A Question for John
#1
After helping me cut cedar in El Bosque Aboriginal,
I was done for the day,
but you began working your charcoal pit,
cutting oak, hauling it to the pit, stacking it in, stirring it with a cedar pole,
over and over,
on into darkness, 
and I finally came out of the cabin
and tried to tell you about Ethan Brand,
but you were so mesmerized by your task,
I finally gave up and went back in.

It’s a conical pit
now hidden by the winter grasses,
so if you stand in it, your head is just above their tops.
Next to it, there is a wheelbarrow’s worth of charcoal,
subsided now, after 10 months, 
to a miniature village of black hills.
the pit is empty; you cleaned it out.
Did you know you were leaving?

I have your fire-pole at home with me.
Your hands wore one end smooth as polished bone,
and I can hold it where your hands were.

Part of me wants to return it to the pit,
(you might want the pole back where you left it)
but I can’t let weather and time erase your hands just yet.
Time enough for that when I am gone too, mijo.
"Take what you need and leave the rest"
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#2
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Hi TqB
There's a touching story there trying to get out. A bit less prose and a bit more poetry might help.
I struggle to follow the charcoal making process as you describe it. For instance stirring suggests increasing the amount of oxygen, which doesn't make sense to me ... but what do I know? Smile

Some cut and paste suggestions

(Did you know that you were leaving) ..........just a thought
(when) you began working your charcoal pit
After helping me cut cedar
in El Bosque Aboriginal (?)

cutting, hauling, stacking oak, .................first 'cut' now 'cutting' (any alternatives to either?)
stirring it with a cedar pole,......................not sure what the 'it' refers to here. Or why it is stirred.
over and over,
on into darkness, .......................something more specific than 'darkness' maybe? What is El Bosque Aboriginal like at night?

(when I) came out of the cabin
to tell you about Ethan Brand,
you were so mesmerized
(you never even heard me
and I stopped trying
just watched your hands
working ).............(with the cedar pole it all sounds terribly euphemistic Smile )
(did you know that you were leaving?)

It’s a conical pit
now hidden by the winter grasses,
so if you stand in it, your head is just above their tops.
Next to it, there is a wheelbarrow’s worth of charcoal,
subsided now, after 10 months,
to a miniature village of black hills.
the pit is empty; you cleaned it out.
Did you know you were leaving?...............confused by what's happening in this stanza, and the order in which it happens. (Only the last three lines feel relevant)

I have your fire-pole at home with me.
one end worn smooth as bone,
by your hands. (it still feels warm)

Part of me wants to return it to the pit,
(you might want the pole back where you left it).........any better way of phrasing this?
but I can’t let weather and time erase your hands just yet.
Time enough for that when I am gone too, mijo. .........really nice final couplet, though perhaps it should be 'leave' rather than 'gone'?


Best, Knot


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#3
(02-10-2021, 03:07 AM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  After helping me cut cedar in El Bosque Aboriginal,
I was done for the day,
but you began working your charcoal pit,
cutting oak, hauling it to the pit, stacking it in, stirring it with a cedar pole,
over and over,
on into darkness, 
and I finally came out of the cabin
and tried to tell you about Ethan Brand,
but you were so mesmerized by your task,
I finally gave up and went back in.

It’s a conical pit
now hidden by the winter grasses,
so if you stand in it, your head is just above their tops.
Next to it, there is a wheelbarrow’s worth of charcoal,
subsided now, after 10 months, 
to a miniature village of black hills.
the pit is empty; you cleaned it out.
Did you know you were leaving?

I have your fire-pole at home with me.
Your hands wore one end smooth as polished bone,
and I can hold it where your hands were.

Part of me wants to return it to the pit,
(you might want the pole back where you left it)
but I can’t let weather and time erase your hands just yet.
Time enough for that when I am gone too, mijo.

The poem is steeped in a deep, dignified sadness right up to the beautiful last line.
My only suggestion would be that you can drop the 'there is' after 'Next to it'. Otherwise, I can't think of an improvement.
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#4
The second stanza is a description of the pit as it looks today, mainly, until the question, which I didn't deliberately delay, but I like it showing up unexpectedly.

You've given some things to consider here.  Definitely implementing your change in last line.

Thanks for the read.

Thanks, Busker, for the kind words and I like your suggestion.
"Take what you need and leave the rest"
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#5
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Hi TqB,
I got that it was a description of the pit just couldn't figure out why it was there. Now all that remains is a hole, literal and metaphorical? What does it have to do with the pole? (And when did John clean out the pit? Not to mention, if he did clean it out, why did he leave a 'wheelbarrow's worth of charcoal'?)
Incidentally, 'miniature village of black hills' was a bit of a head scratcher - when did village become a collective noun for hills? And the plural suggests more than one pit.
Still really confused by whatever process is being employed to make charcoal. And the size of the pit implies that, whatever it was, it would take days to complete. Did it?

You put a lot of emphasis on the pit, when, really, it seems to be the pole that's important.
What would be lost if you cut everything but the last couple of lines of stanza two?
What does N do with the pole, use it a a walking stick, lean on it looking out at the sunset, what?

I like how lightly you use 'Ethan Brand'.


Best, Knot



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#6
Perhaps I need to add more description because the hole itself is a wonder, that is, the labor that went into creating this perfectly conical pit almost 4 feet deep in rocky soil.

He was making biochar for gardening purposes, although it just seemed like charcoal to me.  But there was an intricate process of stacking the wood, lighting it a certain way, dousing it at the right moment that I don't really want to belabor the reader with.  I guess I thought that the fact I was standing in an empty hole, that I was paying so much attention to an abandoned pile of coal would clue the reader that something is not right here.
"Take what you need and leave the rest"
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#7
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Hi TqB,
 I wrote a poem that necessitated doing a bit of research into charcoal making a while ago, which may explain why I kept on getting snagged on your descriptions. Smile It seems to me there's something fundamentally different about 'charcoal burning' versus 'biochar' in terms of method and purpose that gets confused in your piece, though in neither, as far as I can tell, would anyone be 'stirring it with a cedar pole'.

Regarding, 'standing in an empty hole' - it might have helped if you'd been more direct and simply said I instead of you, as in
It’s a conical pit now hidden by the winter grasses,
and when I stand in it my head is just above their tops.
There's a 'barrow's worth of charcoal ...

The title of the poem is 'A Question for John', so when you use 'you' it makes me think you're addressing him, which clearly isn't the case in S2 (until you get to the question at the end of the verse where you are!). It's a confusion that could easily be avoided.

If this is one of the two important images (the other being the pole) why not start with S2?
How does this look to you?


It’s a conical pit
now hidden by the winter grasses,
so if you stand in it, your head is just above their tops.
Next to it, there is a wheelbarrow’s worth of charcoal,
subsided now, after 10 months,
to a miniature village of black hills.
the pit is empty; you cleaned it out.
Did you know you were leaving?

After helping me cut cedar in El Bosque Aboriginal,
I was done for the day,
but you began working,
cutting oak, hauling it to the pit, stacking it in,
and setting fire
tending it
over and over,
on into darkness,
and I finally came out of the cabin
and tried to tell you about Ethan Brand,
but you were so mesmerized by your task,
I finally gave up and went back in.

I have your fire-pole at home with me.
Your hands wore one end smooth as polished bone,
and I can hold it where your hands were.

Part of me wants to return it to the pit,
(you might want the pole back where you left it)
but I can’t let weather and time erase your hands just yet.
Time enough for that when I am gone too, mijo.



Best, Knot



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#8
Hi Knot,

this is a worthy rewrite that i can't find anything wrong with except i didn't write it  Hysterical

i think whether it's officially part of the process or not, no one can resist poking a fire with a stick; it's the cave man in us.
"Take what you need and leave the rest"
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#9
(02-11-2021, 09:09 AM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  i didn't write it
Well, it weren't me, guv Smile


(02-11-2021, 09:09 AM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  no one can resist poking a fire with a stick

You'd have to in this case, it defeats the entire purpose of the pit which is to reduce oxygen. Just call it a rake or shovel and avoid the unnecessary complications. Actually, why not just call it a cane, and don't explain it further? (And switch those errant 'yous' to Is' !)


Best, Knot

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#10
After helping me cut cedar in El Bosque Aboriginal,                                    cedar is hard wood, not easy to accomplish
I was done for the day,                                                                             this line could be more lyrical, less basic
but you began working your charcoal pit,
cutting oak, hauling it to the pit, stacking it in, stirring it with a cedar pole,
over and over,                                                                                          i like the cadence of this
on into darkness,  
and I finally came out of the cabin
and tried to tell you about Ethan Brand,                                                        this reference seems too private, too cloistered
but you were so mesmerized by your task,
I finally gave up and went back in.

It’s a conical pit
now hidden by the winter grasses,                                             
so if you stand in it, your head is just above their tops.
Next to it, there is a wheelbarrow’s worth of charcoal,
subsided now, after 10 months, 
to a miniature village of black hills.
the pit is empty; you cleaned it out.
Did you know you were leaving?                                               this is a profound pre-sentiment, linking the preceding passages, clairvoyantly

I have your fire-pole at home with me.
Your hands wore one end smooth as polished bone,
and I can hold it where your hands were.                                the connection to the spirit of John through objects, made sacred by his work, captivating

Part of me wants to return it to the pit,
(you might want the pole back where you left it)
but I can’t let weather and time erase your hands just yet.
Time enough for that when I am gone too, mijo.


"Take what you need and leave the rest"


This is an important work, I'm really impressed with the spirit of this work
plutocratic polyphonous pandering 
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#11
Thanks for reading and especially your positive final comment.  I'll work on those two lines.  But isn't Ethan Brand well known enough (at least among people who read)?  Or did you mean something else?
"Take what you need and leave the rest"
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