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Cold Gray October Sky

October 27, 2011

In his 2011 volume entitled Invisible Strings (eligible for the Indie Lit Awards), Jim Moore gives this poem a page of its own:

Cold Gray October Sky

I walk under it, head lowered, carrying four books I love.

What do you think? Is this a “poem” the way the white-on-white canvases at the museum of modern art (the ones we traditionally call “cows in snow”) are “art”?

His poem “Triumphs” is a bit more traditional, but still ends with an image appropriate for this season:

The triumphs in his life
were so quiet, he should be ashamed.
That she would touch his back
on the correct place
at dawn.
That when it came to swallows
near dusk he acknowledged
no peer.
Happiness was never a thing
he could claim as a specialty.
But sitting by the window
in the middle of an endless winter night,
now that is a thing
he can do. Decorum
under a black sky, patience
in moonlight, dozing, then waking again.
That the sight of the dog sleeping mattered
was a triumph
not just anyone
could understand. Or the thought
of sleep itself and its rose
pillowcase, or leaving it behind
at 4 A.M., sitting
at that dark window,
wide awake for no reason,
letting himself get distracted again
by the ruined garden
where the neighbor lives
who rarely bothers to speak
now that her son has died.
She likes to stand by her wrinkled poppies
early in the morning,
when she thinks she is alone.
But she is not alone, Triumph
was always the wrong word,
wasn’t it? No,
not triumph, but something much closer,
like the remaining leaves on October trees,
all glory and dissolution.

On this October morning, rain is lashing the yellow leaves off of the enormous tree in my neighbor’s yard down across the black asphalt of my driveway.  The leaves are all glory and dissolution for half a day, until the yellow starts fading and we wake up one morning and everything is dark and it’s November.

I like the idea of “a thing he can do,” in November.  It reminds me of our childish glee in elementary school when we learned that one definition of “work” is simply moving a finger.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2011 7:31 am

    I got stuck, and not in a good way, by the word “on” in this line:

    That she would touch his back
    on the correct place
    at dawn.

    Bugged me rather a lot.

    • October 28, 2011 8:34 am

      It is an odd word. I thought it must either be that she was very careful of him (which seems in line with ReadersGuide’s interpretation) or that it was a signal, like an old married couples’ “got time to fool around?” touch.

  2. CSchu permalink
    October 27, 2011 7:51 am

    Actually, i like the one line poem. I think it really captures something that is very familiar to me. (Thank goodness for the comfort of books we love.)

    I also thought the longer poem was really wonderful. Thanks, Jeanne!

    • October 28, 2011 8:36 am

      I like the one line poem, too, which is why I selected it. You’re lucky you’re in Arkansas; we had a frost last night.

  3. October 27, 2011 9:07 am

    I’m liking the one line poem better – far more evocative.

    • October 28, 2011 8:37 am

      Interesting. A friend of mine on FB showed me an entire page of one-line poems online.

  4. October 27, 2011 9:11 am

    Of course the first poem is such, a haiku with a weird syllabic structure, evoking nature. I imagine him sheltering the books between the curves of his shoulders and his downturned head, like a baby.

    I know I’m not the first to say this, but I’m too lazy to find a citation: Every person is the best in the world at something, even staring out of a window. The proximity of the words made me think of Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog.

    • October 28, 2011 8:38 am

      A lot of people are picking up on some kind of insult impulse from this poet. Maybe that’s why he needs to shelter his books; they’re the only things he’s ever really loved.

  5. freshhell permalink
    October 27, 2011 10:49 am

    I don’t know if it’s poetry though I suppose if you call it that, then it is. I am not the authority on such things. I like some of the images of this longer poem but I had trouble reading it. I think I have trouble reading things where the sentences are all chopped up and I have no idea how to read it properly. Thus, I usually just don’t and grab some juicy prose instead.

    Over here it’s a bright, sunny day but I understand it might be the last warm day in quite some time. I better go for a walk while I can. I can’t stand those cold rainy fall days.

    • October 28, 2011 8:39 am

      As you say, if we call it a poem it is. By the same token, there’s no proper way to read line breaks. I tend to read them as a pause in the thought, although it’s silly if you read them out loud like that.

  6. October 27, 2011 11:01 am

    I hated the very same line that edj3 hated! Made me think that the poet would be rather a pill to live with. Pah. (I am assuming that the poet is “he,” and I bet I’m right.) Yeah, it’s all about you, isn’t it — I;m getting madder and madder just thinking about it. But now, having read it over 5 times, I’m actually coming to like the last line. Still think he’s a bastard, though.

  7. October 28, 2011 8:40 am

    The poet is a he. I wasn’t sure when I started reading through the volume, but by the time I got to the sitting by the window poem, I was sure.

  8. October 28, 2011 8:43 am

    I like poets that take risks with their poems. I can visualize the first poem on a white page…Thanks for highlighting this collection.

  9. October 28, 2011 8:44 am

    The rest of the page being blank really did give the one-line poem an effect that it was hard for me to reproduce.

  10. drgeek permalink
    October 30, 2011 11:50 pm

    I think of the one line poem as a two line poem, because the one line of the poem is meaningless without the controlling image of the title. That controlling image and the following ideas are very familiar to me — there was many an autumn day in the Land of my Birth that involved walking under a dim cloudy autumn day. Maybe the empty page would lend it some gravity… but is this really a work worthy of publication? Would it be published on its own? I somehow think not. Hemingway said that the shortest story he could think of was “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” I see that as Papa making a bar bet, not a submission for publication.

    • October 31, 2011 7:27 am

      I agree about Hemingway, although he was experimenting with form more than I see this poet doing. Anyway yes, the one line really does need the title to work.

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