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On Visiting My Mother's House after Her Death


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Oh queen of neatness, you have made a mess

Of all these cupboards, cabinets, and drawers,

Closets, bedrooms, shelves and storerooms—yes,

Most everywhere you still considered yours

Before you slipped from this world to the next.

Now mugs mix up with glasses, post-its strew

The halls and walls, and all the rooms are vexed

With obsolete ephemera and spew.

So life, unraveling, unravels all

It touches, with no malice of intent:

Casually, ancient precepts fall

Around a neatnik’s haphazard descent.

And yet, untouched, your spotless spirit flies

Past order, past disorder, to the skies.

 

 

Revisions: L11 was "Casually, sweet ancient strictures"

L12 "neatnik's" was "zealot's"

 

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AB,  Oh this sonnet breaks my heart.   What a lovely tribute to one you loved.    I love the rhythm of

On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2020 at 12:11 AM, A. Baez said:

The halls and walls, and all the rooms are vexed
With obsolete ephemera and spew.

Then

On ‎1‎/‎23‎/‎2020 at 12:11 AM, A. Baez said:

And yet, untouched, your spotless spirit flies
Past order, past disorder, to the skies.

I remember cleaning out my Mom's house after she passed.  It was surprisingly very organized and yet I never thought of her as such.

~~Judi

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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Tinker, I'm so glad that the sonnet moved you. While the sentiments are complex and not entirely complimentary (I managed to criticize my mom both for excessive neatness and undue messiness), the poem does end on an overpoweringly tribute-ary note. That's wild that you had seemingly the exact opposite experience with your lifelong perceptions of your mother vs. the reality you encountered after her passing. What strange surprises for both of us!

Phil, I'm glad you liked the "all the rooms are vexed" notion. That happens to be one of my favorite phrases here, as well. I love how a need to rhyme can sometimes make one think of ideas and verbiage that one never would otherwise.

-------------------------

This past weekend, I was looking through all the drafts of topical poems and seed phrases that I'd written on the backs of the pages of my mom's will as I was clearing out her house two years ago. This is the first one I've managed to tease into completion. It felt good. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever be able to do anything with all those scribbles!

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I like the poem. A few issues:

• L11 is metrically flawed -- it has an extra foot (six instead of five) -- but it can be easily corrected. "Casually" has four syllables. Drop the unnecessary and nonsensical "sweet," and the line will conform:

Casually, ancient strictures fall1

/ ^CA / suAL / ly AN / cient STRUC / tures FALL /
/ headless iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb / iamb 

• Who is the zealot in L12? Is it the mom?!? If so, why? I picture Lucifer becoming Satan.
______________________________

1. Shouldn't it be "structures," not "strictures"? If not, please explain.

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

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Hi Tony!

I was thinking of the "casual" pronunciation of "casually"--closer to three syllables than four, because realistically, this is how most people pronounce it. I had originally written the line as you suggest, but each time I read it, I found myself feeling like I was falling into a hole after "casually"--I kept expecting another syllable. Thus, to me, it read more smoothly once I added that extra syllable.

Yes, my mom was the "zealot," because she she took neatness to the fanatical level--that is, until all her standards fell away from her. The "ancient strictures" were those standards, which amounted to severe restrictions on the whole family, that she upheld and rigidly enforced until the last years of her life. There were no "structures." Perhaps some less confusing alternatives to these words will occur to me. Thanks for expressing that they were tripping points for you.

Taking votes on others' impressions on these points...

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13 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

Yes, my mom was the "zealot," because she she took neatness to the fanatical level--that is, until all her standards fell away from her.

I can understand that. My standards fall away, too, but I can get them back (sometimes I do) when I want to.  

13 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

Yes, my mom was the "zealot," because she she took neatness to the fanatical level--that is, until all her standards fell away from her. The "ancient strictures" were those standards, which amounted to severe restrictions on the whole family, that she upheld and rigidly enforced until the last years of her life...Perhaps some less confusing alternatives to these words will occur to me.

Well, in that case, leave it at "strictures." No need to look for a different word if it's deliberate and it makes sense. From your reply, it seems that it does. I thought it was a typo with "u" being next to "i" on the qwerty keyboard. 

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

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I'll try omitting "sweet" again, and subbing "edicts" for "strictures." I had felt somewhat uncomfortable with "strictures" because I never really expressed in the poem the impact of my mom's neatnik approach on her family, and people don't usually think in terms of strictures being imposed upon oneself, so perhaps this word does rather come from left field. And "edicts" goes well with the "queen" metaphor. BTW, I don't use QWERTY, I use Dvorak! But I do make deductions about typos like you just did all the time. About "zealot's," I also had some prevarication about this word. But something like "monarch's" or "ruler's" just doesn't sound quite right to me. Maybe I should just say "neatnik's"! The sound works well, and it does give a lighter tone to the piece, which is perhaps more in tune with reality.

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7 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

I don't use QWERTY, I use Dvorak!

Hmmm, yes...I just took a look at the dvorak layout. It looks confusing, but I'm sure that's only because it's unfamiliar to me. I've never tried it.   

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

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You should definitely try (i.e., learn and use) it. It's so much easier on the hands, and so much faster! It's easier to learn than QWERTY because it's intuitive, with the letters that are most commonly used together placed next to each other. In contrast, QWERTY was designed back in the day to slow typists down so their typewriters wouldn't jam up. We don't need that anymore!

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3 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

QWERTY was designed back in the day to slow typists down so their typewriters wouldn't jam up.

Too funny! It was a practical decision lol.

I always start my poems with pen and paper and then make use of the pc's word processing capabilities. I find that pen and paper are most conducive to the creative process, but the ease and convenience of word processing works best when it come to editing. How about you? 

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

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Yes, I'm similar to you in my approach, except I prefer pencil to pen because in writing early drafts, my erasures are plentiful! Once I start feeling like a poem is shaping up, I like the clarity that comes with typing it (and that process itself often induces new revelations) and seeing it typed. It also gives me a psychological boost because it helps me to feel that I'm actually getting somewhere! Even after that point, though, my poems typically go through many revisions, usually initially with white-out and black pen on printed versions (because I tend to perceive poems differently once printed, and I like reviewing them at all hours and in all places), before I post them anywhere. I have a few poems that have generated stacks of drafts about an inch thick. I keep all my drafts, with each poem's drafts clipped together in order of succession with the earliest on the bottom, because sometimes I find in revisiting them that I prefer certain elements of an earlier draft. Also, I always date the first one, which is nice info. to have later on. All my poems and drafts are filed chronologically in large binders, with those that have been critiqued filed in separate binders.

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3 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

Once I start feeling like my poem's actually shaping up, I like the clarity that comes with typing it (and that process itself often induces new revelations) and seeing it typed ... I tend to perceive poems differently once printed ...

^This. Well expressed, and I agree.

3 minutes ago, A. Baez said:

I keep all my drafts, with each poem's clipped together, because sometimes I find in revisiting them that I prefer certain elements of an earlier draft. Also, I always date the first one, which is nice info. to have later on. All my poems and drafts are filed chronologically in large binders, with those that have been critiqued filed in separate binders.

Excellent discipline. I'll add this to my persistent list of resolutions. I eventually may/will get to them ...

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

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 I tend to perceive poems differently once printed

I guess this begs the question of whether I oughtn't do the same with poems that I critique!

Quote

Excellent discipline

Well, without that, I would have--as my mom so often said about so many things--chaos. So, you see who's inherited her crown. 😉

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