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Portrait of a Shawl

by fortis


Dour Mistress, dressed in black from veil to boot-heel,
pearl button at her neck,
pearl button sewn through that thin skin:
she walks down concrete stairs.
Her ring scrapes the iron railing,
metalic soundwaves rushing down the street,
empty of everything except the mucky snow
that loiters in piles at the end of January.
With every step, a solemn gust takes her skirt,
moving now like a piston: left and right and left again.

See the grayness of her eyes,
the straightness of her lips,
the quietness she wears as a shawl.

When
    the lady
           stands in
                    the water,
                           the ripples
                                    become
                                 her flowing gown.

The pinching in her throat
                                           loosens
 and golden song
            pools in her mouth:
                     she can taste it,
sweet
and brimming.

She sees
                        her reflection
in the water, 
and the disturbances ever-age her.
Now old,
       now young,
now old again.

Her eyes
                  heat,
becoming
                  fire.

The flames follow
   along the pattern of the reflection:
now dying away,
           now kindling up,
                        now blazing in earnest,
now spitting embers at the stars.

             When she steps
        from out the puddle
      of melted December,
  they return
to iron discs.

The button clasps her neck again,
and her liquid-silver gown
becomes a mourning shawl
once more.


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Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:03 am
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niteowl wrote a review...



Hi there fortis! Niteowl here to leave a review.

Now I don't think I've ever reviewed your poetry before, or if I have, it's been a while. I want to give a good review, but it's hard when this poem is so good. I love the imagery, and I've been sitting here reading this over and over again, trying to find something to critique. There isn't much, but here goes.

First comment: I'm trying to picture how the pearl would be sewn into the skin. Is this a thing people do/did?

Her ring scrapes the iron railing,
metallic soundwaves rushing down the street,
empty of everything except the mucky snow
that loiters in piles at the end of January.


This sentences feels a little like a run-on, I think because "empty" refers to the street and not the ring. I really don't have a suggestion for fixing it though. That said, I love the imagery of the snow.

With every step, a solemn gust takes her skirt,
moving now like a piston: left and right and left again.


The movement of a piston doesn't seem to fit the movement of a skirt. Like a piston is mechanical and constant, where a skirt is more flowy and uneven. So this seems weird.

the quietness she wears as a shawl.


I don't know why, but "quietness" just seems awkward here. Like I guess I want a stronger word to describe the shawl, especially since it comes back in at the end.

now dying away,
now kindling up,
now blazing in earnest,
now spitting embers at the stars.


That last line is just beautiful. And I'm often skeptical of funky-shaped poems, but I think the words as ripples works so well in this piece.

The ending is gorgeous.

Overall, this is amazing. Keep writing! :D





That is so fetch.
— Gretchen Wieners