"Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight"

“Red sky tonight” pale lips whisper from the porch swing. Jen wills her limp legs forward and the chains dimly whine. Rust flakes onto her lap like snow but quickly blows away. He stands twenty feet from the house on top of decomposing husks from the Autumn corn harvest. Still stained from the blood their first son coughed up when he was days away from death, the porch boards glide wistfully under her. It seems like his last heavy breaths were lifetimes ago. Her features lay limp, merely leaning on the brittle bone structure underneath and her black hair moves quick under the brute hands of the wind.

“the air changes so fast” Jen sighs, clumsily grabbing at her breast. The wind picks up a little just as it does every night in the valley. She shuts her eyes and tries to wake up her sense of feeling. Thirty years ago, Dark Moon motel up next to Salem. His hands were good then, nowhere near as calloused or hard as they are now. And the look in his eyes was terrifying then, clawing the clothes from her skin and the skin from her neck. Now his eyes were nearly blind and to him the sky was colorless. In a field that came to him through her dowry his fingers wrap around a red, white and blue kite. A green beret worn backwards on his head protects the weakness in his brow. No one keeps track of time tonight but after a while it grows dark and though Jen’s not ready she knows she can’t take much more of the proceedings.

“a mother’s curse” Jen murmurs, but the wind drowns out her breath. He’s tied the envelope to the crossing sticks and now seals his second son’s toy soldier in it. As the kite rises he watches his first child die again. He’s the anchor, the one who controls how far the wind takes what he has on a string and so he will stay the night. In the morning he will strip his son’s body of his emerald Army uniform and drown it in the river. And in the morning he will find his Jen where he told her to wait. She will shrink under his brutally beautiful hands and she will kiss him deeply because he is the only treasure the wind has blown her. He’s made sure of that.
Last edited by #1 synth at Aug 5, 2008,
Beautiful writing. I wasn't gonna read through this the whole way because I'm lazy, but I'm really glad I did.
I'm not sure what I was supposed to feel at the end.
But regardless, very well written.
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haha, it's late and it was the first word that came to mind when I was editing (the only sentence I edited). I'll change it to a word I actually mean now.
Edit: actually I kind of like wistfully here, I just forgot what it meant when I used it. upon looking up the definition I think it works. It's weird though to use a word you don't know the meaning of and have it still function.

thoughts on the rest? and when are you going to post a new piece that you want me to crit?
Last edited by #1 synth at Aug 5, 2008,
i thought it was a beautiful story beautifully written

don't use "merely", spoils the tone.

i was hoping for some of that classic repetition (which i've been gradually stealing over my last few pieces, if you've noticed) in that final stanza. starting a line identical to a line at the beginning but ending it differently - i don't know if that's original but i picked up on it in your sestina piece and have been watching you occasionally drop them in ever since (conscious or unconscious). anyway, i consequently stole the technique and i love it like caramel and hoped you'd slide one in here.

the final paragraph was gorgeous though. you have the ability to blow people away with your lines (pardon the pun - "the only treasure the wind has blown her" - the intimate internal rhyme there is just the Everest of poetic delicacy).

loved it, synth.
Her features lay limp, merely leaning on the brittle bone structure underneath and her black hair moves quick under the brute hands of the wind.

lie' limp, wouldn't it be? In that sense wouldn't 'lay' be past tense but in the same sentences you use 'moves'. (not a grammar expert at all :s ). Also, personally I don't like 'leaning', it doesn't seem particularly evocative to me

I thought the pace was very measured throughout (except at the very beginning, i felt a tad overwhelmed by the description, but maybe that's good! ) and it's really quite gripping, if a little short. Also some of your lines, on their own, are just great. They're simply enjoyable things to read. 'Rust flakes onto her lap like snow but quickly blows away. He stands twenty feet from the house on top of decomposing husks from the Autumn corn harvest. Still stained from the blood their first son coughed up when he was days away from death' was possibly my favourite part. There should be more

I like the tiny bit of foreshadowing and, now i'm just listing things i like so i'll stop. t'was class.

BTW, did you purposefully change it to 'red sky at night, sailor's delight' or is it just different, the saying, where you are? (it's shepherd's here)
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I've always heard it as sailor's delight. Then again, I am surrounded by the sea.

On the first readthrough, I'm distracted by the stuttering tone. The sentences, while nice, don't seem to fit together; it sounds to me like the reader has ADD. They're too.. disjointed? It's the first word that comes to mind.

"Thirty years ago, Dark Moon motel up next to Salem."
This sentence vexed me greatly.

I also think you need more description in the second paragraph's flashback. It seemed like a build-up to something significant, but there wasn't really anything tangible. It could just be me complaining, though.

All that aside, it's lovely. Just keep a bit more fluid.
It was good.

I felt some was a bit mechanical, sometimes too much description just got in the way of the narrative. I mean, it's personal taste for the most part I guess, but there were some points (notably early on) where I was hoping it would pick up the pace.

Not worth a nit pick. Sweet read Dyl.
Mr. 911:

Alex: I've noticed the repetition, didn't think it was inspired by me, I'm really honored to be truthful. The reason why I didn't do the "full circle strategy" (as I like to call it) is because I do that with everything. I've done it so much that it has lost it's impact for me and became my norm, particularly in prose. I want to break that norm into less of a necessity and more of a useful skill. It is a skill used by a couple of compelling post-modern authors (such as Borges) in order to break the foundational ideas of what constitutes "narrative". Now, in order to be versed in breaking convention you must be adept at the convention which you are breaking, you must know the ins and outs of the known in order to break it down and expose the unknown. In this case I'm trying to focus myself upon being better at simply telling a story. After writing mostly just jumbled words of images (poetry) for a long time and after a one year dry spell in terms of prose it is very difficult to get back into the swing of things (if I was ever in the swing to begin with). Even here my excessive imagery and quick pithy lines point to how I write poetry and I wish to break myself of that.

Meh!: I never got to mention, congrats on the promotion to cc, you were always one of my favourite and most respected members of the pit, so good on you. I agree with your changes and am very glad you enjoyed. And yeah, that was a saying my grandmother passed to my mother and her to me. I use it quite a bit in my writing, especially when I am going back to the east coast which I am at some point.

Peteypete: The lack of fluidity is a problem, I agree. It comes from the aforementioned poetry-->prose transition and this being a rough draft. You bring up some good points that I will be sure to take note of. thank you very much for your kind words, they are really appreciated. I didn't want a real climax here, when I wrote one in it seemed too forced, though I would also argue that my ending paragraph rather beats you over the head with imagery . oh well haha.

Jamey: Yeah, I really need to keep working on being able to write a good narrative. I'll keep working though, don't you worry.


Here is a tangent of why some pieces on UG just piss me off completely (has to do with a point made in Alex's paragraph). Read at your own risk:

There are so many poets here that write quite a bit in an ars-poetic voice, they write about writing. I am guilty of doing this as well, just read the first couple of pieces I posted here. But I believe, as mentioned earlier, you must know the convention like the back of your hand in order to break it. Writing about writing is clearly symbolic of trying to take control of the situation, fetter the multitude of words and ideas into imagery the writer hope will be relatable to his most likely audience, other writers. There are many famous and well done pieces that use ars-poetica to underline their already notable style or content however the people of S&L have no such thing. Here it underlines nothing and just serves as a placebo and placeholder for a piece that would actually help the author grow. Writing about writing on UG is the same as a rock star screaming the name of the city they are in at a show, it works as a cheap pop that blinds the audience to how pointless it is. People on S&L, for the love of God, work on your craft instead of how to break that craft as the latter is impossible without the former.*

*NB. I may not actually believe what I just posted, I just thought it would be fun to argue. Dinner time!
Hmmm, I thought, though this really doesn't have anything to do with you as a writer, that the sailor motif, if you will, is a little tired. It almost made me not want to read it.

However, it was well written. I wish there had been...I guess the best way to put it is "story." I realize my first and only prose piece (in my signature) suffers this criticism as well. But I feel like the story doesn't accomplish what it could or should, but it is a matter of length. The vignette style, though nice for the poetic aspects, don't really allow for any depth? I think you conveyed the feel for the story well, the emotion involved was apparent, but what about each character? The tragedy of the story is left for the reader to determine, but the characters are so abstract. Reading the above post, you obviously know a bit about writing, whereas I claim to know no more than grammar and punctuation. I've always just written to write what I feel I should. Perhaps my comments here, aren't problems for you. I consider this critique more of a comment about how I feel about it, not necessarily problems.
Quote by #1 synth
lengthy post

i think you've raised some tremendously interesting points, though, i think that you've pointed out the real reason that i'm drawn to s+l over other poetry/writing forums - the quantity of people really writing, making a conscious effort to create and progress. as i said to carmel last night, i'm under the impression that a disproportionately large amount of people here are genuinely writing with.. salient talent that's breathed out from the creativity of the gut, rather than from some kind of puny artificial need to craft a poem that sounds like a poem. i understand ars poetica in the sense you've used it as relating to two poetic negatives - the first being writing about poetry, the second being writing with the intention of sounding like a poem - both of which people on this forum are guilty of (myself and yourself included, although i can't remember ever writing about writing or love*, they are both themes i have consciously avoided). but how can one really master the convention, as you say, without replicating it first? it is human nature indeed to replicate idols, i mean, i needn't ratter off freud here, but i'm sure we've each looked up to people and replicated mannerisms at young ages (whether that's four or fourteen is unimportant). anyway, i guess i disagree with regarding your kind of... inferred belief that a convention must be learnt. that's not true for me. i'm a believer that true talent transcends a piece in one line alone (where the writer will be attempting to follow convention and capture it in a line) and. i mean, when i think of pieces, i think of singular lines. when i think of you i think of "jeremy was a boy who loved to pick fights with the sky" or, you know "breathes out a miracle" or "now let's see about those wrists".. you know, hundreds of them.. and when i think of chris i think "i reckon you'd see soul" or, "but when the rain sings a sad song..." - thousands of them - cummings "as small as a world and as large as alone" - it's those lines that i write for.. the moments of genius that transcend every poetic convention and every possible intention of the piece and just make the reader feel. punches the mind and kickstarts the heart because. i could quote, by heart, any good writer on this forum.

and that's what you'll struggle to find anywhere else (online) - veracity also. so that's my ode.

i guess i just love these forums.

note: my impression of what is/isn't a good poem depending on singular quotability is hideously subjective - realise that this is just my view and i'm quite open to the idea that other people view poems quite differently.

*love as in, "i love her, she loves me". or "i love her, she doesn't love me", etc. i've done it with a twist plenty of times, but straight love poems i have reserved for a time when i genuinely feel something.
Last edited by skagitup at Aug 6, 2008,
Dorkus: you hit the nail on the head, this isn't a narrative as much as a vignette. dammit. I really need to break this vignette style, it's starting to piss me off. It's pretty and provocative but it never really draws the audience in. It's like a painting where I meant to be making a play. thank you very much for your thoughts and I agree nearly wholeheartedly.

Alex: if I (and everyone else, but mostly myself) saw S&L the way you claim you do the whole forum would be a better place. Interesting and salient points as well. very thought provoking ideas I really have not had the pleasure to be graced with in such a succinct and well articulated form. I have a couple of qualms with parts of your foundation, such as the ability for a single line to transcend a body of writing (it strikes me as saying a nose can transcend a body, where, even if that nose becomes famous, it still remains attached and still can only be appreciated in the context of the body). However I do greatly admire your respect for the forum and your argument at large and you have me baffled at how to respond. So I'll just say that anyone on this forum, from new to mod, should read that to open their eyes to how special this community is because, like it or not, we sure as hell are unique.

(sorry to bump this thread again, but this is a topic worthy of words)

synth: i originally wrote about twenty times as much as i posted. i've been very drunk all day all week, which i guess is heightening my sentimentality, or perhaps i'm just a nut.

anyway, a large part of my initial response concerned an explanation of how i believe a singular line can transcend a piece. i believe the analogy concerning the nose was spot on, and hit you at my point exactly by admitting that the nose can become famous but does so still appreciated in the context of the body. but it's not hard to craft a body that can be appreciated in the context of the nose.

i mean, let's take pete townshend's nose. that's a big nose. famous in it's own right. now that nose is still attached to his body, that's true, but his body doesn't have to be perfect in order for his nose to be aberrant or particularly noticeable, if you know what i mean? the body just has to be average, and writing a mediocre piece of poetry is practically... well, it's inanely easy. you just adhere to basic poetic conventions, craft up a nice scene and then drop in those lines. i mean, you of all people should relate to this as i believe you're guilty (commendably guilty) of doing so yourself. not to say that your poems are mundane with the exception of the great lines, you're a master of setting up for a stunning line or stanza (in the same sense that chris is) and consequently that great line radiates and provides a beauty to the rest of your piece which, otherwise, may have been neglected. i mean, your sestina piece (if you omitted the final stanza) was pretty standard - you crafted a nice scene, a few nice lines, some lovely descriptions, but that final stanza is a knockout and it really lifts the reader of the piece into a state of incredulity, and that rubs off on the other stanzas. after a great line, you look at a piece with a new found respect, and you read into lines and see beauty that you never saw before. after adoring pete townshend's nose, i can really appreciate the mole on his face - it sets up that nose beautifully.

i first came across this mindset when i wrote a piece ages back which i thought was horrendous, but posted it because i particularly liked the couplet at the end of the second stanza ("midnight eyes trading midnight roses/ with midnight skin and cocaine noses"). to my absolute shock, people reacted really positively to the piece, and a significant number of people appeared to neglect the otherwise terrible writing and commend a good couple of lines. it was still apparent, though, that the rest of the piece was pulling those lines down, and i wondered how i could sustain a decent set-up without detracting from great lines. then what hit me was the idea of being cryptic, which allows the disguise of otherwise vacuous writing in order to drag a reader along metrically and rhythmically to that stunning heartfelt phrase. i mean, of course the crypticism (that's not a word but i shall continue) has to be such that it maintains the theme of the piece - inventive word-selection that fits the overall tone, but otherwise you can essentially speak rhythmically about any kind of mood-fitting scene and drop in those lines.

i thought i'd pioneered a new form of poetry, whereby "syntactical, grammatical and literary inhibitions" (to quote kerouac) could be ENTIRELY ignored, relying only on fitting-words and rhythm, until a wonderful line popped up. you could speak essentially was with what and non for sense of nonesense and then plop in a great line and have an incredible poem.

then i discovered e.e. cummings who pre-dated me, and was upset.
Last edited by skagitup at Aug 11, 2008,