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dcmarti1

The Smallest House in Georgetown

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dcmarti1

(I recently read books on John Walker and Aldrich Ames. I remembered a very small townhouse just off of P Street in Georgetown. I was only an administrative weenie with a Top Secret clearance, but it got me to thinking of Cold War era cast-offs.)

A polished red door adorns
the smallest house in Georgetown.
As bright as the brass on the door
are its darkly cataloged secrets,
shadow-bound in menacing folders
with pages trimmed in purple and black,
with threatening acronyms
strewn at top and at bottom.
Moliere, Racine, and Corneille
live in its one bedroom, untranslated.
Blue labeled whiskey -in two lead crystal
tumblers with two cubes of ice-
and a deck for Piquet
form the only silent actions
allowed the retired eagle and bear,
in a house still surely bugged,
in the smallest house in Georgetown.

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Tinker

Hi Marti,  Not being familiar with Walker and Ames I had to google.  I'm glad you gave the intro because I wouldn't have understood otherwise.  At first I read the poem without googling.  I focused on the untranslated French volumes and Piquet also French.   I actually like the sound and feel of the poem, it does a have a  mystery to it.  But googling and reading about traitors and spies gave a whole other dimension.  I wonder if somehow the connection could be made within the poem and without and intro for the uninformed like me.  Even the names inserted in the title or body of the poem, which yes I would still have to google but in a magazine or book of poetry, the intro would probably not be allowed and then I wouldn't know who or what to google.  And I believe all of your work is publishable.  Just an idea.  Easier said than done.   I love the title as is but it doesn't say spies or treason to me.  And all old buildings have their secrets, {if these walls could talk} this one just happens to have more interesting ones once I googled.   Use what helps, ignore what doesn't.  I'm just glad you are writing and sharing here.  I love reading your stuff even if I don't understand at first.

~~Tink


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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dcmarti1
7 hours ago, Tinker said:

Hi Marti,  Not being familiar with Walker and Ames I had to google.  I'm glad you gave the intro because I wouldn't have understood otherwise.  At first I read the poem without googling.  I focused on the untranslated French volumes and Piquet also French.   I actually like the sound and feel of the poem, it does a have a  mystery to it.  But googling and reading about traitors and spies gave a whole other dimension.  I wonder if somehow the connection could be made within the poem and without and intro for the uninformed like me.  Even the names inserted in the title or body of the poem, which yes I would still have to google but in a magazine or book of poetry, the intro would probably not be allowed and then I wouldn't know who or what to google.  And I believe all of your work is publishable.  Just an idea.  Easier said than done.   I love the title as is but it doesn't say spies or treason to me.  And all old buildings have their secrets, {if these walls could talk} this one just happens to have more interesting ones once I googled.   Use what helps, ignore what doesn't.  I'm just glad you are writing and sharing here.  I love reading your stuff even if I don't understand at first.

~~Tink

I may have assumed too much on my reader's part when I used eagle and bear for US and Soviet. It's actually 2 invented spies, now jobless, haha. I think it was TS Eliot who said, "poetry had better be difficult." Perhaps I am just opaque sometimes. :)

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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Tinker

I actually got the eagle and bear but didn't understand how it fit with the French connection.  I guess I just got hung up on the books.   

~~Judi


~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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badger11
Quote

A polished red door adorns
the smallest house in Georgetown.

That's a great opening grab. a fairytale quality, though the poem goes to a darker reality (then on reflection so did folktales!)

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tonyv

Hi Marti,

Together with your notes, this poem took me back to the Cold War, perhaps even a little beyond the tail end of it when I looked up and read about the two real-life spies.

On 9/10/2019 at 7:59 AM, dcmarti1 said:

It's actually 2 invented spies, now jobless, haha.

That's how I read it: made up characters inspired by real life. I wasn't even aware that spies still exist; that's how far removed the subject is from everyday life.

This was a pleasurable, lyrical read. Love the title, too.

Tony


Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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dcmarti1
2 hours ago, tonyv said:

Hi Marti,

Together with your notes, this poem took me back to the Cold War, perhaps even a little beyond the tail end of it when I looked up and read about the two real-life spies.

That's how I read it: made up characters inspired by real life. I wasn't even aware that spies still exist; that's how far removed the subject is from everyday life.

This was a pleasurable, lyrical read. Love the title, too.

Tony

I loved my 450 sq ft condo in Dupont, but that tiny townhouse amongst the larger ones was fascinating to me. I dreamed of owning it one day, even though I never got the chance to go inside. There was a European apothecary-like pharmacy just before it (walking from Dupont to Georgetown, across the P Street Bridge which spanned Rock Creek). Thank you for reading.

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David W. Parsley

Hi Marti, like you I am painfully aware of the deeds of Walker and Ames, two of the most damaging spies in history.  As the judge said to conclude one of the trials, "It is difficult to believe that someone who was born and raised in this country would provide such information to an enemy."  The very definition of what it means to spy, versus due exercise of governance oversight, is just another blurring of norms these days, but I won't go there.

Your vivid description of the files definitely rang true for this reader, but perhaps I have too much insider knowledge.  In any case I liked the atmosphere of refined culture living side by side with high stakes surveillance and peril, an atmosphere that exists even in the smallest house in Georgetown.  There is an undertone of not-quite-vanished Cold War tensions which one senses could come out of retirement at any moment. 

For me that undertone becomes a heavy handed overtone with the use of "menacing" to describe folders in line 5 - there is plenty of menace here without that word, and I am not sure I can believe the folders actually pose a menace or even intent of any kind.  An adjective does seem called for here, but I would suggest another that is more subtle.  Same goes for "threatening" acronyms (perhaps something more in the vein of "disturbing" or even perhaps-still-too-strong "ominous"?).

I really like the recurrent use of the labeling theme.  Nothing here exists on its own self-defining merit or even in the dignity of indifference.  Everything is observed, bugged, subjected to scrutiny and translation, catalogued.

I also admire the sense that nothing is ever finished here, it is retired or untranslated, still under surveillance.  Only the brass and paint seem finished, complete.  Brrr.

Even the French authors cited are known for their social and political satire, so there is no full-proof refuge even in literature.

Very Nicely Done!
 - Dave

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dcmarti1
On 9/30/2019 at 9:20 PM, David W. Parsley said:

Hi Marti, like you I am painfully aware of the deeds of Walker and Ames, two of the most damaging spies in history.  As the judge said to conclude one of the trials, "It is difficult to believe that someone who was born and raised in this country would provide such information to an enemy."  The very definition of what it means to spy, versus due exercise of governance oversight, is just another blurring of norms these days, but I won't go there.

Your vivid description of the files definitely rang true for this reader, but perhaps I have too much insider knowledge.  In any case I liked the atmosphere of refined culture living side by side with high stakes surveillance and peril, an atmosphere that exists even in the smallest house in Georgetown.  There is an undertone of not-quite-vanished Cold War tensions which one senses could come out of retirement at any moment. 

For me that undertone becomes a heavy handed overtone with the use of "menacing" to describe folders in line 5 - there is plenty of menace here without that word, and I am not sure I can believe the folders actually pose a menace or even intent of any kind.  An adjective does seem called for here, but I would suggest another that is more subtle.  Same goes for "threatening" acronyms (perhaps something more in the vein of "disturbing" or even perhaps-still-too-strong "ominous"?).

I really like the recurrent use of the labeling theme.  Nothing here exists on its own self-defining merit or even in the dignity of indifference.  Everything is observed, bugged, subjected to scrutiny and translation, catalogued.

I also admire the sense that nothing is ever finished here, it is retired or untranslated, still under surveillance.  Only the brass and paint seem finished, complete.  Brrr.

Even the French authors cited are known for their social and political satire, so there is no full-proof refuge even in literature.

Very Nicely Done!
 - Dave

"Not quite vanished". Yes. I repeat, yes.

You're familiar with purple and black? Oh my, perhaps I have said too much. 😉

I am glad you liked it. Your readings and comments are always appreciated.

 

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