dad said, "you're six" i thought of the treehouse i was gonna build won't need anybody sending off resumes my signature got small and thin the world stayed big by brother was born when i was six his feet are huge and i was kicking boys boys i liked watching tears slide down between his nose his cheekbone when i told him what i did i'll trade you dimples for forgiveness i'll trade you my peanutbutter sandwich for all the cards signed, "your friend" why can't we go to the beach? why is it 11:47 on a saturday night and i'm talking to my dad on a telephone when i was six i went to bed at ten i woke up with my hair in knots good morning tangles my roomate broke my brush when i was six i taught my bear to read and write, my sun to shine, my thunder to get quiet now, i can't teach myself to breath. "dad," i said, "i'm twenty" but, i was crying like a little girl.
From: email@example.com (Michael Magee) Some thoughts on Kirsten's poem: I do like a lot of it, particularly what's going on w/ the conflating of six-ness & twenty-ness, not thematically but grammatically. I think the poem is at its best when the syntax won't quite allow us to decide when the narrative is taking place: so, for instance, the great line "his feet are huge" is tough to place time-wise b/c the tone suggests "six" but the narrative suggests 20 (b/c at six baby brother was an infant, etc.) Repetitionn is another way to play up this confusion between past & present sinc one nice thing that repetition can do is suggest same-ness where there is none - the "i'll trade you" lines being a good example and the "why" repettion which follows - I feel like there might be a longer series of why's before we get to the talking on the phone thing which seems to come to soon. So, anyway, yeah, I like this idea of suggesting contemporaneity which isn't literally there. James Tate has this line in his poem "Happy as the Day is Long" which goes, "1992: Charlie Christian is bebopping at Minton's in 1941." The only thing that really interests me about it is the colon but it interest me alot, suggesting as it does that 1941 is occurring in 1992, which of course it is: Wm James: "The feeling of past time is a present feeling." As I'm reading it that idea is at the heart of Kirsten's poem, & if it were mine I'd ratchet it up as much as possible, really confuse the spheres. I thought of one fun thing to do w/ the line "when I was six I went to bed at ten" which is follow it up w/ a line like "when I was twenty I went to bed at six" - too cute? Also towards the end "when I was six I taught my bear to read and write, / my sun to shine, my thunder to get quiet / now I can't teach myself to breath" & repeat ", bear to read and write." Too cute? I don't know I kind of like it, the idea anyway. In part I guess its because the one thing I'm not crazy about is the ending which seems too much closure & summary to me. Also I hear Bob Dylan's "Just like a Woman," the chorus, "but she breaks just like a little girl," which I definitely don;t want to hear. So, I'd shoot more for the mood of the difficult to make sense of lines: "my signature got small and thin" - love it; as it plays on childhood/adulthood/gender it's just hard to pin down. Confuse us as much as possible. -m.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Parker) I'm with Mike, the poem works best as a conflation of past and present. All the more reason to begin with the *resume*. There, you provide a perverse analogue for the poem itself: like the poem, this document *resumes* one's life, cataloguing in order from the beginning, "significant" moments. But where the resume must keep the significant events separate, emphasize diversity and quantity, the poem collapses everything--it's as though there are two economies at work, the poetic and psychoanalytic, for which a life repeats endlessly themes given at the beginning and for which personal relationships matter more than "accomplishments", and a business economy in which one's life progresses forward without repeating and actually detaches itself from familial ties (one gets a job and becomes "independent"), ever adding newer and increasingly valuable units of what they call, appalingly, "experience." This gives you a tight six line unit: > sending off resumes > my signature got small and thin > the world stayed big > by brother was born when i was six > his feet are huge > and i was kicking boys Excellent tense change in the penultimate line. Everything is riding on that sort of sudden temporal dislocation. I'd nix the following line, "boys I liked" since the savage lust of the prepubescent is, I think, familiar enough and doesn't require such an explicit gloss. There follow six more lines, again really tight: > watching tears slide down between his nose > his cheekbone > when i told him what i did > i'll trade you dimples for forgiveness > i'll trade you my peanutbutter sandwich > for all the cards signed, "your friend" this is great because you can't quite tell if it's the brother or the kicked boy--the "trades" here could potentially tap into and distort or parody the language of business, of resumes, etc. For me, things fall off from here. I'd like to see the last third of the poem match the first two in quality of writing and in thematic density. The father is, to me, interesting only insofar as he relates to the brother, since I'm more interested in the brother's relationship to the speaker's pre-pubescent sexuality. Arguably the birth of a younger brother at six would have been something of a trauma for the speaker since it destroyed the father/daughter couple. The brother as competition, hence object of aggression (kicking boys) and as object of desire, as a version of the boys on the playground--a contradiction presumably aggravated when seen from the other side of the puberty divide, as a twenty something. There are maybe two liminal moments to explore here: 1) the speaker's entrance, as a six year old, into some kind of adolescent sexuality, with all the attendant family romance, marked by the birth of a brother. 2) the speakers entrance into the market, how it mimics and distorts the flirtations and exchanges of childhood games-- one is, afterall, submitting a resume in order to be "picked," to be singled out, to be "desired," supossedly at the professional level. Without a more thorough going over, it's hard to take seriously the quasi-break down at poem's end--the tears, the inability to breathe. This trauma, I think, must derive its force from the way that it revives as economic, "business" problems the familial and sexual difficulties of the first two stanzas. my 2 cents, JP