Thursday, May 10, 2012


I hope it's okay to post a NaPo poem. I'd really like to work on this one so critiques are welcome.


My mom is on the floor again,
one leg caught in the bed rail,
the other tangled in her blanket.
She is screaming, “something is wrong
with the moon”.

I don't know what to do, so I look
for answers in the shape of the clouds,
the tea leaves at the bottom of my cup,
in the flecks of gold in her eyes.

But deep down I know
she is a seed on a maple tree
spinning away
from me.  


  1. Denise,
    I am not much of a critter, but the images here need no critique: they show the picturesque and terribly disheartening things a dementia patient will come out with (the moon line.. I do love it, sad though it is) -- and the hopelessness of the next-of-kin, well illustrated by their resorting to old folklore portents -- and the spinning of a maple seed works well for the confusion and inevitable departure of the mother of N.


  2. 'She is screaming, "Something is wrong/ with the moon,"' resounds for me, anyone who's had to deal with loved ones suffering through this excruciatingly difficult disease: Looking 'for answers in the shape of clouds...' The poem captures this awful experience beautifully. The last stanza even looks like it's sadly drifting away.

  3. Hello.

    S1: Drop the first line, replace L3's full stop (period) with a comma, and L4's "She" with "Mom;" L1/s "floor" is pretty much a given, what with mom's position. Consider removing "is screaming" in favor of more immediate and intense "screams."

    S2: Lose "so" in L1 and replace its comma with a period/full stop. Break the line at "do," and move "I look" to L2. consider losing the rather repetitious "in the shape of" (what else does one look at re clouds; if color or name or speed, that would require special mention; for shape, which is usual, nothing need be said; that one may receive an answer from something associated with clouds is imagination's dividend). L3's "at the bottom" is obvious; that's how tea leaves are read. Consider "at the gold flecks in her eyes;" it sounds more in tune with the wording (yours, and what I've suggested).

    S3: Kill off the cliché "deep down": one presumes the "I know" to be more than just shallow. While you're at it, lose "I know," too: it's implicit in an statement made with certainty. Start the strophe with "She." Lose L4: "away" makes "from me" makes that implicit.

    Good luck,

  4. Bill,

    Really appreciate your dropping by to critique. Your comments are helpful; however, I do have a "say one nice thing" rule that I'll ask you to abide by, chill-hearted vivisector though you may be. (I guess one could consider the suggestion of line edits to be a nice thing in and of itself, but as your local tin pot despot--please note the rule.)


    You have some strong subject matter here. S1 draws me in immediately by giving your narrator a concrete problem (how to deal with panicking, fallen-out-of-bed Mom) that illustrates the larger conflict (how to deal with Mom's dementia). Mom's line is perfect: disoriented, disorienting, and scary. I concur with Bill that you do not need L1. (I originally thought the culprit was L3, but looking back up, L1 is the weaker.)

    S2 loses some of the energy S1 has set up by pulling back from the immediate scene. In one way, this is serving the poem well: the basic structure is to start concrete and specific, back off, and end by showing me the essence of the thing in S3. However, the poem is somewhat unspecific about what the narrator is doing. Looking for answers in the clouds, I get--this sounds like something that happens inside the bedroom, instead of helping Mom back into bed. (That scene, by the way, is never resolved.) Looking for answers in tea leaves, sounds like turning to mysticism and astrology, and is something that presumably happens outside the bedroom scene, in the narrator's relatively calm moments. Looking for answers in the flecks of gold in Mom's eyes--ah, I've found the line that's making me uneasy, because I don't know what action this corresponds to, and it's edging toward sentimental shorthand.

    S3 takes the narrator and the reader out of the narrator's physical environment altogether, to the metaphor of a maple seed spinning into nothingness. Again, Bill's line edits are wise. I also notice that a maple seed stays put when it's on the tree; "she is a maple seed" solves that problem.

  5. Bill and Rachael, thanks for your help.

    Bill, the line edits were very helpful, much appreciated.

    Rachael,I agree with you about S2, it isn't doing its job. I'll have to rethink it.

    I didn't like the ants image in the original which is why I changed to the flecks of gold but I agree it is a little too sentimental.

    Karin and Arlene, thank you for your comments.