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when we were there

by Querencia


it comes back to me in flashes

of guilt and fear that I know

were not there at the time

(not like that).

those came later,

superimposed on idyllic scenes

to create a haunting photo

i never remember taking.

it was different when we were there.


it’s not the windswept mountain peak

or unending miles of steep snow,

not the icy water of the

fast-flowing creek tugging at my waist,

or the boulders rolling away

beneath my feet.


it’s not the broken water filter,

hints of anger lingering in the stale air,

or the thorns against my arms

while he says “hurry hurry

hurry”,

nor any others of the

perils we truly

faced.


it’s just the scent of pine,

soft loam beneath my boots,

a settled weight at my shoulders.

a shudder.

i don’t know why.


i tell myself the remorse comes from

a task incomplete,

a journey cut short;

but it doesn’t add up to the

overwhelming tidal wave

of feelings

i can’t hope to

examine. 


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8 Reviews


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Sun Sep 22, 2019 1:10 am
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sasha_bumble_bee wrote a review...



Hey, Querencia!

Okay, may I just start by saying that this poem is REALLY cool---it perfectly illustrates the feeling of things that are ended before they should be, and the following nostalgia that inevitably comes later. It does feel like there's little context for the reader, but I don't believe that that's really a problem, considering how you paint a very succinct picture of what's going on, and the context just seems to float around us, just out of reach.

The thing about "a haunting photo I never remember taking" was breathtaking, in my opinion, and might've been the strongest line in the poem :)

Thank you for sharing this with us!
Yorrick




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Sat Sep 21, 2019 3:02 pm
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alliyah wrote a review...



Hi Querencia, I'm going to be using something called the Four Frames to guide my review today in an effort to give feedback in different areas than I might typically cover. So let's get started!

Structural
So I really dig the atypical formatting you have in a few places, breaking lines up in unexpected places which I think causes the reader to feel a bit more panicked themselves, or maybe be able to better connect with a mood of not knowing what's coming next. I particular ally like parenthetical notes - and the one you do in stanza 1 is nice, but I'd like to see that technique used again, so it's not just the one time. I didn't read it as being "unpolished" but as being atypical to what is expected in a really orderly/formulaic poem - this one felt more stream-of-consciousness which went with the unexpected formatting.

I also think that the ending didn't work as well in that last stanza with the lines chopped up like that because "examine" seems like it isn't conclusive enough to let it be the last word ringing in the reader's ear.

"overwhelming tidal wave
of feelings
i can’t hope
to understand / lose / leave behind. "

It might be more interesting to break up the final three lines this way ^ because then it reads as first as "I can't hope" // and then is corrected to "I can't hope to ____" whatever you put as the last word.

I like the assonance and consonance in this section:
"fast-flowing creek tugging at my waist,
or the boulders rolling away"

and I think it'd be fun if the poem had a bit more of that!

Subjective

My impression I got from this poem is that something horrible happened on a hiking trip, that the speaker is still processing through. The poem to me feels as if the speaker is experiencing almost a trauma in re-collecting their experience. There's also a few mentions of guilt, so I'm trying to discern just what happened to the speaker - did they experience violence in some way, did they endanger their team-mates/camp-mates, did someone die, were they just not able to complete their trip? The poem really feels like it's tip-toeing around whatever the "what" is - which creates an unsettling feeling about the trip for the reader. I think it could be slightly less ambiguous, but I really enjoy that you flash to a few moments of like when the camping trip was going well, because that creates a neat contrast.

Cultural
I think you do a good job of painting a picture in this poem of different imagery pieces of the environment and geography of the speaker's location like the scent of pine etc. and as someone who has went camping and spent some time outdoors I definitely connect with those little details.

I think the different nature elements give the reader an impression of a particular space that the trip took place in, which lends itself to the poem's wild/free tone that is also contrasted with this sort of "oppressive tone" from the natural elements. It's that back and forth that creates a really interesting dimension as the speaker reflects that "in the moment" they weren't as taken back by the elements, but in hindsight there's guilt and remorse.

Post-Modern

I'm wondering when I read this poem if the trip is a metaphor for something else. The trip I suppose could be a metaphor for a relationship - that in the moments when the speaker was in the relationship with the subject (figuratively the nature) they were enjoying their time, but in hindsight they realize the other person was holding them back - like the river pulling at them, the anger in the air etc. The nature hike might have been one concrete adventure they went on, but could also be exemplary of their relationship as a whole. If it's a poem about relationships (whether romantic, or platonic) I think that using this metaphor of a trip makes it way more palatable to read - in part because poems that are critical of people can come across as cliche and over dramatic, but poems that are critical of like natural circumstances feel more concrete and maybe resonate with people's feelings of empathy.

I'm going to throw this feminist interpretation in here for fun because I'm using this post-modern lens, and feel free to throw out if I'm reading too much into it.

If I assume that the speaker is female - the nature setting takes on maybe a bit more importance. The dangerous setting contrasts with the typical culturally-normative environment for her to occupy (with stereotypes of a woman's place is in the home) it subverts the reader's expectations of where she "belongs" - and so the tension becomes not just the factors of the speaker making it through the physical barriers of her environment, but also processing through the emotional barriers too. The poem names physical barriers, but instead of naming physical conflicts/results -> they seem to all manifest in the emotional experience of the speaker. They were held back physically by snow, rivers, and mountains, but experienced those barriers in remorse, guilt, and anger. The poem then could be just analyzing the speaker's experience as an exemplar for women as a whole of what it is to occupy a position where people don't expect you to be - that although ultimately the same physical barriers are present as with men, it's the emotional toll that leaves a lasting impression.

The way the poem is hesitant to go out and name the exact trauma or problem or conflict of the journey also lends itself to a reading of the speaker having experienced post-traumatic-stress-disorder in some ways, and I think that is a really unique and important topic to explore in tactful ways.

Overall

Overall, this is an extremely enjoyable poem to read, and I really enjoyed looking at it in different sorts of interpretations. My main suggestion, would be to see if you can make the formatting even a touch more extreme - and maybe add a bit of specificity to the conflict while keeping it ambiguous I really would not change much!

Keep writing always! And let me know if you had any questions on my review!

alliyah




Querencia says...


Hey alliyah!
Thank you for this wonderful review. <3 I%u2019m sorry I couldn't make it to the workshop (it was a little too early in the morning in my time zone!) but I might peek in there later to see what was up.
I'm totally on board with you about the last lines%u2014it was a stanza that was originally elsewhere, but I decided to move it to the end to bracket the physical experiences, but didn't think much about how to end the piece.
A lot of the other stuff is a little harder, mostly because I'm sorting out my own feelings in this piece! It's ambiguous because I myself don't know. I went on a long backpacking trip this summer, and all of these physical elements were real things I faced, and ultimately that was why we decided to cut the trip short and stay safe. But now I have a lot of guilt/remorse/fear feelings that seem totally unfounded, and I think it does feel like something bigger happened, only it didn't.
But yeah! The narrator is female (me), and it was a little strange for me to be backpacking with my father in the wilderness as a small and young female person. XD I like what you read into it; even though it's not all stuff that I intended to be there, or that I necessarily experienced (like the nature wasn't actually about a relationship), I think it still fit in with the base image and emotion with which I created it and is very insightful.
Thank you again for the lovely review! I hope my real account of how things went down doesn't ruin your image of the poem. XD But I loved to hear your thoughts on this and I'm glad you reviewed it! <33



Querencia says...


(Also sorry for those % errors, thought I caught them all but I guess not!)



alliyah says...


Ah thanks for the response, there's a lot there. Yeah I'm really glad you left so much ambiguity in the piece - it made for a lot of interesting thoughts in interpreting it, and I think the conflicted/sorting-out feelings you mentioned do really come through. I had a fun time reading this one!



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Thu Sep 19, 2019 3:40 am
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Daughter wrote a review...



Hi, there! I'm @Daughter, here to review your work.

This is a beautiful piece. I can tell you've truly put soul into it, which is so important to do when you're writing. Your imagery is fantastic and it warms my heart reading it. I especially loved these little snippets:

windswept mountain peak

hints of anger lingering in the stale air

a settled weight at my shoulders


And even less apparent imagery that was sneaked in made me quite satisfied with what I was reading.
(i.e)
the scent of pine

a task incomplete


There is, quite frankly, very little that I can critique about what you've done here. You write of memories of a better time in your protagonist's life; memories that they'd like to forget because of their ties to reality, but hold onto-just in case. A hiking trip, maybe, where tension was building behind silence. Near the breaking point, but not quite there. You do an excellent job of illustrating said tension, and the fact that you cause our protagonist to feel the remorse that he/she does just further emphasizes that you're very skilled in portraying human emotion in your characters. The two conflicting emotions are combined into one, which is so important as well. No one is the complete picture of one emotion or the other; they're quite often mixed up in such a way. A job well done to you!

I would like to make one suggestion, and that would be to perhaps look over your formatting. I noticed you really didn't have a pattern of any kind, and patterns can really help specific audiences to understand and enjoy the poem. If your intent was to leave your words spread and not very organized (although beautiful), you nailed it on the head there. If not, then it may be time that you consider what sort of questions your readers might have because of the fact that your poem wasn't as polished as it could have been.
However, you've done so well here overall. I quite honestly applaud your work. I hope to see more of your pieces in the future!
Thank you for sharing,
Daughter




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Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:48 pm
JacyBuschman wrote a review...



This is truly great, I really like it and connect with it.

I think it just needs tidying really, nothing too heavy.
To really pop out maybe one liners, to increase the dramatic style and intensity. For example, your first line,

just "Flashes"

Taking out "i" in some places would make it stronger as well.

Great work! These types of writing aren't my strongest suit, but I do enjoy reading them (:





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