A Game of Gogol's Bluff, revision no. 4
#1
A Game of Gogol’s Bluff

At sunset in Broken Soul
the damned exhale dry lightning
out of the electrical discharge
comes Leroy McDoom, 
an alias for gunpowder and grins. 
He takes the town under his direction
because God condemned its existence
to give Satan a place for his spawn.

Flickering lanterns hang 
from a gallows built of crystal and lead
where the town’s feral children 
play jump the noose over a trapdoor to Hell.
Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn
toads wait at the door of Serpentina
the town’s only whore who sheds her skin every spring.
Downstairs, sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, 
upright jokers sip an incipient brew
of bone char, alcohol and lust,
an amalgam of McDoom’s own design.

Morse’s code is banned as a tool of divinity
but the telegraph hums at McDoom’s command,
sending out cryptic temptations
for those without exemption
from the Game that must be played every day
if McDoom is to lengthen his stay. 
Megaloblatta is appointed sheriff,  
his badge of office, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 
He scurries up and down the town’s only street
tickling out of dust the name of the next contestant.

An eternal drifter, christened Frank DeSade,
hears McDoom’s call as he rides nearby.
Out of the desert he comes
wearing a poncho of sackcloth and ashes, 
lured on by the sound of Serpentina’s shrill laughter.
High noon is a myth, it’s really midnight 
when McDoom issues his challenge:  
a game of Gogol’s Bluff played with a deck of Tarot.  
The stakes: DeSade’s soul if he loses,
Or a night of coiled delight if he conquers.

The game lasts ten seconds, or ten days in Biblical time. 
 Swords and Cups flash in their hands, Staves and Pentacles
in their eyes.  Visions come tumbling onto green baize
The Hermit, The Fool, The Hanged Man, The World.
McDoom starts to sweat, Frank tightens his grip
Megaloblatta flees into the night,
Serpentina’s eyes grow bright as Frank throws down
Judgement upon McDoom’s crumbling Tower.

Broken Soul lets out a collective scream
it’s the end of their infernal dreams.  
McDoom is flung back to the Bottomless Pit.
DeSade saddles up, Serpentina’s transfigured and rides at his back.  
What McDoom’s crooked heart could not know:  
Frank DeSade, a  curious saint, gave up his soul
long before the Game ever started.






At sunset in Broken Soul, 

population unknown,

the mouths of the condemned exhale dry lightning.

They dance up a storm 

and conspire to invoke anthems of submission 

for the town boss’ delight.



Leroy McDoom is an amalgam 

of gunpowder and grins

who took the town under his black wings

not long after God erased its existence

from the map made at Satan’s insistence.



Morse’s code has been banned 

as a tool of divinity

but the telegraph hums 

at a scorpion’s command,

sending out cryptic messages of temptation

composed for the ears 

of those God has exempted. 

 

Flickering lanterns hang 

from an unneeded gallows 

the town’s feral children born of crystal and lead  

play jump through the noose 

on a squeaking trapdoor.



A foot-long cockroach plays sheriff,  

his badge of office so small, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 

he does McDoom’s bidding 

scurrying up and down the town’s only street

tickling out of dust 

the gamble of time’s last relenting.



The pews of Last Baptist, a religious way station,

now an opium den where vultures perch on the sleepers 

hungry scavengers who listen to the news 

recited by a blind prospector

who has memorized every issue 

of the Daily Inspector.



Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn

toads wait at the door of the town’s only whore

who sheds her skin every spring.

Sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, 

citizen slaves sip an incipient brew

of bone char, alcohol and lust.



In a schoolhouse built out of buffalo skulls, 

wild turkeys and hogs do sums 

while Clio, the drunken schoolmarm, 

chants Rimbaud for children not absent 

but in limbo.  Clio’s the goal of every game played

and the game is never forsaken.



The daily attraction, christened Frank DeSade

rides in at dawn looking wide-eyed with joy

a wandering boy from the desert, 

carrying flowers for the hogs

and whiskey for Clio, his indifferent darling.



High noon is a myth, it’s really eleven 

when McDoom issues his challenge:  

a game of Gogol’s Bluff  as it’s called

played with a deck of Tarot.  

The stakes are simple: DeSade’s soul 

if he wins, or his sweetheart if he loses.



The game lasts ten seconds, 

or ten days in the Bible.  

No matter how often he plays 

DeSade wins and loses. 

The same cards flash in his eyes.  

McDoom snatches them back 

as the lights in the drifter’s eyes fail.



DeSade is not dead, only soulless 

until the wasteland’s false dawn.

He wakes every morning and mounts up once more

to ride to the only destiny he knows.

Where twilight and blood orbit, Broken Soul waits,  

deadlocked between zero and tomorrow.











Population Minus Zero







In the town of Brokeplate



the pleasures are few



dry lightning exhales



the dead and the lewd.



They dance up a gale



then stand in a gang



and scream at the night.



Flickering lanterns hang



from a gallows so bright



forming rainbows of hate.







Its church is bled static



where the decomposed sing 



and the town’s only whore 



sheds her skin every spring



while toads wait at her door.



Morse code has been banned



but the telegraph hums



at a scorpion’s command.



Feral hogs do sums



in a blackboarded attic.







The town boss is synthetic



made of scraps of lice,



bent aces and gin.



He shoots bullets of ice



at targets without sin.



His voice is like thunder



if only he’d speak,



but instead he just wonders



who is the real freak



and what is “aesthetic”?







The town’s main attraction



is an innocent cowboy



who rides in each ugly dawn



looking happy but coy



an unordained pawn



carrying flowers and a glow.



But the boss is a shark 



at the game of G0-No-Go,



cowboy’s eyes fall dark



without a moment’s distraction.







Brokeplate’s dysfunction



circles a western sun



a planet of recurrence



where reason is spun



out of occurrence. 



Cowboy is buried only



for fun, he’ll be back



tomorrow just as lonely



without hesitation or slack,



to meet at the junction







of sunrise and sunset



and that’s as far as he’ll get.















In the town of Perplexity







lightning creates thirst







play-piercing the complexity







of the patently condemned







who race to be first







to wave invisible limbs







and ward off the eyes







whose pupils are coyotes







lacquered with lies. 







Inside the Bone Char 







a pink neon saloon 







built out of blood-stains







of twilight and sin 







Candyman is relapsing







his face is collapsing







into four aces and a grin.







Outside in the street







his bullet-faced son







Cotton-eyed Joe 







traces hearts in the sand







and counts out the rings







of detonations and gin.







Candy and Joe run things







as they care to displease, 







keeping an elephant in the brothel







ant-hills up their sleeves.







Feral hogs keep the peace







church hymns sound like static







and the town’s only whore 







is one-eyed but not tragic.







Though morse code is banned







the telegraph hums







at a scorpion’s command







and it’s a favorite abode







for hangmen to gather







wearing fezzes and robes







they dance the Hereafter.







If you want to tune in







to this alchemical age







sharpen your lips







and curl up your rage.







Smoke it or snuff it,







it’s all up to you







but the cemetery is off-limits







to all but the few







for a recipe God only knew







special ingredients







for slumgullion stew.




“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#2
Sorry if this isn't detailed enough. I like the rhythm and almost rambling nature and rhymes, fun read. The word 'tragic' was where I felt like you were losing some of the velocity, a few lines feel more forced towards the end. The line with 'abode' and the lines 'its all up to you' and 'to all but the few' if I had to pick some specific ones to rework.
Peanut butter honey banana sandwiches
Reply
#3
.
Hi TqB,
liked the title, then I got to the end (and it didn't work for me. Perhaps because, by then, I wanted to know more about C and C-EJ - couldn't you have come up with better names?).

Lots of elements that kept me interested - it's got all the makings of a strong ballad - but it ended up being a bit too 'rambling' for me, and when, toward the finish, you started addressing the audience I rather lost interest.

Just some cut and paste thoughts
(no attempt made to maintain your rhythm/rhymes).


In the town of Perplexity
lightning creates thirst
church hymns sound like static
and the town’s only whore
is one-eyed but not tragic.
Though morse code is has been banned
there but the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command
Seven Feral hogs were hired
to keep the peace
but the cemetery is off-limits
to all but the few
the Mayor says he and God
are getting the ingredients
for a recipe God only knew
special ingredients
for a slumgullion stew. ............. if this (the stew) is the conceit, it really needs to pay off.


Tonight Inside the Bonne Char
a neon pink saloon ......................... given what follows 'neon pink' seem odd. Maybe 'two story saloon'?
built out of blood-stains
of and twilight and sin
Candyman is relapsing
his sour face is collapsing
into four aces and a grin. .............. really want more of this character (and who's he playing with/against?)


Outside in the street
his bullet-faced son
Cotton-eyed Joe
traces hearts in the sand ............. sand?
and counts out the rings
of detonations and gin. .............. again, more of the character


Candy and Joe run things ........ makes me want a different name for Candyman.
as they care to displease,
keeping an elephant in the brothel
ant-hills up their sleeves.......... neither the elephant or the ant hill feel very western.


and it’s a favorite abode
for hangmen to gather
wearing fezzes and robes ........ 'fezzes and robes' seem out of place. Why them?
they dance the Hereafter.
If you want to tune in
to this alchemical age
sharpen your lips
and curl up your rage.
Smoke it or snuff it,
it’s all up to you


It would be nice if any of those elements I moved to the beginning actually paid off towards the end.



Best, Knot



.
Reply
#4
(07-16-2021, 09:03 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  In the town of Perplexity
lightning creates thirst I love this line.
play-piercing the complexity
of the patently condemned
who race to be first
to wave invisible limbs
and ward off the eyes
whose pupils are coyotes
lacquered with lies. brilliant alliteration and imagery.
Inside the Bone Char 
a pink neon saloon 
built out of blood-stains
of twilight and sin 
Candyman is relapsing
his face is collapsing
into four aces and a grin.
Outside in the street
his bullet-faced son
Cotton-eyed Joe 
traces hearts in the sand
and counts out the rings
of detonations and gin.
Candy and Joe run things
as they care to displease, 
keeping an elephant in the brothel
ant-hills up their sleeves.
Feral hogs keep the peace love the irony here
church hymns sound like static
and the town’s only whore 
is one-eyed but not tragic.
Though morse code is banned
the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command
and it’s a favorite abode
for hangmen to gather
wearing fezzes and robes
they dance the Hereafter.
If you want to tune in
to this alchemical age
sharpen your lips
and curl up your rage.
Smoke it or snuff it,
it’s all up to you
but the cemetery is off-limits
to all but the few
for a recipe God only knew
special ingredients
for slumgullion stew.
Tqb,

Your surreal, nightmarish realm of "The Tranquility Base" is adjacent to here....it reminds me of a local author, Barry Hannah.....who was a writer-in-residence at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, home to William Faulkner. The grotesques, the subjects in your work, are at once intriguing and horrifying. What seems to be underscored is not "what happens" as much as a kaleidoscope into the human condition. More of a critique later. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

(07-16-2021, 09:03 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  In the town of Perplexity
lightning creates thirst
play-piercing the complexity
of the patently condemned
who race to be first
to wave invisible limbs
and ward off the eyes
whose pupils are coyotes
lacquered with lies. 
Inside the Bone Char 
a pink neon saloon 
built out of blood-stains
of twilight and sin 
Candyman is relapsing
his face is collapsing
into four aces and a grin.
Outside in the street
his bullet-faced son
Cotton-eyed Joe 
traces hearts in the sand
and counts out the rings
of detonations and gin.
Candy and Joe run things
as they care to displease, 
keeping an elephant in the brothel
ant-hills up their sleeves.
Feral hogs keep the peace
church hymns sound like static
and the town’s only whore 
is one-eyed but not tragic.
Though morse code is banned
the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command
and it’s a favorite abode
for hangmen to gather
wearing fezzes and robes
they dance the Hereafter.
If you want to tune in
to this alchemical age
sharpen your lips
and curl up your rage.
Smoke it or snuff it,
it’s all up to you
but the cemetery is off-limits
to all but the few
for a recipe God only knew
special ingredients
for slumgullion stew.
I must admit, the title is lost on me, thus needs to be illuminated. While the poem is striking upon first-read, afterwards it feels like the devices employed are driving the poem towards a premature and rather empty conclusion. "They dance the Hereafter" seems thematic to the whole but is again, devoid of meaning perhaps as a result of your characters being rather flat. They need more attention. To be sure, the language and flow are engaging. but I need more.....
Reply
#5
Thanks C., Knot and Brian.  You've given me hope and excellent guidance.  This was very much a first try.

I actually thought "slumgullion stew" was a reference to the notorious Western cannibal, Alfred Packer, but looking it up (while writing the poem), I found it's just a Gold Rush term for a stew made out of leftovers.  Maybe Al will make an appearance anyway.

TqB
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#6
Hello TranquiltyBase, hope all is well.

First, consider breaking up into some stanzas, as another also mentioned its rambling nature. Stanza break-up can give it a breather for the reader.

In the town of Perplexity
lightning creates thirst
play-piercing the complexity (is there a way that you can describe perplexity and complexity without doing all the work for the reader and just saying it? Is this need to tell the reader it is complex and perplex essential if you intend to show it? what is play-piercing?)

of the patently condemned (not connecting the use of patently here)
who race to be first
to wave invisible limbs
and ward off the eyes
whose pupils are coyotes (repetative)
lacquered with lies. (why the use of lacquered as opposed to another word to denote being full of something?)
Inside the Bone Char
a pink neon saloon
built out of blood-stains
of twilight and sin,
Candyman is relapsing (cliche name)
his face is collapsing (two awkward "is"s; also again with what I mentioned earlier, maybe instead of describing literally actions or adjectives -- 'relapsing, collapsing', maybe you want to show them, else it is doing a lot of work for the reader.)
into four aces and a grin.
Outside in the street
his bullet-faced son (i wonder what bullet-faced is)
Cotton-eyed Joe (this is a cliche name)
traces hearts in the sand (i like this imagery)
and counts out the rings
of detonations and gin. (from explosive gin?)
Candy and Joe run things
as they care to displease, ('care to displease' show do not reveal)
keeping an elephant in the brothel (interesting even if i am not getting why there is this metaphor/image)
ant-hills up their sleeves. (again interesting even if i am not connecting the metaphor)
Feral hogs keep the peace (interesting use of paradox imagery, even though i do not know what the intention is)
church hymns sound like (are) static
and the town’s only whore
is one-eyed but not tragic. (again, suggestion not to reveal, but show)
Though morse code is banned
the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command
and it's a favorite abode (where is the favorite abode?)
for hangmen to gather
wearing fezzes and robes
they dance the Hereafter.
If you want to tune in
to this alchemical age
sharpen your lips
and curl up your rage.
Smoke it or snuff it,
it’s all up to you
but the cemetery is off-limits
to all but the few
for a recipe God only knew--
special ingredients
for slumgullion stew.

---

Bottom line is many places where you are simply describing the event to the reader could be rendered into imagery instead (which you do have some imagery). The imagery should be telling as if a child perhaps could get it, yet not be cliche at the same time. I know, perhaps not so simple. That being said, I feel as if I've only gotten an introduction to something, that nothing really lifted off the ground. Is this the intention? Is there more to this series?

I hope this helps,

Adam
Reply
#7
(07-18-2021, 04:17 PM)Adam Koan Wrote:   The imagery should be telling as if a child perhaps could get it, yet not be cliche at the same time. 

Thanks Adam.  All of your critque is helpful, but this line especially jumped at me.  It registers with me as a good measuring tool for any poem.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#8
(07-16-2021, 09:03 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  Population Minus Zero

In the town of Brokeplate
the pleasures are few
dry lightning exhales
the dead and the lewd.
They dance up a gale
then stand in a gang
and scream at the night.
Flickering lanterns hang
from a gallows so bright
forming rainbows of hate.

Its church is bled static
where the decomposed sing 
and the town’s only whore 
sheds her skin every spring
while toads wait at her door.
Morse code has been banned
but the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command.
Feral hogs do sums
in a blackboarded attic.

The town boss is synthetic
made of scraps of lice,
bent aces and gin.
He shoots bullets of ice
at targets without sin.
His voice is like thunder
if only he’d speak,
but instead he just wonders
who is the real freak
and what is “aesthetic”?

The town’s main attraction
is an innocent cowboy
who rides in each ugly dawn
looking happy but coy
an unordained pawn
carrying flowers and a glow.
But the boss is a shark 
at the game of G0-No-Go,
cowboy’s eyes fall dark
without a moment’s distraction.

Brokeplate’s dysfunction
circles a western sun
a planet of recurrence
where reason is spun
out of occurrence. 
Cowboy is buried only
for fun, he’ll be back
tomorrow just as lonely
without hesitation or slack,
to meet at the junction

of sunrise and sunset
and that’s as far as he’ll get.




In the town of Perplexity

lightning creates thirst

play-piercing the complexity

of the patently condemned

who race to be first

to wave invisible limbs

and ward off the eyes

whose pupils are coyotes

lacquered with lies. 

Inside the Bone Char 

a pink neon saloon 

built out of blood-stains

of twilight and sin 

Candyman is relapsing

his face is collapsing

into four aces and a grin.

Outside in the street

his bullet-faced son

Cotton-eyed Joe 

traces hearts in the sand

and counts out the rings

of detonations and gin.

Candy and Joe run things

as they care to displease, 

keeping an elephant in the brothel

ant-hills up their sleeves.

Feral hogs keep the peace

church hymns sound like static

and the town’s only whore 

is one-eyed but not tragic.

Though morse code is banned

the telegraph hums

at a scorpion’s command

and it’s a favorite abode

for hangmen to gather

wearing fezzes and robes

they dance the Hereafter.

If you want to tune in

to this alchemical age

sharpen your lips

and curl up your rage.

Smoke it or snuff it,

it’s all up to you

but the cemetery is off-limits

to all but the few

for a recipe God only knew

special ingredients

for slumgullion stew.

tqb,
I enjoyed the rewrite...I do wish you could have salvaged some of the lines and images of the first draft, however. You haven't foregone the surrealism, but bridled it in a sense.
Now its structure is decastich, I believe, save for the ending couplet. The cowboy has become the central character, the lines before his appearance a sort of portend. I can appreciate the new format, but, for me, a bit too much has been shed(for clarity, and effective). I will read again and give you a better critique......sorry this one was shabby.
Reply
#9
.
Hi TqB,
an interesting (and good, I think) revision. A sort of surreal wild west reenactment?

Not keen on the short lines. So ...


In the town of Brokeplate the pleasures are few
dry lightning exhales ........ bit too early for a non-sequitur, for me at least. the dead and the lewd.
They dance up a gale, then stand in a gang .... who's dancing? The 'pleasures', or 'the dead and the lewd'?

and scream at the night. Flickering lanterns hang
from a gallows so bright forming rainbows of hate. ...... why is the gallows bright (and if it's bright, why does it need lanterns?) and what's forming the rainbows?

Its church is bled static where the decomposed sing
and the town’s only whore sheds her skin every spring
while toads wait at her door. .... the previous line suggests she does this in the church. So at which door are the toads waiting?

Morse code has been banned but the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command. Feral hogs do sums
in a blackboarded attic. ...... where's the attic?

The town boss is synthetic made out of scraps of lice,
bent aces and gin. He shoots bullets of ice
at targets without sin. ......... why? for fun? And what are the 'targets'? The town's rather empty.

His voice is like thunder if only he’d speak,
but instead he just wonders who is the real freak
and what is “aesthetic”?

The town’s main attraction is a cowboy inocente
who every ugly dawn, rides in looking happy
an unordained pawn ......... not keen on this, maybe 'and searching for a name'?

carrying flowers and a glow. But the boss is a shark .... 'shark' is a bit modern, isn't it?
at the game of G0-No-Go, cowboy’s eyes fall dark ......... feels like you skipped a step here
without a moment’s distraction.

Brokeplate’s dysfunction circles a western sun
a planet of recurrence where reason is spun
out of occurrence. ............. not keen on dysfunction (bit too on the nose), and this verse might be better earlier in the poem (even at the beginning)

Cowboy is buried only for fun, he’ll be back
tomorrow just as lonely without hesitation or slack, ........ slack?
to meet at the junction .......... to meet who, the boss? In which case,
to meet him once again

at the junction of sunrise and sunset
and ...

of sunrise and sunset ........... like the 'junction of sunrise and sunset'
and that is as far as he’ll get. .... maybe 'this' for 'that'?


I think it lacks a bit of the colour of the original (the names, though ideally better ones Smile ), and the saloon scene in particular. Also, it jumps a bit too often, for me, for instance from the church to the whore (so that neither feels well developed/described). Is the church full or empty, who's the preacher, etc., What's the rush?


Best, Knot


.
Reply
#10
(07-20-2021, 12:55 AM)Knot Wrote:   What's the rush?

Knot,

Good question.  I was worried about the poem being too long.  I wanted to tell a more detailed story.

So, I will try the longer lines and I will put in more of what I wanted to but left out because I foolishly let that worry govern my revision.  And I can hopefully address your concerns at the same time.

Thanks for your keen critique.

TqB

(07-19-2021, 11:56 PM)Brian Roberts Wrote:  I enjoyed the rewrite...I do wish you could have salvaged some of the lines and images of the first draft, however. You haven't foregone the surrealism, but bridled it in a sense.
Now its structure is decastich, I believe, save for the ending couplet. The cowboy has become the central character, the lines before his appearance a sort of portend. I can appreciate the new format, but, for me, a bit too much has been shed(for clarity, and effective). I will read again and give you a better critique......sorry this one was shabby.

Thanks Brian.  Your comment about the surrealism is especially helpful as that was one of my goals.  And you are right, too much was lost.  And will be reinstated  Smile
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#11
.
Hi TqB.
One or two thoughts Smile

Population Minus Zero, revision no. 3
(Not keen on having population in the title and then the second line, if it would work I'd suggest 'Gogol's Bluff' as the title)


1 (my numbers, for convenience)
At sunset in Broken Soul (population unknown)
the mouths of the condemned exhale
dry lightning.
(what's the effect of this? Within the context of the poem?)
They dance up a storm
and conspire to invoke anthems of submission
for the town boss’ delight.
(Whatever you're trying to do here, 'they dance up a storm' really doesn't help. I think you need to build the town a bit more before introducing McDoom, would the 'flickering lanterns' verse work here? Or the 'Morse code'?)

2
Big Boss Leroy McDoom is an amalgam
(so wanted him to be an 'anagram' Smile )
of gunpowder and grin
who took the town under his black wings
(bit too much cliché with 'black' perhaps?)
not long after God and the railroad
erased its existence from the map made at Satan’s insistence.
('from the map' seems a bit superfluous given the preceding)

3
Morse’s code has been banned
as a tool of divinity
but the telegraph hums
at a scorpion’s command,
sending out cryptic messages of temptations
composed for the ears
of those God has exempted.
(why is this verse here?)

4
Flickering lanterns hang
from an unneeded gallows
(if the gallows are 'unneeded' how are the 'condemned' meant to die?)
the town’s feral children born of crystal and lead
('crystal and lead' took me to stained glass')
play jump through the noose
on a squeaking trapdoor.
(I think the last three lines of this make the first two redundant - love, 'jump the noose', though I'm not sure 'squeaking' gives sufficient jeopardy)

5
A foot-long cockroach plays sheriff,
(why 'plays'?)
his badge of office so small, a dwarf’s pocket watch,
he does McDoom’s bidding
scurrying up and down the town’s only street
tickling out of dust
('tickling'? initially read this as 'ticking' following on from pocket watch)
the gamble of time’s last relenting.
(from 'last relenting' to 'Last Baptist'?

6
The pews of Last Baptist, a religious way station,
now an opium den where vultures perch
on the sleepers, hungry scavengers
(are the 'sleepers' the congregation or 'railway sleepers'?)
who listen to the news
(this verse makes me wonder why they bothered to ban 'morse code')

6b
recited by a blind prospector
who has memorized every issue
of the Daily Inspector.
(because ... ?)

7
Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn
toads wait at the swing door of the town’s only whore
who sheds her skin every spring.
(the next three lines don't seem to develop the saloon scene, for me. What's the whore's name, for instance?)
Sitting on ant-hills littered with gold,
citizen slaves sip an incipient brew
of bone char, alcohol and lust.

8
In a schoolhouse built out of buffalo skulls,
wild turkeys and hogs do sums
while Clio, the drunken schoolmarm,
chants Rimbaud for children not absent
('class' for 'children'?)
but in limbo. Clio’s the goal of every game played
and the game is never forsaken.

9
The daily attraction, christened Frank DeSade
(It seems to take an awfully long time to introduce the 'hero')
rides in at dawn looking wide-eyed with joy
a wandering boy from the desert,
carrying flowers for the hogs
and whiskey for Clio, his indifferent darling.

10
High noon is a myth, it’s really eleven
when McDoom issues his challenge:
a game of Gogol’s Bluff as it’s called
played with a double deck of Tarot
and six-shooters
The stakes are simple: DeSade’s soul
('simple'? )
if he wins, or his sweetheart if he loses.
('sweetheart' after 'indifferent darling'?)

11
No matter how often he plays
(shouldn't 'he' be 'they'?
The game lasts ten seconds,
or ten days in the Bible.
DeSade wins and loses.
The same cards flash in his eyes.
McDoom snatches them back
as the lights in the drifter’s eyes fail.
(feels like you rush things here, not really clear on what's going on. Reads a bit like a game of 'snap')

12
DeSade is not dead, only soulless
until the wasteland’s false dawn.
He wakes every morning and mounts up once more
to ride to the only destiny he knows.
Where twilight and blood orbit, Broken Soul waits,
deadlocked between zero and tomorrow.
(not really working as an ending. Feels like too many endings, one after another, and none satisfy)

So, a poem of three parts (or possibly five Smile )
I. The town
II. McDoom
III. DeSade/The Game
which jumps around a bit too much in the first half, for me; and the last four verses seem almost a complete, self-contained poem in themselves (problems with the ending notwithstanding).

I'm not sure what the 'morse code' and 'Last Baptist' verses are adding to the piece.

I think the focus of the 'schoolhouse' verse should be Clio, not the building, something like

In a schoolhouse of buffalo skulls,
Clio chants Rimbaud for the children
not absent but in limbo. All the while
hogs and wild turkeys, sat in rows, do sums
scratching out the odds on their slates.
She's the schoolmarm and the prize
of every game played
(why is she drunk?)


I think it's improved with the revision, TqB, but while a lot of the parts work, they don't add up to a successful 'sum' ... yet.

Can't figure out verse 6 (my numbers) but would suggest exploring this order  -  1,4,3,5,2, 7 - 12


Best, Knot


.
Reply
#12
(07-23-2021, 12:03 AM)Knot Wrote:  One or two thoughts Smile


In the words of Val Kilmer to Robert Downey Jr in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang:  Who taught you how to count?  Big Grin  (Great movie if you like dark comedy.)


I think it's improved with the revision, TqB, but while a lot of the parts work, they don't add up to a successful 'sum' ... yet.


Thanks Knot.  I'll give 'er another try after I stop crying  Smile
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#13
Version 4.  Sorry about the constant title changes.  I should maybe start all my poems as "untitled".
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#14
(07-16-2021, 09:03 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  A Game of Gogol’s Bluff

At sunset in Broken Soul
the damned exhale dry lightning
out of the electrical discharge
comes Leroy McDoom, 
an alias for gunpowder and grins. 
He takes the town under his direction
because God condemned its existence
to give Satan a place for his spawn.

Flickering lanterns hang 
from a gallows built of crystal and lead
where the town’s feral children 
play jump the noose over a trapdoor to Hell.
Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn
toads wait at the door of Serpentina
the town’s only whore who sheds her skin every spring.
Downstairs, sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, 
upright jokers sip an incipient brew
of bone char, alcohol and lust,
an amalgam of McDoom’s own design.

Morse’s code is banned as a tool of divinity
but the telegraph hums at McDoom’s command,
sending out cryptic temptations
for those without exemption
from the Game that must be played every day
if McDoom is to lengthen his stay. 
Megaloblatta is appointed sheriff,  
his badge of office, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 
He scurries up and down the town’s only street
tickling out of dust the name of the next contestant.

An eternal drifter, christened Frank DeSade,
hears McDoom’s call as he rides nearby.
Out of the desert he comes
wearing a poncho of sackcloth and ashes, 
lured on by the sound of Serpentina’s shrill laughter.
High noon is a myth, it’s really midnight 
when McDoom issues his challenge:  
a game of Gogol’s Bluff played with a deck of Tarot.  
The stakes: DeSade’s soul if he loses,
Or a night of coiled delight if he conquers.

The game lasts ten seconds, or ten days in Biblical time. 
 Swords and Cups flash in their hands, Staves and Pentacles
in their eyes.  Visions come tumbling onto green baize
The Hermit, The Fool, The Hanged Man, The World.
McDoom starts to sweat, Frank tightens his grip
Megaloblatta flees into the night,
Serpentina’s eyes grow bright as Frank throws down
Judgement upon McDoom’s crumbling Tower.

Broken Soul lets out a collective scream
it’s the end of their infernal dreams.  
McDoom is flung back to the Bottomless Pit.
DeSade saddles up, Serpentina’s transfigured and rides at his back.  
What McDoom’s crooked heart could not know:  
Frank DeSade, a  curious saint, gave up his soul
long before the Game ever started.






At sunset in Broken Soul, 

population unknown,

the mouths of the condemned exhale dry lightning.

They dance up a storm 

and conspire to invoke anthems of submission 

for the town boss’ delight.



Leroy McDoom is an amalgam 

of gunpowder and grins

who took the town under his black wings

not long after God erased its existence

from the map made at Satan’s insistence.



Morse’s code has been banned 

as a tool of divinity

but the telegraph hums 

at a scorpion’s command,

sending out cryptic messages of temptation

composed for the ears 

of those God has exempted. 

 

Flickering lanterns hang 

from an unneeded gallows 

the town’s feral children born of crystal and lead  

play jump through the noose 

on a squeaking trapdoor.



A foot-long cockroach plays sheriff,  

his badge of office so small, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 

he does McDoom’s bidding 

scurrying up and down the town’s only street

tickling out of dust 

the gamble of time’s last relenting.



The pews of Last Baptist, a religious way station,

now an opium den where vultures perch on the sleepers 

hungry scavengers who listen to the news 

recited by a blind prospector

who has memorized every issue 

of the Daily Inspector.



Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn

toads wait at the door of the town’s only whore

who sheds her skin every spring.

Sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, 

citizen slaves sip an incipient brew

of bone char, alcohol and lust.



In a schoolhouse built out of buffalo skulls, 

wild turkeys and hogs do sums 

while Clio, the drunken schoolmarm, 

chants Rimbaud for children not absent 

but in limbo.  Clio’s the goal of every game played

and the game is never forsaken.



The daily attraction, christened Frank DeSade

rides in at dawn looking wide-eyed with joy

a wandering boy from the desert, 

carrying flowers for the hogs

and whiskey for Clio, his indifferent darling.



High noon is a myth, it’s really eleven 

when McDoom issues his challenge:  

a game of Gogol’s Bluff  as it’s called

played with a deck of Tarot.  

The stakes are simple: DeSade’s soul 

if he wins, or his sweetheart if he loses.



The game lasts ten seconds, 

or ten days in the Bible.  

No matter how often he plays 

DeSade wins and loses. 

The same cards flash in his eyes.  

McDoom snatches them back 

as the lights in the drifter’s eyes fail.



DeSade is not dead, only soulless 

until the wasteland’s false dawn.

He wakes every morning and mounts up once more

to ride to the only destiny he knows.

Where twilight and blood orbit, Broken Soul waits,  

deadlocked between zero and tomorrow.











Population Minus Zero







In the town of Brokeplate



the pleasures are few



dry lightning exhales



the dead and the lewd.



They dance up a gale



then stand in a gang



and scream at the night.



Flickering lanterns hang



from a gallows so bright



forming rainbows of hate.







Its church is bled static



where the decomposed sing 



and the town’s only whore 



sheds her skin every spring



while toads wait at her door.



Morse code has been banned



but the telegraph hums



at a scorpion’s command.



Feral hogs do sums



in a blackboarded attic.







The town boss is synthetic



made of scraps of lice,



bent aces and gin.



He shoots bullets of ice



at targets without sin.



His voice is like thunder



if only he’d speak,



but instead he just wonders



who is the real freak



and what is “aesthetic”?







The town’s main attraction



is an innocent cowboy



who rides in each ugly dawn



looking happy but coy



an unordained pawn



carrying flowers and a glow.



But the boss is a shark 



at the game of G0-No-Go,



cowboy’s eyes fall dark



without a moment’s distraction.







Brokeplate’s dysfunction



circles a western sun



a planet of recurrence



where reason is spun



out of occurrence. 



Cowboy is buried only



for fun, he’ll be back



tomorrow just as lonely



without hesitation or slack,



to meet at the junction







of sunrise and sunset



and that’s as far as he’ll get.















In the town of Perplexity







lightning creates thirst







play-piercing the complexity







of the patently condemned







who race to be first







to wave invisible limbs







and ward off the eyes







whose pupils are coyotes







lacquered with lies. 







Inside the Bone Char 







a pink neon saloon 







built out of blood-stains







of twilight and sin 







Candyman is relapsing







his face is collapsing







into four aces and a grin.







Outside in the street







his bullet-faced son







Cotton-eyed Joe 







traces hearts in the sand







and counts out the rings







of detonations and gin.







Candy and Joe run things







as they care to displease, 







keeping an elephant in the brothel







ant-hills up their sleeves.







Feral hogs keep the peace







church hymns sound like static







and the town’s only whore 







is one-eyed but not tragic.







Though morse code is banned







the telegraph hums







at a scorpion’s command







and it’s a favorite abode







for hangmen to gather







wearing fezzes and robes







they dance the Hereafter.







If you want to tune in







to this alchemical age







sharpen your lips







and curl up your rage.







Smoke it or snuff it,







it’s all up to you







but the cemetery is off-limits







to all but the few







for a recipe God only knew







special ingredients







for slumgullion stew.




You have proficiently wrought a western hellscape, tqb. I shuddered upon reading it, and I am not readily moved. I wanted to give you hard-earned superlatives first before I abstract from the whole and give you a more localized critique. Fine work, sir.
Reply
#15
You have proficiently wrought a western hellscape, tqb. I shuddered upon reading it, and I am not readily moved. I wanted to give you hard-earned superlatives first before I abstract from the whole and give you a more localized critique. Fine work, sir.
[/quote]

Thanks Brian.  I feel like I have a completed narrative (finally), but look forward to your ideas about the way I told the story.  Thanks for reading.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#16
.
Hi TqB,
it still gets off to a sluggish start, perhaps


the damned exhale
dry lightning At sunset
in Broken Soul
and out of the electrical discharge
comes Leroy McDoom,

a byword for gunpowder and grins
who back in 82 took to running
the whole kit and caboodle under his direction
because God, in all his bloody majesty?
condemned it, that Satan
had a place for his spawn. .......... do you need God/Satan here? They play no real part in the rest of the piece.

Lanterns Flickering from a gallows
of rock crystal and lead
where feral children play
jump-the-noose over a trapdoor to Hell.

.......... seems like you rush to get to the saloon.


Like 'Serpentina' but that name rather puts McDoom/DeSade in the shade.
And why isn't 'Megaloblatta' something like Meager Al O'Blatta?
Passels of herps for 'toads', perhaps?
Shame the school disappeared.


Given you've 'game' in the title (unnecessarily, in my opinion Smile ) you take rather a long time to actually get to the game.


Best, Knot


.
Reply
#17
(07-25-2021, 09:53 PM)Knot Wrote:  .
Hi TqB,
it still gets off to a sluggish start, perhaps


the damned exhale
dry lightning At sunset
in Broken Soul
and out of the electrical discharge
comes Leroy McDoom,                              I like this opening

a byword for gunpowder and grins
who back in 82 took to running
the whole kit and caboodle under his direction
because God, in all his bloody majesty?            not really interested in Western dialect
condemned it, that Satan
had a place for his spawn. .......... do you need God/Satan here? They play no real part in the rest of the piece.  Excellent question: I'll ponder that a bit

Lanterns Flickering from a gallows
of rock crystal and lead                  like "rock crystal"
where feral children play
jump-the-noose over a trapdoor to Hell.

.......... seems like you rush to get to the saloon.   As I once said, I'm an old man in a hurry   Smile  time's a'wastin', got to git her done


Like 'Serpentina' but that name rather puts McDoom/DeSade in the shade.   I ain't givin' up McDoom or deSade.  But I'm not married to Serpentina
And why isn't 'Megaloblatta' something like Meager Al O'Blatta?    I like the monster sound of Megaloblatta
Passels of herps for 'toads', perhaps?    Something like that, I agree toads by themselves is not enough
Shame the school disappeared.      What I miss more is the church scene


Given you've 'game' in the title (unnecessarily, in my opinion Smile ) you take rather a long time to actually get to the game.

Gogol's Bluff by itself reminds me too much of a Clint Eastwood film title (Coogan's Bluff), although there are probably dozens of similar titles in the Western genre.....I'll research that....

Perhaps the Game can be brought up in stanza 1 when McDoom is introduced....as the engine of his domination

Thanks Knot.  I'm taking the next stage back to Broken Soul.
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
Reply
#18
(07-26-2021, 06:35 AM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  Perhaps the Game can be brought up in stanza 1 when McDoom is introduced....as the engine of his domination

Good idea, cut the God/Satan part and replace it with the Game (would McDoom be the reigning champion then?)


Giddyap, Knot.


.
Reply
#19
(07-16-2021, 09:03 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote:  A Game of Gogol’s Bluff

At sunset in Broken Soul
the damned exhale dry lightning I love what you did here in editing, great image
out of the electrical discharge 
comes Leroy McDoom, I can see McDoom emerge from the discharge, sustaining himself on the breath of the damned. I like the "damned/McDoom alliteration/consonance
an alias for gunpowder and grins. 
He takes the town under his direction I need a bit more imagery, clever turns-of-phrase which preceded it, here. This line seems too insipid for me.
because God condemned its existence I agree with Knot- these next 2 lines seem a bit superfluous in the whole of the poem.
to give Satan a place for his spawn.

Flickering lanterns hang Great assonance here and image
from a gallows built of crystal and lead crystal and lead are a cool juxtaposition here
where the town’s feral children love "feral children"- I envision wan children dressed in burlap sacks
play jump the noose over a trapdoor to Hell. Perhaps this introduces the concept of a "game"
Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn
toads wait at the door of Serpentina
the town’s only whore who sheds her skin every spring.  dark image, effective
Downstairs, sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, "ant-hills littered with gold" is an eerie effect
upright jokers sip an incipient brew great consonance with "sip" and "incipient"- are jokers standing or just sitting upright? Who or what is sitting on anthills? I presume the bar is...
of bone char, alcohol and lust, I like the unholy "trinity" of the cocktail and the immanent symbolism
an amalgam of McDoom’s own design.

Morse’s code is banned as a tool of divinity
but the telegraph hums at McDoom’s command,
sending out cryptic temptations
for those without exemption
from the Game that must be played every day
if McDoom is to lengthen his stay. 
Megaloblatta is appointed sheriff,  
his badge of office, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 
He scurries up and down the town’s only street
tickling out of dust the name of the next contestant.

An eternal drifter, christened Frank DeSade,
hears McDoom’s call as he rides nearby.
Out of the desert he comes
wearing a poncho of sackcloth and ashes, 
lured on by the sound of Serpentina’s shrill laughter.
High noon is a myth, it’s really midnight 
when McDoom issues his challenge:  
a game of Gogol’s Bluff played with a deck of Tarot.  
The stakes: DeSade’s soul if he loses,
Or a night of coiled delight if he conquers.

The game lasts ten seconds, or ten days in Biblical time. 
 Swords and Cups flash in their hands, Staves and Pentacles
in their eyes.  Visions come tumbling onto green baize
The Hermit, The Fool, The Hanged Man, The World.
McDoom starts to sweat, Frank tightens his grip
Megaloblatta flees into the night,
Serpentina’s eyes grow bright as Frank throws down
Judgement upon McDoom’s crumbling Tower.

Broken Soul lets out a collective scream
it’s the end of their infernal dreams.  
McDoom is flung back to the Bottomless Pit.
DeSade saddles up, Serpentina’s transfigured and rides at his back.  
What McDoom’s crooked heart could not know:  
Frank DeSade, a  curious saint, gave up his soul
long before the Game ever started.






At sunset in Broken Soul, 

population unknown,

the mouths of the condemned exhale dry lightning.

They dance up a storm 

and conspire to invoke anthems of submission 

for the town boss’ delight.



Leroy McDoom is an amalgam 

of gunpowder and grins

who took the town under his black wings

not long after God erased its existence

from the map made at Satan’s insistence.



Morse’s code has been banned 

as a tool of divinity

but the telegraph hums 

at a scorpion’s command,

sending out cryptic messages of temptation

composed for the ears 

of those God has exempted. 

 

Flickering lanterns hang 

from an unneeded gallows 

the town’s feral children born of crystal and lead  

play jump through the noose 

on a squeaking trapdoor.



A foot-long cockroach plays sheriff,  

his badge of office so small, a dwarf’s pocket watch, 

he does McDoom’s bidding 

scurrying up and down the town’s only street

tickling out of dust 

the gamble of time’s last relenting.



The pews of Last Baptist, a religious way station,

now an opium den where vultures perch on the sleepers 

hungry scavengers who listen to the news 

recited by a blind prospector

who has memorized every issue 

of the Daily Inspector.



Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn

toads wait at the door of the town’s only whore

who sheds her skin every spring.

Sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, 

citizen slaves sip an incipient brew

of bone char, alcohol and lust.



In a schoolhouse built out of buffalo skulls, 

wild turkeys and hogs do sums 

while Clio, the drunken schoolmarm, 

chants Rimbaud for children not absent 

but in limbo.  Clio’s the goal of every game played

and the game is never forsaken.



The daily attraction, christened Frank DeSade

rides in at dawn looking wide-eyed with joy

a wandering boy from the desert, 

carrying flowers for the hogs

and whiskey for Clio, his indifferent darling.



High noon is a myth, it’s really eleven 

when McDoom issues his challenge:  

a game of Gogol’s Bluff  as it’s called

played with a deck of Tarot.  

The stakes are simple: DeSade’s soul 

if he wins, or his sweetheart if he loses.



The game lasts ten seconds, 

or ten days in the Bible.  

No matter how often he plays 

DeSade wins and loses. 

The same cards flash in his eyes.  

McDoom snatches them back 

as the lights in the drifter’s eyes fail.



DeSade is not dead, only soulless 

until the wasteland’s false dawn.

He wakes every morning and mounts up once more

to ride to the only destiny he knows.

Where twilight and blood orbit, Broken Soul waits,  

deadlocked between zero and tomorrow.











Population Minus Zero







In the town of Brokeplate



the pleasures are few



dry lightning exhales



the dead and the lewd.



They dance up a gale



then stand in a gang



and scream at the night.



Flickering lanterns hang



from a gallows so bright



forming rainbows of hate.







Its church is bled static



where the decomposed sing 



and the town’s only whore 



sheds her skin every spring



while toads wait at her door.



Morse code has been banned



but the telegraph hums



at a scorpion’s command.



Feral hogs do sums



in a blackboarded attic.







The town boss is synthetic



made of scraps of lice,



bent aces and gin.



He shoots bullets of ice



at targets without sin.



His voice is like thunder



if only he’d speak,



but instead he just wonders



who is the real freak



and what is “aesthetic”?







The town’s main attraction



is an innocent cowboy



who rides in each ugly dawn



looking happy but coy



an unordained pawn



carrying flowers and a glow.



But the boss is a shark 



at the game of G0-No-Go,



cowboy’s eyes fall dark



without a moment’s distraction.







Brokeplate’s dysfunction



circles a western sun



a planet of recurrence



where reason is spun



out of occurrence. 



Cowboy is buried only



for fun, he’ll be back



tomorrow just as lonely



without hesitation or slack,



to meet at the junction







of sunrise and sunset



and that’s as far as he’ll get.















In the town of Perplexity







lightning creates thirst







play-piercing the complexity







of the patently condemned







who race to be first







to wave invisible limbs







and ward off the eyes







whose pupils are coyotes







lacquered with lies. 







Inside the Bone Char 







a pink neon saloon 







built out of blood-stains







of twilight and sin 







Candyman is relapsing







his face is collapsing







into four aces and a grin.







Outside in the street







his bullet-faced son







Cotton-eyed Joe 







traces hearts in the sand







and counts out the rings







of detonations and gin.







Candy and Joe run things







as they care to displease, 







keeping an elephant in the brothel







ant-hills up their sleeves.







Feral hogs keep the peace







church hymns sound like static







and the town’s only whore 







is one-eyed but not tragic.







Though morse code is banned







the telegraph hums







at a scorpion’s command







and it’s a favorite abode







for hangmen to gather







wearing fezzes and robes







they dance the Hereafter.







If you want to tune in







to this alchemical age







sharpen your lips







and curl up your rage.







Smoke it or snuff it,







it’s all up to you







but the cemetery is off-limits







to all but the few







for a recipe God only knew







special ingredients







for slumgullion stew.




tqb,
Here is a little critique of the first 2 stanzas, more to come! You've crafted over time, painstakingly, a clever, disturbing poem- I love it. The imagination it required is a class apart.....I will treat the rest of it shortly and review the whole.

Brian
Reply
#20
(07-29-2021, 10:35 PM)Brian Roberts Wrote:  [quote="TranquillityBase" pid='253767' dateline='1626437014']
A Game of Gogol’s Bluff

At sunset in Broken Soul
the damned exhale dry lightning I love what you did here in editing, great image
out of the electrical discharge 
comes Leroy McDoom, I can see McDoom emerge from the discharge, sustaining himself on the breath of the damned. I like the "damned/McDoom alliteration/consonance
an alias for gunpowder and grins. 
He takes the town under his direction I need a bit more imagery, clever turns-of-phrase which preceded it, here. This line seems too insipid for me.
because God condemned its existence I agree with Knot- these next 2 lines seem a bit superfluous in the whole of the poem.
to give Satan a place for his spawn.

Flickering lanterns hang Great assonance here and image
from a gallows built of crystal and lead crystal and lead are a cool juxtaposition here
where the town’s feral children love "feral children"- I envision wan children dressed in burlap sacks
play jump the noose over a trapdoor to Hell. Perhaps this introduces the concept of a "game"
Inside a saloon called the Pink Goddamn
toads wait at the door of Serpentina
the town’s only whore who sheds her skin every spring.  dark image, effective
Downstairs, sitting on ant-hills littered with gold, "ant-hills littered with gold" is an eerie effect
upright jokers sip an incipient brew great consonance with "sip" and "incipient"- are jokers standing or just sitting upright? Who or what is sitting on anthills? I presume the bar is...
of bone char, alcohol and lust, I like the unholy "trinity" of the cocktail and the immanent symbolism
an amalgam of McDoom’s own design.


tqb,
Here is a little critique of the first 2 stanzas, more to come! You've crafted over time, painstakingly, a clever, disturbing poem- I love it. The imagination it required is a class apart.....I will treat the rest of it shortly and review the whole.

Brian

Thanks for you notes on these stanzas.  I need to clarify "the jokers" bit...supposed to be them sitting on the ant-hills, so obviously they'd be upright.  Haven't been back to the poem yet.

TqB
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
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