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Session 3

by NinaLara 

Posted: 11 April 2006
Word Count: 205
Summary: Not sure about this - feedback welcome!

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Her right fist sits on her ribs.
The left rolls with her tongue.
Eyes wipe the ceiling.

ďFor three weeks
he screwed me to
unsay marriage vows
unbuild a city house
unbirth his loved child
to spring him from the life.

But I sank into his side
gulped the line of his breath
swathed his livid skin
soaked in him.

He left before I watch the mouth tell
the worry I cause is like a cancer
six weeks before he died of it.
How ridiculous, I think, this nothing girl
unpicking the stitches.Ē

Dark brows tug her face,
drained by love.

When did I land the directors job?

All I had to do was rewind
the whole life back
to black and white
where tumours donít talk
and boys can be boys
without bombs or insex
dropping in for tea.

I just had to cut
the marriage gaffe
the cell growth faux pas
and paste an agreeable future
where babies are born in love
little girls wear bows
and itís all above control.

Run that film with
genies by the swimming pool:

swooping kilims, chatting lutes
amrita in jewelled flutes.

The End fades up and

a sunset rainbow
stretches the happy ever
we gallop after.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 12:56 on 12 April 2006  Report this post
Work in progress! I printed 'Session 3' out, and when I came back you'd revised it already! The first three lines are even better in short sentences instead of run on, but I think I prefer 'wipe' to 'stroke' which seems too gentle. These lines are full of agitation - barely controlled, with one fist trapped and the other 'rolling with her tongue'. For me, 'wiped' has a slightly unhinged quality that suits these lines.

He left me to watch the mouth move that told me
the worry I caused was like cancer...

He leaves before Father's mouth tells
the worry I cause is like cancer

You've put 'Father' in here thinking it wasn't clear who was being referred to - but when I read the first version I had no doubt who it was. We have to remember 'He left/ just before Father died' in 'Session 1', but the poems are a sequence anyway, and referring back to a detail from one poem will clarify something in another poem. So I prefer the first version because it conveys better the sort of dislocation of hearing this particular thing that Father said. When we're being told something and we think, 'I can't believe I'm hearing this', there's this curious way we have of focusing on the person's mouth opening and closing. It's part of the sense of unreality we have. You second version obscures that, I think.

'to spill him from life' - shouldn't it still be 'the life' or 'his life' i.e. his life up to now? 'Spill him from life' suggests 'end it all'. And - just a thought - you're searching for the right word here, burst or spill, but how about 'spring'? This is in the sense of springing a prisoner out of prison.

The contrast between the opening lines and the ending is very striking. To begin with she is animated, agitated; the ending is full of weariness and sadness. It's fascinating to watch this series develop.


NinaLara at 13:42 on 12 April 2006  Report this post
I'm glad you saw the first version, James! I liked wipe ... but wondered about the clarity of the image. And on reflection, I think the life is more of my meaning .... this is a very good example of my tendancy to overprune and worry things to death! I'll restore the original line about the Father. I thought of spring - thought it went with screw quite well but felt it was a bit too positive. I'll stick with spill for now but will keep thinking. Thank you!


Changed my mind - spring is better ... contrasts with sank.

NinaLara at 10:41 on 14 April 2006  Report this post
Hi everyone - I've just added another section to session 3. Hope you are all having a good Easter/spring break.

James Graham at 13:23 on 15 April 2006  Report this post
Each new poem in this series brings a new idea! If only we could rewind our lives and make a 'director's cut'. You've made very effective use of this idea, e.g. in the second stanza where the 'editing' consists of cutting out 'gaffes' and the most painful and regrettable things in life become 'out-takes'.

Another way you've developed the idea is in the way you turn everyday expressions and cliches around. The edited life is a cliche in itself - a life in which 'boys can be boys' and 'little girls wear bows'. In the lines from 'Run that film...' is it a Bollywood cliche? Kilims? Amrita? I don't get the whole picture here, though the general idea comes across perfectly well.

But you've done more than just convey a general idea that the edited life is a cliche; you've made the language of the poem correspond to the idea. 'It's all above control' is a very neat retouching of a common phrase, and it makes us think in terms of a life or a world in which everything is so utopian that control (and all it implies - decisions, facing up to problems, thinking things through) is no longer necessary; and this in turn implies passive human beings who have no experience of struggle, and no initiative. Lotos-eaters.

Your most effective cliche-retouching (or taking a cliche by the scruff of the neck, more like) is in the closing lines. 'Sunset rainbow' is a neat, and just slightly surreal, combination of two feelgood symbols. But best of all is 'the happy ever/ we gallop after'. 'Happy ever after' gets a grammatical knocking about here: normally 'ever' and 'after' in this phrase are adverbs, but you've turned 'ever' into a noun, so that an 'ever' becomes something we try in vain to reach. Then putting 'we gallop' between 'ever' and 'after' disrupts the cliche very strikingly. This kind of disruption of worn out phrases is one of the techniques that can bring a poem to life, and it certainly does that here.

All this reworking of common language sort of feeds back into the general idea of the poem - that 'all I had to do' was (the impossible) turn life back and remake it as a story that could be told in 'dropping in for tea' and 'happy ever after' language.

Is this poem a turning point in the sequence? The reason I ask is that it seems to be in a different key. Or to mix musical metaphors, it's more upbeat. More positive. The poem seems to recognise that the 'edited life' is not only impossible but colourless and not even desirable. It seems to edge towards rejecting that dream and towards acceptance of difficult, real life. Is that how you see it yourself?


NinaLara at 21:29 on 15 April 2006  Report this post
Dear James,

This poem is a turning point ... it seems to release a lot of energy after all that control and supression. The sequence has been a bit of a puzzle to me - working out why the two events of the lover leaving and the father's death are interlinked ... and this poem seems to provide the answer. Both 'perfect' men were demanding the impossible.
This poem also seems like a turning point for me ... it is a lot more free and and I wrote it more quickly than anything before (apart from the 'Bollywood' part, which I don't think is there yet). Interestingly, the last lines came out as a haiku without me being conscious of it!

James Graham at 17:10 on 17 April 2006  Report this post
The 'Bollywood' lines do contain a couple of things that aren't common knowledge, but I think you should go with them as they are. The alternative film-related idea would have to be a 'Hollywood' idyll (Disney, even) which no doubt everyone would recognise - but what you have is more original. Another point about these lines is the rhyme. It's good judgement to use rhyme here - rhyme in a free verse poem often has an ironic 'closure' effect, as if you're saying ironically at this point, 'Well, that's all right then'. These are the strengths of these lines, and I don't think you need to revise them.

Amrita and kilims - two quick searches on the internet were all that was needed. Traces of kilims were found in the 7000BC village site at Catal Huyuk in Turkey; they're flat-woven rugs - doubling as flying carpets? Amrita is the Eastern nectar, the drink of the gods - in fluted glasses? This is another reason not to change these lines - though there may be two slightly obscure words in them, it doesn't take much effort to find out what they mean.

The solution to the puzzle - her insight about the two 'perfect' men, each making impossible demands - seems just the right direction for the poem sequence to go. However I don't think this poem crystallises that insight yet. What it does convey is that the woman who is the voice of the poems is beginning to have a new feeling about things.The insight hasn't quite taken shape yet. (In your mind it certainly has - but not yet in the poems.) I imagine the poems' speaker finding a way to say it very clearly in a later 'Session'.


NinaLara at 21:09 on 17 April 2006  Report this post
Thanks James - yes, this is a bit of a complex thought about the men with impossible demands .... I haven't hit on the right images yet, but I'm working on it!

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