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fluent in//broken hearts//breaking hearts

by Nikayla

i am fluent in broken hearts, in misery,
almost as if it were my mother tongue.
there is a city on my bedside counter,
of bowls and plates, of dirty silverware,
a civilization built over the past week.
is it depressing, how much time i spend
watching infomercials on the tv? dirty clothes
have begun to pile up behind the door.

i search and search in the ball pit for
my childhood, this is where i lost it.
it is writhing away, shrieking like
a child who cannot contain their elation.

there is a ravine between me and
the person withering in the other room.
mother, must your hands deflower? i ask,
coming into the living room where i know
soon i'll have to change the name. time is
slipping through these slender fingers.

i massage her aching bones, at least
i can purge her pain, if only for a moment.
if only you had more time, i choke, 
knees raw from kneeling beside the couch.

i am fluent in breaking hearts, even if
i intend to make amends. too bad
Rosetta Stone doesn't offer that language.

Author's Note: I have a couple of questions for those who decide to review the poem. I'm a little conflicted about the 'broken hearts' and 'breaking hearts' aspect of the poem, do you think it's cliche? Is the poem vague at parts and not so vague at others/how does the poem flow with the imagery? Does it hop around too much? And, finally, at the end of the piece, do you think 'amendments' is fine, or should I change it to 'amends' or another synonym? Thanks so much!

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383 Reviews

Points: 962
Reviews: 383

Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:08 pm
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Pompadour wrote a review...


This makes me ache; I read it twice, and I am now reading it for the third time as I review. I'm probably not going to be helpful at all, but I had to stop by and comment anyway. You have this really neat way of writing: your poetry reads like patchwork, where every square is distinct from the other, but all are sewn into the same fabric. It's a very Nikayla-esque style, and I quite like it.

The poem does hop around slightly, I think, but this is only as far as image-content is concerned [crockery city --> ball pits as an example]. For the most part, though, the images fit pretty neatly into the poem's atmospheric curry: curry leaves and cumin floating on top of the sauce. Thematically, it all ties in, so I wouldn't mull over it too much.

I did stumble over 'beginning to concave, almost like a valley', because A] that was a very stark image; it stands out and breaks the totem of civilisation images you've been stacking up, and B] because it is a terribly overused concept (//totally doesn't use it all the time herself). Also! General tip would be to avoid the word 'almost', especially when it is placed parallel to the word 'like'. As a reader, I do not want a watery comparison in this context (in some contexts, uncertainty works, but I don't think the narrator is very uncertain of the comparison in this case, yes?). 'like' is so much stronger than 'almost like'.

The first stanza is my favourite, personally; but the third stanza is the poet's strongest--and also their weakest. The vagueness is poignant, but it also steals from the shadows. I like how there's space in it for me to read into as much as I like, but I also feel that the narrator has something more solid that they want to say--something that is not nameless and implies more than it has so far elucidated upon. It's a ghost of what the narrator wants to say: a beautiful ghost, a ghost that is apparently solid enough to pick up a scalpel and break me (\o/), but one whose shell I would like to see instead of just translucency. (Especially because as far as narrative poems are concerned, I really don't think I have the right to presume!)

'mother, must your hands deflower?' is gorgeous and gah and whatever edits you make to this piece, keep this intact please. (I especially really like how you used the word 'must'--it adds a paradoxical sense to the powerlessness that the narrator talks about.) 'deflower' /does/ feel a little out of place, but you could probably knit it in better + make it more solid? So keep it please. This plus the Rosetta Stone line because it reads chock-full of bitterness, yet you make it sound casual--and that adds weight to the constant underlying sensation of guilt and choking hesitance.

Stop hurting me.

Keep writing! Keep it up!

~Pomp x

Nikayla says...

Thanks so much for the review, Pomp! I agree on the fact that the line about the brain concaving is out of place, and I think I'll end up replacing it with something else. I'm glad you enjoyed the poem, and I'll try to revise it to the best of my abilities. Thanks again, lovely. <3

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350 Reviews

Points: 25845
Reviews: 350

Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:49 pm
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LadyLizzLovelace wrote a review...

Hello there Nikayla and happy three months early cake day because my entrance requires celebrating something. It's just Lizzy dropping by real quick, so without a further ado, let the reviewing begin.

Alright I think I'll just start with answering the questions and work backwards from there.
Cliche-ness of broken hearts/breaking hearts
-I'm not particularly the best person to answer things pertaining to overuses of themes and making things cliche in poems. (kinda because I have this really pessimistic view of cliche) I mean it doesn't stick out to me as much as the broken hearts phrase usually does. I'm thinking it's because the love is different and not someone pining over a significant other. It may not be the right feeling to get but the phrasing says 'mother' literally once or twice and how the speaker describes the person, also gives and overall feeling of caretaker rather than lover. So I think the real question is "Am I changing up this cliche topic enough?" Because you can use so called cliche themes in any work and make it good, as long as you set it far enough apart and give something attractive for the reader to grab on to.

Vagueness, flow, imagery
-Personally I like poems that don't overload the figurative side of things or are just complicated but it's done tastefully. I guess that's really my feeling on the whole idea of imagery is as long as it's done in a good manner and has an appealing side to it, it can be as complex as the poet likes. There might be a better way to explain this but I haven't found it yet so I'm just going to leave you this image.
The flow does break in certain places but it's not enough to bother me and push me away from the overall feeling of the poem. I think it really sticks the most when you don't break on punctuation, something I do often but only for formatting issues. They particurarly hurt my mind to read aloud is after the question marks in the middle of the sentence. Just thought I should point that bit out about them. Because I like the sound of them but in the way of order they don't look great and break the overall peace.

Hopping Around
Yeah this doesn't really matter as much to me as long as you make it to the final point. And the final stanza does get to a spot that satisfies sewing all the pieces together, avoiding pretty much every string hanging loose. I like to just think of every poem that I write as a sewing project, where if you don't connect every side of the cloth, you're gonna be wearing something just awful. So if you want your poem/dress to look pretty, you better make sure all of the sides connect.
I don't know, that's a weird comparison to make but it looks right in my mind.

Amendments vs amends vs synonyms
-I will say this. Amendments looks really clunky there. Normally I wouldn't complain about something like this but it's just not right there, it's a bit too long to fit in the flow you're trying to make work. If you want to use that length of lines and words, you have to adapt the words along side of it. And I think amends fits a lot better because 'make amends' is more common of a phrase. Things that are common just seem to resonate better with people or stick in their mind for longer.

Well that's all that I've got for now.
I was actually thinking of adding
some more on to the end of
this but I think answering
all the questions satis-
fied the review for
ya. See you in
chat later on
today. Catch
me in a pm
for questions
and feedback
on the things.


Nikayla says...

Thanks for the review, Lizz! I loved the way you formatted it, since it added a lot of character. I've since changed it to 'make amends' in the second-to-last line because of you, so I'm grateful for your opinion on that. Keep up the great work, Lizz!

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Points: 895
Reviews: 8

Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:36 pm
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ILived wrote a review...

The poem was really good and your questions at the end show that you do have some insight about poetry. So I had to comment. Do understand that the poem is excellent as is and the suggestions for improvement I give are exactly that... suggestions.

"i am fluent in broken hearts, in misery,
almost as if it were my mother tongue."

Beautiful two lines there. A small change I would make is cut out the "in misery", because I feel like that should be something the reader should interpret himself. No need of explicitly saying it. But depends on your views, so...
(Throughout your poem, you've missed the capitalization and punctuation which can sometimes really irritate readers, like me ;) Not only does it add meaning to the poem but it also makes it more readable.)

"there is a city on my bedside counter,
of bowls and plates, of dirty silverware,
a civilization built over the past week."

Here you refer to the counter as a city and then later as a civilization. I was going to ask you the change that but thinking back on it, it kind of works. Your misery is clouding your words and you are not truly aware of what you say. Good touch...

"is it depressing, how much time i spend
watching infomercials on the tv? brain
beginning to concave, almost like a valley."

The enjambment in the last line is brilliant as well. the way you went on to the next line when saying concave gives a feel of that bend. But for some reason the almost like a valley part doesn't sound quite right.

"i search and search in the ball pit for
my childhood, this is where i lost it.
it is writhing away, shrieking like
a child who cannot contain their elation."

A grammar mistake in the last line, but I'll overlook it. Again, personally, I think that "this is where I lost it" is unnecessary and should be interpreted by the reader himself/herself. About the simile, I don't quite understand it: If it is writing away, it wants to go away and therefore it shouldn't be compared to something that is excited; those are two different emotions. Moreover, the elation bit takes the poem away from the overall melancholic feel that the poem should have. But if you have an explanation for it, i'd love to hear!

"there is a ravine between me and
the person withering in the other room."
Good lines.

"mother, must your hands deflower? i ask,
coming into the living room where i know
soon i'll have to change the name. time is
slipping through these nimble fingers."

I'm not quite sure what is happening here and its bad because I'm pretty sure its the most important part. Maybe it's just my bad comprehension. I'd love an explanation.
As for the use of "nimble" I see why you used it here, in the context of swift or quick. But I felt that "fumbling" or some other word meaning slow would work better for a more paradoxical nature.

"i massage her aching bones, at least
i can purge her pain, if only for a moment."

I see why you used "purge" here, but I feel that it doesn't quite work. The plosive of the 'p' in purge is too strong a word for the narrator to use who is portrayed previously as tired and sad.

"if only you had more time, i choke,
knees raw from kneeling beside the couch."

Just curious as to why you added this line about the raw knees. I'm not quite sure about the narrator's relationship with the mother, but if it's love, i'd let go of this line because they shouldn't even care about themselves if they are feeling true remorse.

"i am fluent in breaking hearts, even if
i intend to make amendments. too bad
Rosetta Stone doesn't offer that language."

I had to google up Rosetta Stone. But I got it now, great last lines!!!

So much depth to poetry, isnt there? And this is just the start!!!
So keep learning and improving!!!
Overall it was a beautiful poem, don't stop writing!!!

~ ILived

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Points: 230
Reviews: 4

Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:25 pm
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driver wrote a review...

Hi Nikayla, here to review your poem. :) You were able to expertly convey guilt and remorseful nostalgia through the narrative, which definitely made the piece more powerful. It seems kind of like the speaker is lost between one place and another, and tortured by what they know is unchangeable.

To address a few of your questions, I think that the amount of "cliche" retained by your phrasing is almost irrelevant to the reader's perception of the piece. The concepts circulating "broken hearts" and "breaking hearts" are, yes, used and even overused. But it doesn't deduct from the impact of the poem as long as you provide suitable context and express the idea in a way that captures your audience. Personally, I think you were able to do just that.

I don't think you're necessarily being vague at any point, but there are a few things that make the reader question. It's the beginning of the third stanza where you lose me a bit. Your use of "deflower" seems out of place, maybe because I'm unsure of its meaning in context. I'm also led to wonder what "changing the name" entails. The name of what? Why does the narrator have to change it?

I love your imagery, but cutting a few extra words might pack more of a punch. The first time I really noticed an example of where you can condense is at the start of the fourth stanza: maybe substitute "to" for "i can"? And then at the end of the last stanza, you could potentially cut off the first line after "hearts" and continue with "I intend to make amends, but Rosetta Stone doesn't offer that language." (I do happen to think "amends" flows better than "amendments"). Just a suggestion, of course.

It's pretty clear (as per my interpretation) that the mother is experiencing some sort of physical and/or emotional deterioration, which by default ails the narrator. They feel like they're not doing enough. These feelings are really well-emphasized by your diction, and they definitely inspire empathy within the reader. I don't think you hop around too much; in fact, I think your piece is very well-paced.

Overall, I really liked it. I'm excited to see more of your work in the future. :)


Nikayla says...

Thanks so much for the review! You helped quite a bit, and I really do appreciate the depths you went into in your review. This definitely deserves a follow after a wonderful review and your piece that I read yesterday.

driver says...

It's no problem, I'm so glad I could help. And thanks, that means a lot!

Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
— Ann Landers