about accepting the absolution keeping them apart.

These two probably shouldn't get in a boat together just at present -- the combined weight of guilt and the burden of divination sounds like it would sink them. I'd predict Eurydice ultimately fades back into the underworld, leaving Orpheus ever after alone playing his lute. (But then I'm a pessimist, and I've read too much mythology.)

Will there be more? Will we find out what happens?

12-07-2014, 11:37 PM
Thank you, both.

William, i appreciate your guidance on this. As I told you, part 2 never felt like it came together for me like it should have.
Elastic is a good description for how it feels to me, too. I'll see what I can do to tighten it up and give the mythology some breathing room.

Cass, when i wrote the first one i knew it had a part 2 and developed them together for a bit. I hadn't expected it to go beyond the 2 poems, but after part 2, it seems to be asking for more. I haven't scoped it out yet, as I am not convinced part 2 is what it should be just yet, and didn't want to slap another layer atop it the way it is. Good way to end up with a big, awkward, wobbly structure, rather than the solid foundation it should have.

Maintaining tone is quite a task, too. I'm glad that effort paid off. Given me a lot to work from, William. Your comments were spot on, as usual. Thanks.

Cass, I like the insight about the boat. They don't belong together just yet. Humility comes before redemption.

12-10-2014, 06:36 PM
Been toying with this a bit. I think I'm trying to make part 2 do too much. And some of the mythology is dictating purpose instead of supporting it. It wasn't supposed to function that way. Just supposed to be a structure to work within, and it feels heavy-handed at present.

Cass mentioned the aspect infidelity, which is much more an Orpheus thing - the years between losing Eurydice and his own death - than a cause or major theme of this "couple". The poem isn't about infidelity, but it reads like it is. It isn't necessarily about a couple, but it reads like it is. (and now I'll kick the dirt, pout and say, "ah shit".)

Part 1 is guilt, but I never meant to drop it all on one action. At least it wasn't intended as such. Sure, the infidelity serves a purpose in the poem, but I think it's serving the wrong one. I need to get that in check. (ah, shit, again).

Too many layers there and that is precisely what is too elastic about it, I fear.

So, while the tone is consistent, and the use of Greek myth is consistent, and it is indeed an answering poem to part 1, I sort of feel like this part 2 failed a bit. I'm off the rails.

This needs more work than I had thought. I'm not thrilled at that prospect. The more I work on it, the more contrived it will feel. bleh.

Again, thanks for the feedback. It helped me put a finger on my issues with the set. Now I have to kick its ass.

Maybe I'll write something lighter while I mull it.

As an aside, Junot Diaz, in This Is How You Lose Her, talks about throwing a sheet into a hamper and how the tail ends slip into the hamper pulled by the weight of the center mass. In that regard, I think my center mass here needs to be heavier, so these loose ends land where they should. (I love Mr. Diaz.)

12-10-2014, 08:23 PM
I quite like your mythological allusions and what you've done with them. But, yes, I very much do see the theme of your poem through them, and yes, I very much see a couple and infidelity as the problem that drove them apart.

That might be just my quirky read, mind you. I'm all into mythology, and I have a tendency to turn every allusion upside down and inside out. I'd be interested to know if other readers also saw a couple and infidelity.

FWIW, when I read Part I, I saw a couple that had been driven apart, but not necessarily by infidelity. But Part II very much said infidelity to me -- the two lines I flagged especially.

Also FWIW, I like the tone you've struck in these two pieces. I think the tone is a keeper, even if you ultimately end up shedding a bit of the mythology.

And btw, I feel your pain. I struggled through similar issues while composing the last poem I posted here (the one about my aunt, a domestic abuse victim), and I'm struggling with them with regard to the poem I'm working on now. I think it comes with the territory when you're working with a heavy theme. (Plus, of course, allusions to mythology, history, etc. carry a lot of baggage with them.)

I found I ultimately had to shed some stuff with regard to the poem about my aunt, and it was a painful process. It's not that my lines/allusions/images were bad --actually, I was quite attached to many of them -- but they were getting in the way of my aunt, and I needed her to shine through. I sliced pretty brutally. (Oddly enough, I think the end result comes across as more raw than contrived and overworked -- though god knows I overworked it.)

12-10-2014, 09:18 PM
It is those 2 flagged lines. And without them, the guilt is unnamed.
It isn't just your read. I knew it was there. I just didn't realize the weight they would take on, or that it would cloud the rest.
The couple is intentional, and will stay. I need the two characters, but they are more structural element than subject.

(Shit. Again)