Next Line, Please

Appaloosa Sky

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By Angela Ball

August 4, 2015


 

 

Of this week’s several fine offerings, I choose Jordan Sanderson’s as stanza three:

The sky was appaloosa, the town paint.
The electric train plucked by, and the sky
Was bone, and the wind fluted through its flank.
We emerged like half-notes from a horn sighed
Onto the slick stave of the riverbank,
Where even in our rapture we were shy.
A song yanked at our mouths like a bit.
Stampeding, we embraced its roan beat.

These lines arrest with their synesthetic melding of horses, weather, and music both natural and human. “We,” the lovers, are inseparable from the song that enraptures and transforms. Paradoxically, it provokes a stampede—but instead of breaking, the song’s rhythm only increases its hold. Unlike our first two stanzas, which occur in the present, this one looks back; it could constitute either an interlude in our canto, or a signpost forward.

For second place, I choose Fae Dremock’s stanza, with its surprising wordplay and its engine of panic that urges freedom but only retraces a loop:

Still we chug through monochrome—grey ash grown dark,
past ember and last arc of char, bird flight
once furl of silk, now canvas sheet and stark.
And we, astride cold fire, beat slow tonight.
But wake to hiss and cracks of trees that mark
again hot drought. “Run!” The flame burns right through
us. Run! Trail’s ablaze! No maps—run wild!
By morning, a circle, worn flat. And guile.

Tied for third place are L. E. Goldstein’s and Patricia Smith’s entries. Goldstein’s stanza delights in disjunction:

Leave your skin’s shadow on baked stones
by the river. The pink dolphin
will sue her ex-boyfriends; they’ve grown
avocado-pit hearts, leering grins
that once bit her ear slits. I’ve known
these white moths for years. Ask the shy
child; strong roots can snap from one lie.

The oracular confidence of its voice, moving from surreal command, to prediction, to statement of fact, to adage, casts a disturbing spell.

Here is Smith’s contribution, with its unexpected coupling of muse and stoplight:

To travel without baggage is a dream
recurring often times on sleepless nights
when dreams seem reality disguised. Perhaps
darkness frees the room of lurking fright.
You hear, “Venture out, capture, redeem
that tangible dream, baggage free, outright.”
In the shadow stands the Muse awaiting
a greening of the stoplight. Wondering….

These engaging lines affirm the value of venturing out, but at the same hold ‘that tangible dream’ suspect. They end daringly, with the tentativeness of “Wondering….”


William Butler Yeats’s “A Coat,” written when the poet felt an imperative to strip and modernize his style, throws off the mantle of tradition—an important, particular tradition that he helped to revive—and makes vulnerability a radical virtue.

A Coat

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

This credo, or something like it, is affirmed in our “canto” so far, though it doesn’t shy from complication, and each stanza is longer than Yeats’s entire poem:

Caravan of Dreams

The trip begins without a sign that’s hung.
The mark may lie within your palm a line
a psychic knew before your time was sung.
She saw the span of dissonance: you pine
to scale a chart, depart where others clung;
refuse the map, forget reviews unkind.
My year of birth your cry of “Something Else!!!!”
A gypsy soul keeps nothing on the shelf.

Refuse the map. Forego the sturdy shoes.
Shrug off the ragged water of the past.
Your antipodal star riffs like the blues.
Step double-time across the bones and vast
landscapes of asphalt and stubble. He woos
you still, and waits, declares he’ll be the last.
His words flutter like ashes in the wind.
For once, run away, free, undisciplined.

The sky was appaloosa, the town paint.
The electric train plucked by, and the sky
Was bone, and the wind fluted through its flank.
We emerged like half-notes from a horn sighed
Onto the slick stave of the riverbank,
Where even in our rapture we were shy.
A song yanked at our mouths like a bit.
Stampeding, we embraced its roan beat.

We’re midway in our enterprise. Much has been determined; anything can happen. I look forward to the directions scouted for stanza four. We’ll keep to our eight lines of flexible iambic pentameter, rhymed abababcc. Submit your stanza no later than Saturday, August 8, at midnight, Eastern Time.


Angela Ball is a professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is the author of five poetry collections, including, most recently, Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds.

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