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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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Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:00 pm
Remington38 wrote a review...



Remington38 here, how do you do?

I really loved this poem, I love how elegantly it is written and it just flows. The word choice is exquisite and so is the imagery. I can perfectly picture this moment happening. I love the formatting as well and how nicely it goes with the poem. I have never read your work before this, I don't think, but now I definitely want to read more written by you. You are a very talented poet, never stop writing.




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Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:43 pm
Aley wrote a review...



Hey Fort!

It's been a long time since I've read your poetry, so I was really excited to get into this one when I saw it only had one review. To start with, I was looking for more of a grammatical way to review this poem, but in the end, I only found one thing, which is that "out the puddle" sounds awkward when it's usually "out of the puddle" whenever I hear it. That being said, I'm just going to set that aside and dig into something else.

I think you did a good job of the technical things like sentence structure, creating interest in the poem's shape, and developing a story that you know you're sharing. I get a sense of that story from the poem as this woman moves from shadow to puddle and becomes alive when she is in the water. It makes me wonder if you're talking about a mermaid who can walk, or maybe a selkie. That being said, let's move on to what I didn't like.

The poem's style actually doesn't appeal to me very much. I don't feel very engaged in this poem. I'm not saying you should drop a bunch of "you"s into the poem or that it's really something that has to be fixed in this particular one, but what I see happening is that you're exploring a story more on your own than with me. I don't get a sense of what this woman is, or where she's going, or why she's important from the poem itself, it's just a poem talking about a woman.

Usually, if this was someone who was not my bud, I wouldn't say anything about this. You've done a great job of creating a cool description of this woman, the ways you describe her are full of life and developed, and I know what the woman looks like, but I want more out of my poems from you. ^.-

I want to see the whole story, to feel what's going on, and have it spoken to me rather than just described in my presence. I think one way that you can do that in this type of poem is to have things happening potentially from a first person point of view. If you want to describe something really weird, describe it from a person talking to their friend after it happened, and that friend will end up being the reader. You could also make guesses about what she's potentially going to do.

I think the depth of this poem is a little shallow as well. For me, there isn't much to consider beneath why her appearance changes, and I'm not seeing much evidence of that in the actual story aside from the notes about the pearl at her throat which, since it's from a water creature, makes me think that she is a water creature, and that's the hidden information. If you added a little more to the poem to tease the reader into thinking about things like the subjection of this person which puts the pearl on their voice, and who is causing it, and how being in water fixes it, I think we might be able to get a little deeper with this poem. The idea that she changes in water has to have some reason, right? But it's difficult for me to find as a reader, so just a few words need to change to different connotations in order to read with something of that intent. I think you tried to do it with "pearl button sewn through that thin skin:" but that's more of a description of just the pearl, not why the pearl is there, what it represents, or how water removes it.

One of the really cool things I like about this poem is this description of her at the top where you talk about her almost like she is a ghost. Without her voice, because of the pearl, she really does seem like a ghost and I love that you used all of this time to describe and enrich that idea. It really drew out the differences of the woman when she touched water, but I still am missing why it changed her.

We get this wonderful stanza where you describe her seeing her reflection, but in my experience, clothes don't change color, or become someone's gown, when you get them wet. It's difficult to see that part of the poem. That's right where you start getting into the wonderful descriptions of the changes that overcome her too as she sees how she looks and revolts against it, but if this was a real revolt against who she looked like, then really, it should have followed her out of the puddle. And was it even a revolt? " and golden song / pools in her mouth:" This passage here makes me think that it wasn't. That it was just her becoming aware of how she looked and who she was which gave her a sense of self that developed into being more than she had been.

That's confusing the issue of why she changes.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I think your writing of poetry is top notch, you just need to work on getting the reader more involved in your poems for my personal preference of how poems should be. Then again, that is a personal preference and I'm sure some people will enjoy this poem just the way it is.

I hope you write and post more!

Aley




fortis says...


You sound a little confused at what the story was here. Although the water creature was an interesting and valid interpretation, I'm going to share my own to clarify a few choices.

The woman is wearing a mourning shawl right? Everything about the first part of the poem is rigid, structured, negative, concrete. Then she steps into a puddle and looks down at her reflection. water makes your reflection not have all the same colors as usual. it usually makes them darker, yes...
part of the inspiration for the poem came from seeing a picture like this
Image
and thinking how it looked like a woman whose dress was the water.
anyway. she also, when looking into the puddle, sees that her reflection is distorted by the ripples. They change how her face looks, and she looks younger. she hearkens back to a time before her mourning, and the pearl that is sadness and bitterness loosens from her throat, so instead of crying she feels she can sing again.
the structure follows this too. out of the puddle, she is this dour woman. within it, she flows and changes and is free. when she steps out of it again, she is grounded in sadness once more.

also I thought really long about that "from out the puddle" line, and I had out of for a while, but I like the rhythm, cadence, and tone it brings. And O have heard the phrase before: from Edgar Allan Poe. "oh from out the sounding cells"
anyway, your interpretation intrigued me, but I thought I'd clarify some things. thanks for the review!



Aley says...


Thanks for the clarification! It definitely helps.



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Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:25 pm
Kays wrote a review...



This is Nikayla here for a review!

So I enjoyed this poem quite a bit and saw it still lurking in the Green Room, so I thought I may as well tackle it for you. The structure in this piece is something that interested me throughout the poem especially since the first stanza stays similar when it comes to meter but the other stanzas have the usage of white space and I think it's a cool introduction to the poem for it to slowly break out into that sort of thing. I have to give credit where credit is due, and I can't help but gush because the poem is so beautiful, especially the imagery that you use in it. I'm going to go ahead and pick at the parts that I think could use fixing because there's not much for me to say overall that I didn't like about the poem.

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.


I feel the same as niteowl when it comes to these set of lines and I wanted to point out that "metallic soundwaves" isn't the strongest phrasing as well as that perhaps just something other than "mucky" to describe the snow? When snow is kind of melted but kind of there, I usually say slush. It's just something that I noticed and I thought would make for better wording. The last line of this part is a strong one and if you wanted to you could give us more about the piles. Are they at the ends of yards or on the side of the roads? That's what I usually think of when they're piled up.

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


I wasn't that large of a fan of this part, though the golden song imagery in the middle of it is something that I liked. I think I disliked the way that the end was formatted? Though that's something small I suggest playing around with this part in terms of structure since it feels a little off.

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.


Here's another part in the poem where I didn't really favor the structure or the usage of white space, which is odd because I enjoyed the parts after it quite a bit. I'm not a large fan of the whole imagery with eyes being heat at the end of it and the structure with that felt a little disconnected and awkward.

Other than what I mentioned, you really do have a wonderful poem here, forti. I hope I helped and have a great day! <3




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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





You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan