Within Reach
#1
Within Reach

I’ve walked down many paths-
called some of them my own-
now watch as scavenging angels
pick on exposed bone.

I move on as they circle
more, and more alone-
unsteady legs uncertain
on the way back home.

The stone I find most precious
I skip across the creek, then
see a fish there jump, and almost
hear it speak.

As I keep along the trail, it’s so
silent, nearly still, I watch
a red fox come and go,
and wonder how long I will.


Some nights I toss, and turn 
awake, just like an old man does,
yet I’ll reach out until I shake
the Hand that gathers dust.
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#2
(08-30-2023, 05:54 AM)Mark A Becker Wrote:  Within Reach

I’ve walked down many paths-
called some of them my own-
now watch as scavenging angels
pick on exposed bone.                    Stunning opening    

I walk on as they circle
more, and more alone-               
everything uncertain                 I'd look at making this line more concrete, if possible; it's OK as it stands, but doesn't match the power of the other stanzas
on the way back home.

The stones I find most precious
I skip across the creek, then
I see fish jumping, and almost
hear them speak.

As I walk along the trail, it’s so
silent, nearly still, I watch
a red fox come and go,
and guess how long I will.               These first four stanzas are simply tremendous.  I so suggest a word change here:  "wonder" instead of "guess" in this last line.


Some nights I toss, and turn 
awake, just like an old man does,
yet I’ll reach out until I shake
the Hand that gathers dust.               These last two lines don't quite work for me.  I feel like the Hand should be gathering something besides "dust".  You've already used 'bones" which is what I'd like to see there.  So I'll leave that up to you.  Maybe you should "take" the hand rather than "shake" it, and go from there.  I'd suggest "soul" but that's not your style.  Anyway, I feel like those climactic lines need rethinking.

Mark,

Muy maravilloso!

Not much more to say that I didn't say above.  This is possibly one, if not the one, of my favorites that you've ever written.

Tim
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#3
Thanks Tim,
I made minor changes, but don’t show the previous version since it is within your critique.

Took your advice and replaced 'everything' with 'unsteady legs'.

Also changed to a singular 'fish', which is more accurate, and more immediate. Also changed 'stones' to a singular 'stone'. (Trying to keep things on a one-to-one basis, except for those 'scavenging angels'.

Took your advice again and changed 'guess' to 'wonder'- originally had it that way but felt that 'wonder' may trip up the rhythm.

Since the poem turns on those last lines, I’m leaving them as I try to think of how to re-work them. They are a bit 'poemy'. I do hope to live long enough to accept that final ‘greeting’ with grace, shaky as I might be.

Anywho- I always appreciate your critique.
-Mark

ps. I hate to admit that I can barely walk the trail anymore- very slowly with my favorite, homemade walking stick.  Must be funny as hell to see me...
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#4
Hi Mark.
Promising piece.

L3 - 5 .... not convinced by these lines: 'pick on' seems the same as 'scavenging' (so do you need it?)
And, if they are 'picking' how/why are they now 'circling'?

S2 .... be nice to get a reference to your stick in here (with it's nod to the Riddle of the Sphinx.)

L10 .... not keen on ending with 'then' (feels melodramatic.)

S3 ... This seems to relate very closely with S5 (might even work coming after it?)

Do you need S4? It rather weak in contrast to the rest of the poem (probably should be period, not a comma, after still.)

S5 ... really like 'the Hand that gathers Dust' (but the does/dust rhyme is a bit of a let-down.)


Best, Knot

.
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#5
Hi, Mark. There's a lot to like here. In your comments, you seem to wonder if parts are too "poemy." I can't quite understand how a poem reading like a poem can possibly be a bad thing, unless you mean that it sounds cliche, pompous, or overwrought (like if syntax was mixed up to make a rhyme work). Since none of those issues are present here, it's my humble opinion that there's the right amount of poem in this poem.   Thumbsup

(08-30-2023, 05:54 AM)Mark A Becker Wrote:  Within Reach

I’ve walked down many paths-
called some of them my own-
now watch as scavenging angels -- I'm assuming that you mean vultures, unless there's some mystical allusion that I'm missing. Feels almost like some supernatural being is rooting for your demise....
pick on exposed bone.

I move on as they circle
more, and more alone-
unsteady legs uncertain -- Mentioning bones in the body ties in well with the exposed bone above. 
on the way back home.

The stone I find most precious
I skip across the creek, then
see a fish there jump, and almost
hear it speak. -- Makes me curious what it would have said....

As I keep along the trail, it’s so
silent, nearly still, I watch
a red fox come and go,
and wonder how long I will.


Some nights I toss, and turn -- 'Toss and turn' could be phrased differently so it doesn't sound like a stock phrase  
awake, just like an old man does,
yet I’ll reach out until I shake -- 'Reach out' is a little bland
the Hand that gathers dust. -- So, I guess I'm in the minority, but I really like this last line. Feels like I've heard it somewhere before, the hand that gathers dust. Is this a literary allusion that I'm not familiar with? I love the idea of shaking the hand, essentially hoping for a good death and peace at the end. And the dust goes back to the exposed bone at the beginning, I presume -- bodies turning to dust and all of that. Works for me. 

I know you're wary of long poems, but there's ample room to expand the imagery of the scenes in a way that would tie into the ending. 

Hope this helps,

Lizzie
selfless soul-searcher
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#6
Thanks Lizzie-
Watching scavengers circle does give me the creeps.

I imagine a fish would say, “throwing stones won’t catch me.”

‘the Hand that gathers dust’ had been bouncing around in my head for a while, but it’s not a literary reference that I’m aware of.

This one was actually longer when I started it, so I think I won’t be adding.

Thanks again
Mark
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#7
(08-30-2023, 05:54 AM)Mark A Becker Wrote:  Within Reach

I’ve walked down many paths-
called some of them my own-
now watch as scavenging angels     the transition between L1-2 and L3-4 reads like there was more between them that provided more context on how we got from 'paths' to scavenging angels
pick on exposed bone.   'hungry for'?  covet?

I move on as they circle
more, and more alone-
unsteady legs uncertain           shaking, or some personification about being uncooperative, maybe?
on the way back home.           a little implied, syllable place holder?

The stone I find most precious
I skip across the creek, then
see a fish there jump, and almost        this is my favorite stanza for the imagery
hear it speak.

As I keep along the trail, it’s so
silent, nearly still, I watch
a red fox come and go,
and wonder how long I will.


Some nights I toss, and turn 
awake, just like an old man does,     I think you did a good job using punctuation and enjambment to avoid the cliche.  any?
yet I’ll reach out until I shake           'I'll reach out' has to be set up earlier in the poem for these last two lines to really get maximum punch IMO
the Hand that gathers dust.
Hi Mark,

I had to read this many times before picking out these minor suggestions.  that is to say it read well but some minor things stood out after a bit.
Thanks for the read,
steve
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