Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 89 - Turned in the Road

This is my latest found poem, taken once again from one of my works in progress. This story follows Jock MacKeigan, who survives the Battle of Culloden in Scotland, 1746. He comes across the family of the MacBean chieftain, whom he saw fall to several English dragoons. He is taken in and tended, discovering the daughter who nurses him so protectively is the fiancee of his commanding officer.

I decided to go for a bit more form this time. I've used the villanelle, but didn't hold to the rhyme scheme. I wanted to stick to the found poem category.

Turned in the Road

He felt a shudder erupt at images sprung to mind
The soldiers - the soldiers, if they fell upon them
He could hear Montford barking orders even now

Lieutenant-Colonel Montford, engaged to Miss MacBean
Her intended was a good man, as officers went
His voice booming through the clamour of musket fire

Not one to tolerate any loafing. No sloppiness. Unreadiness.
Jock and the others pressed on through the night march to Nairn
He could hear Montford barking orders even now

Montford’s regiment a fit one, not like some, plagued with desertions
Incredible folly, tiring them to the breaking point before battle
His voice booming through the clamour of musket fire

Surprise the English camp - their march halted so often
The grey light of daybreak came before they reached Nairn
He could hear Montford barking orders even now

A weary messenger appeared and Montford bent low in the saddle
So very long before he turned the Scots Royal in the road
His voice booming through the clamour of musket fire
He could hear Montford barking orders even now

- Julia Smith - 2009

You can read excerpts from this story here and here and here.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 87 - For Helen He Would Do It

Continuing my series of found poetry, I've taken this latest scene, just tappety-tapped on my keyboard over the weekend, from my gardener work-in-progress and molded it into a poem. I've posted prose excerpts from this story previously. You can find them in my Fiction Excerpt Archives.

My poem last week centered around the other main character from the gardener story. The story begins in 1840's England and moves across the sea to Van Diemen's Land, which is now known as Tasmania, just south of Australia.

I've modelled Robbie, my gardener character on Scottish actor Ewan McGregor. I've modelled Hezekiah Bent, the former convict who takes Robbie to serve out his sentence on his farm, on English actor Ray Winstone.

For Helen He Would Do It

Robbie trembled
Two years a convict
Somehow he’d managed to escape this. He pulled

His shirt free
Shrugged it over his head. Mr. Bent grabbed
It, tossed it on the workbench. “Your hands,” Bent said.
Robbie held them out

Watching Bent tie the rope
His master pulled him forward, tossing
The other end over the beam. A firm yank
Stretched Robbie onto his toes, the rope biting
His wrists. He gasped

A sickening chill spread through him
Bent’s footsteps crossed the floorboards. Robbie knew
Every item in this work shed. Bent walked toward
The bundle of poles and sticks Robbie used
To support vegetables and flowers.
His gaze roamed over the farm yard

To the paddock beside it
Out to the wood and the hills beyond.
The image of his father, his mother loomed
As they’d done when he’d landed on the stone floor
Of the first gaol cell. What would his father think?
His son sporting scars across his back. And his mother
She’d be unable to look him in the eye

Feeling slightly horrified from this moment on.
If he ever did see her again.
Robbie bowed his head, shame finally
Crawling over his skin. “You’re right about me
“Am I?”

Robbie heard
Bent’s shirt slip off, heard it land
On the workbench with all the rest
“I was raised to regard
Myself as one thing.

But I’ve turned out to be
Quite another.”

His master walked around him

He passed into view
Cane in hand. Robbie saw
For the first time

Criss-crossed grid of scars
That formed Bent’s back. He’d always
Wondered why Bent never took his shirt off when they
Worked in the hot sun

Robbie swallowed hard
Bent turned. Hard muscles told the story
Of agonizing days. He looked like he could break Robbie
In two. Robbie trembled as he

Hung there.
“I wouldn’t have taken you
For someone in need
Of a hard lesson, Flynn.”

Robbie thought about
Morrison’s Indian army walking stick

Clipping him in the chin
Brigadier-General Chase’s cruel slaps
Until he hung in Morrison’s grip. The kicks
Of the gaolers, the ropes’ end
Of the warders aboard the hulks, the shoves
From the sailors, the weight
Of the shackles on the road crew. And

Never a blow from his dear father. Not
Tears stung his eyes
His throat closed tight
Robbie clenched his fists above
The rope holding him in place

For the lesson
His master meant to teach him
“Why don’t you respect me?”
Bent asked. Thinly-veiled
Pain haunted his gaze. Robbie

Looked away. “It’s for
The master to make me
Respect him.
Bent walked up close

“Did you
Respect your
Master back home?”

Robbie met his
Gaze. “I did,
“Did he make you

Respect him?”
Robbie lowered his
Gaze. “Yes,

Bent took a deep breath. He
Walked behind Robbie. He touched the

Tip of the rod to
Robbie’s back
Robbie resisted flinching
“Your back
Is not marked.”

Pulled the rod away
“Then how
Did he make you
Respect him?”
“He was British Army,
Robbie said.

In India. Everyone respected
“A poor master I
Must make, after

Sir? He gave me
The only thrashing I ever
Had. So it must be me,

Bent said nothing, only
Took another deep breath
Took a step back. Robbie’s heart
Twisted, a surge of

Fear took flight
Inside him like a
Flock of startled birds. He must not

Disgrace himself.
He realized with sudden
This moment would be his last.

Robert Flynn of Cheltenham
About to join the ranks
Of men he’d dreaded
Joining from the
Night he was led from Ashbury Downs

In irons.
Elkannah Bent would
Baptise him into the
Robbie Flynn of Van Diemen’s Land.
As he’d done so many
Times before

In the shivering dark of the gaol, standing
Faint in the dock before the Quarter Sessions, in the
Stench of the hulks, battered by
The sea on the crossing, disoriented by
Heat on the road crews
Robbie asked himself the same
Question once more.

If he’d known
What was to
Come, when he’d
Waited for Helen in the
Conservatory – if he’d known all of it

Would he have left Helen to be
Used so
Cruelly by
Zachary Chase?
Or would he

Still plant his fist in that
Wanker’s face?
Nothing had happened to Robbie until
This moment

That ever made him change
His answer. This
Flogging would be no

For Helen he would do it

All over again

- Julia Smith - 2009

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Poetry Train Monday - 86 - The Undiscovered Scream

This is another found poem, taken from one of my works in progress. It's a scene from my gardener story, which you can check out in my Fiction Excerpt Archives. You'll find it in the 2007 entries.

I tightened the language of the scene for the poem. Otherwise it reads as it does in the story.

The Undiscovered Scream

Helen stood before the gaol
Barred wagon trundled
Towards her

Three more prisoners
Waiting to

How she had longed
To be taken
Last summer

The days since then had
Crawled on famished hands
Exhausted knees

Horses' hooves clapped
On cobblestones
It seemed she

Stepped outside herself
Watching as she moved
Through the hours

Fatigue helped
To blur the moments.
The women beside her

Held hands
The man jumped down
Opened the latch

But Helen felt.
Tendril of fear creeping

How certain she'd been
No more feelings
Left at all

She looked down
Worn fabric
Draft curled around

Her ankles. One woman cried.
The other kept patting her.
Near the harbour

Sea birds cried
Reality entered the
Box like a fourth

Waterfront hurly burly
Men called orders

Cargo nets hoisted.
Jagged masts
Sky clutter

Draped with shrouds
Monstrous webs
Of rope

Helen shivered on the
Wharf, the rough men
On deck stared back

The numbness was gone.
An undiscovered scream
That no one seemed to hear

- Julia Smith, 2009

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