gyzym: (Flowery neck)
[personal profile] gyzym
RIGHT SO. This is a poem I have been working on for like, literally months and months (I posted an early draft of it back in April? May? I don't know, I'd check but that would involve actual effort and I AM OPPOSED). Basically it's... a poem about Cleveland and a Grateful Dead song? Or, more accurately, it's a poem I started drafting after someone I knew was ragging on Cleveland and the song "Shakedown Street" came on in my car, and that suddenly felt very relevant and oh, man. Suffice to say: there are currently SIXTEEN versions of this on my hard drive, but I'm actually relatively happy with this one. So I'm throwing it up here for you guys to look at, and maybe that'll mean that I stop pulling it out every few weeks and staring at it like a nutcase, y/y?

Probably not, but a girl can hope.

cleveland from the corner of 79th and shakedown street

this is the true story of this city:

we live in the shadow of a river we quietly set on fire when we thought no one was looking, the child of the midwest at the matches again

and if you added every pothole to all the basements without houses to every useless fucking grave i think you could dig to china, the shovel rough against your hands, splintering against your tender palms in those last places where the weather hasn't hardened you

and the train that takes me to work trawls through a part of town that i don't walk, an abandoned string of factories with tires littering the treescape, and at the end there is the scarred raw skeleton of a swingset waiting for burial, chains swinging loose in the wind

and when i tell people where i'm from, they apologize to me.

but in the soft spaces in between what we say and what we mean there is this history, buried under three months' snow and a legacy of losing streaks, stained brown and orange with the things we think we deserve. somewhere 'round here there is the first book i ever lost and the first smile i ever won and my first and greatest kisses, and there's no one who isn't digging for that, for the diet of lost causes they were raised on in the sidewalk beneath their feet.

(ya know, there are these shattered things that weave their way into our lives so quietly that we almost forget about them until we see, until the man on the street spits near our coffee, until we glance to the left on our train ride to work and want to cry for the stupid empty fucked up broke down swingset bones on 79th

so don't tell me this town ain't got no heart)

Date: 2011-02-21 04:35 am (UTC)
elrhiarhodan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elrhiarhodan
I don't have the tools to dissect this - and I don't want to.

It makes me cry - much as I do from Amachai's poetry, and this is particularly evocative of
The Resurrection of the Dead".

It is both terribly grim and terrifically triumphant.

Brava, darling.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Thank you, bb. I--this piece is one of those that I really want to get right, you know? Like, it's just been itching at the back of my mind for ages and ages, and this draft is the closest I've come to getting it down, I think. So I'm THRILLED to know it worked for you!

Edited Date: 2011-02-21 04:38 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-02-21 04:41 am (UTC)
elrhiarhodan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elrhiarhodan
I can't imagine it not working for anyone with a heart and a mind and the smallest bit of a soul.

It's wonderful.

Like you.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Like YOU, you mean ♥

Date: 2011-02-21 04:52 am (UTC)
elrhiarhodan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elrhiarhodan
This could descend into a sickly sweet and highly embarrassing exchange if we're not careful.

No, you.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like telling people I come from a city bisected by a river that used to catch fire. When I was a kid, the mayor set his own hair on fire.

I like this poem almost as much as your stories about your family trying to get you to marry someone Jewish while eating pickles at Jack's. Maybe there's some of the same stuff in both the poem and the dialogue.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You know, one of the lines I cut from this poem is "and I won't be done with cleveland until cleveland's done with me," because I looked it over and realized it was redundant, because that is the whole point. And I think that's true for everyone who's ever lived here, you know? Just that pervading sense of home, no matter where you end up settling down. ♥

Date: 2011-02-21 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
the scarred raw skeleton of a swingset waiting for burial, chains swinging loose in the wind

for the diet of lost causes they were raised on in the sidewalk beneath their feet.

the first book i ever lost and the first smile i ever won and my first and greatest kisses

And I had to stop myself from quoting a bunch of other lines back at you too. Honestly , wow, just wow. I've never been to Cleveland, but reading this, I get this amazing vivid image and sense and feel from it all. It feels real. This is incredible.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And of course, reading that penultimate line it makes it sound like I think Cleveland isn't real, or some such thing. Which, I just meant that it makes me feel like I could close my eyes and open them and I'd be on the train staring out at the swingset and the man on the sidewalk.

(Er. I get weirdly loquacious over poetry I like. Sorry.)

Date: 2011-02-21 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No worries, bb, I totally got what you meant, and I'm so glad you enjoyed this. This whole poem is really just about much I love this place despite its flaws and how much I want to get out sometimes, because I think that's just home, you know? So I'm actually really glad it felt real, because realism with stuff like this is always my base goal :D

Date: 2011-02-21 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Realism is definitely achieved hear then. And what you said about loving it despite its flaws, I really got that, that the poem was sad and about something harsh and yet in and over and around it all it was... someplace you didn't want not to have known. The sense of home really came through. And this is from someone for whom "home" is hills in the distance and pine trees and way too much freaking mud, so... sort of a hard connection to make? (I'm not quite sure where I was going with that, but it had a compliment at the end of it.)

Date: 2011-02-21 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
a legacy of losing streaks <3

This makes me love this city something fierce, and I have never even been there.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
OH HOORAY. I was afraid, looking over it before post, that my like, ridiculous rough love for this city wouldn't shine through properly, so it thrills me to know that it made you feel it too ♥

Date: 2011-02-21 04:48 am (UTC)
ext_88181: (bridge)
From: [identity profile]
First of all, my lit teacher once told me aout this poem she'd been working on for 17 years, so don't feel weird or whatever about continually returning to this, okay?

As for the actual poem, your imagery is devestatingly gorgeous and haunting. it really feels like you can walk around in here, visit every place you talk about. It feels like it can really connect and drag you in.

but "A poem is never finished, only abandoned". Which, yeah. It's only done when you pretty much feel like you can't stand to look at it anymore, in my opinion.

Date: 2011-02-21 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really feel like that--"A poem is never finished, only abandoned"--is true about all writing, you know? And I kind of forget that sometimes with fanfic, because it's all about (at least for me) having fun and playing around and trying new things and bringing characters deeper, and once it's up you don't really revisit so much. But with something like this...there are poems I've been working on for years, and poems that I "finished" years ago that I still want to find and rework, even though they've been lost in like, computer changes and hard drive shuffles and whatnot.


Date: 2011-02-21 05:05 am (UTC)
ext_88181: (bridge)
From: [identity profile]
yeah, I definitely have a word document full of what I tenatively regard as my kind of voluem of poetry, and I am always fucking with words, format, punctuation of the individual poems, and even their order. I've never been quite that concerned with my fic, because that one is more for fun.

Date: 2011-02-21 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You not only captured what i think about when i think about Cleveland (which, i was there once for an Ani concert like 10 years--oh god, 12 years ago, so this is more the image of Cleveland i have from the media--LeBron and burning rivers and Drew Carey) and also the feel of "Shakedown Street"--that sort of quiet, almost tentative hopefulness that says You just gotta poke around. Lovely.

Date: 2011-02-21 09:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is quite incredible. It makes me want to print it out, grab a pen and dissect it to within an inch of its life, because I find beauty in every word, every thought. I think if words could be emotions, yours are. This is gorgeous. I love those kinds of poems the best.

Date: 2011-02-21 09:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I loved it. Your way with words is just amazing.

Date: 2011-02-21 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It can be hard to know when a poem is finished, but from my end this looks fantastic. There are so many great lines in this, every line really, all of them, they have such punch. And the skeletal swingset in particular is a brilliant piece of imagery, very evocative.

...Cleveland. I can't say I have much experience with the place myself, I know I've been there but I was too young, I can't actually remember it. But my father and his family grew up in Brecksville, so Cleveland is my father's city even more so than Honolulu is mine, and one way or another, in ways I can and can't see, it's a part of who I am.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

*listens to Shakedown Street to see what you're on about*

Date: 2011-02-21 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I visited Cleveland not long after the last time the Crooked River burned. I was working in Indiana, and it was a handy place to meet up with friends from upstate NY. We stayed on the lake (in a Howard Johnson?) and consumed culture all that winter weekend - the art museum, the Morse collection of Dalis (which took us forever to find), Mendelssohn's Elijah at Severence Hall. I'd gone expecting a rather dire place – something more like the one you write about – but came away with an impression of a lovely and gracious city. Somehow, they both exist, don't they?

Date: 2011-02-21 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, wait. Several hours later, after reading your Gatsby post, it suddenly dawned on me - I never finished this comment.

So: while I found your poem deeply moving (and, though I'm a weak judge of poetry, unsurprisingly well written), at the same time for me it held a kind of emotional incongruity that probably has nothing to do with the poem and everything to do with my memory of mid-'70s Cleveland.

Date: 2011-02-21 05:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

It's kind of like a love poem.

Date: 2011-02-22 07:32 am (UTC)
ext_248: Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard looking bored in a strip club (Default)
From: [identity profile]
That is a good poem.

Would you feel okay about me copying it into one of my notebooks? You'd be in there with Richard Siken, Denver Butson, T.S. Eliot and Matthew Arnold. :)

Date: 2011-02-22 07:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i really like this. it pretty much captures my feelings about this area too - (i'm from akron).

Date: 2011-02-25 03:22 am (UTC)
ext_3167: Happiness is a dragon in formaldehyde  (The play's the thing)
From: [identity profile]
we live in the shadow of a river we quietly set on fire when we thought no one was looking, the child of the midwest at the matches again

What a gorgeous line.


gyzym: (Default)

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