What surprised me
is that you were
surprised at all.
I thought you knew
what men thought. And
then when it (you'll
pardon the pun)
arose in our
discussion and
you said, "It can't
be that way with
all men." It was
my turn to be
suprised and say,
"I thought you knew."
You shook your head
and said, "I don't,
I won't believe it."
What was left for
me to do but
shrug and reply,
"As you wish. . . but
it is better
for you to know
the way things are."
And smiling you
said, "Not if that's
not the way they
are." And you laughed
in certainty.
But watching you
then, demure smile,
shoulders faintly
moving, I'd say,
nay testify
to its iron clad
certainty. If
not all men then
at least me, at
least now. And now
it is my turn
to be surprised.
This time by me.

© 2005, Steven Riddle

The poem probably could do with a little background. As with fiction, it isn't really about the poet, but it was spawned from an experience in a Bible Study class that I hope to relate in more detail in another post. The lines are a strict four-syllable count to attempt to capture the breathlessness with which certain sudden knowledge sometimes leaves us. The nature of that knowledge should be clear enough in the context of the poem, but if not, then perhaps that is for the better--leaving it to the reader to construct the pretext.

Anyway, poems like this are fun to write and can be very effective in limited doses. I think of Jacques Prévert.

Déjeuner du matin

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler
Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s'est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis
Son manteau de pluie
Parce qu'il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder
Et moi j'ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j'ai pleuré.

My poor translation:


He put the coffee
in the cup
He put milk
in the cup of coffee
He put sugar
in the cafe au lait
With a small spoon
he stirred
He drank the cafe au lait
and he replaced the cup
without speaking to me
He lit
a cigarette
He made rings
with the smoke
He put the ashes
into the ashtray
Without speaking to me
Without looking at me
He got up
He put
his hat on his head
He put on
his raincoat
because it was raining
And he left
Under the rain
Without a word
Without looking at me
And me I put
my head in my hands
and I cried.

There's an effectiveness in these short lines, than longer more descriptive lines would undermine. But it's a trick one shouldn't pull too often.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 24, 2005 2:23 PM.

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