August 1982

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dyerfrank
Posts: 71
Joined: 09 Nov 2013, 03:17

August 1982

#1 Post by dyerfrank » 16 Apr 2014, 03:19

The faint air of its colonial past hung around my new hotel
Guards dressed in kaki puttees smiled me through each door
From the street - nondescript - a palm tree leaning as they often do
The foyer in turmoil, Nigerian women arguing loudly about their fare
I wished I had been as half as brave with my Sikh driver who had ripped me off
Jogappas smothered in kajal accosted me in the forecourt, settled for one hundred rupees
Aravan, apparently not greedy – oh that the Sikh would become her devotee
No, I spawned fellatio - glad they did not show me their wounded holes

Personnel fawned over me, how brave was I to ignore the riots and change hotel
He wagged his head side to side like a broken puppet when I spoke of the shooting
The Continental is so impersonal, he said, he meant expensive and crooked
The Ghurkha officer pointed his baton, his soldier fired, hitting one in the crowd
As they fled he turned to my tiny Fiat, pointing the way and we sped
Through, crunching over much broken glass

Herman had raved, ‘Liar!’ not wanting to believe I had come through unmolested.
Maybe my calmness highlighted his own fear – c’est la vie
He had lain in a ditch for an hour, not familiar with India or British ways,
he had resented the crowd that grabbed him.
Luckily, he was not a woman police constable
Strange that the Gurkha officer stayed with me that day,
how smart in his starched shorts, his dark skin and black mustache,
his precise automaton movements that shed death.

We had left Calcutta with alacrity not wanting to meet communists
at the bridge stoking their braziers. Red hot pokers applied to the nether regions of Kali priests
lost its allure when the risk of confusion leading to mistaken identity could become a reality.

Newspaper reported brides being fired, at first I thought
termination of employment not the literal burning of a young wife.
The day we left the hotel I gave the beggar woman a coin that
she promptly returned, indicating a note was preferred.
On the pavement I stopped to have
my sandal repaired, hand-sewn for one rupee
graciously accepted with a gentle smile.

India seduced me, its Kipling pealing bells, rich aromas from spices and perfumed pyres.
I jollied to the taxi music as we traversed the river road where the washing hung in coloured miles.
Slowing for holy cows that stepped daintily and whom knew no fear of man.
Like the Gurkha officer, one scene stayed with me all my life.
The picture of a young girl, beautiful in her cotton lemon frock
playing on a dung heap.
I too had stepped over the gutter beggars
munching my warm pasty,
deadened to their plight and they to mine.

p.s. Raza Academy apologised later that week, explaining that Muslims could not have been responsible for the molestation of the women police constables as that would be contrary to Islam.

ryan
Posts: 14
Joined: 18 Apr 2005, 00:43
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Re: August 1982

#2 Post by ryan » 29 May 2014, 14:37

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Some enjoyable moments here. But I admit to not being particularly won-over by this. A lot of distracting cultural references, a lot of staging without a sense of grounding, a sort of distant/quiet narrative voice, which still overpowers the identity of the prose's characters. I wanted something more centered, concentrated, action-oriented in its descriptions. I wanted more personality and emphatic projection. I mean. I think it’s missing the edge, where the prose deepens into something else, where the allusions and the elisions act as a sort of slide-rule to measure irony or fear or desire. It's just sort of. There. I think there are a few points where the prose almost promises this sort of departure. But the text holds back. The narrator seems all too content providing a simple snapshot of these people... It moves too quickly, from line-to-line, thought-to-thought, without regard for pacing or development...or to the prose as a larger "whole" or "entity." And no regard for the prose's arc: how, as the reader, do I go from the colonial past an palm trees to "deadened to their plight and they to mine"? What does this signify? How does this wrap into the prose's chronology? Very little to help the reader progress through the piece, from beginning to end, without slipping through the cracks in the middle.

Is this the kind of prose that you think a reader ought to be interested in reading a second time? A third? What “opens” under scrutiny? Not really sure. If this were mine, I would try to make a few surprising leaps from the interior narrative space to the exterior. Something unique and isolated, authentic to a particular experience. Suggest to the reader what is going on here.

FranklyDire
Posts: 13
Joined: 30 May 2014, 13:23

Re: August 1982

#3 Post by FranklyDire » 30 May 2014, 21:18

Thanks very much Ryan, some valid points have been made. I have reservations about it too. Could the reader cope with my jumping around, you are right there is no measured gradient for the reader to settle down. I bashe dit out some time ago and it is a bare bones sort of poem.
I liked you effort at a critique too, so many think a one line complaint sis a decent critique, and few bother to give thank you for the effort involved.
I will review this poem again and again until it is a bit more logical in its leaps from scene to scene. Although I did try not to make it sound like prose.

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