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Billydo
The Black Dog

The last sycamore leaves are overwhelmed:
they lie sugar-frosted on the rimed grass
and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

This morning, he stood in the back garden
by the rhododendron - still heavy with leaf -
his breath condensing as pendulous drops
on the stark stalks of our salmon-pink azalea.

You brought me some tea and cake.
I asked, "Have you seen the black dog?"
You combed my hair with your fingers
and whispered, "Yes, darling";
then softly grazed my lips with yours.

And all the while, I stare through the window.



Changed: posed to stood in S2L1
Changed: limed to rimed in S1L2 4/1/06




Toumai
Hi Mike

I always find your work fascinating and thought-provoking, so nice to have a pre-holiday treat with a new one (ta! ).

My first thought on seeing the title was of Churchill's description of depression - his black dog, never far away. However, I gather (from a bit of Googling, lol) that he himself didn't start that description  - he used "the black dog on my back" more as a description of a grumpy "got out of bed on the wrong side" mood.

So, in your poem, we may have a real black dog wandering in the icy garden, but perhaps we may also have a "black dog" of a narator, at least in his partner's eyes, as he stares balefully out of the window until she tries to distract him from that intense gaze.

Is the azalea salmon pink even in the mid-winter?

Right, I am probably way off the mark, and I need to go and clean the bathroom before the parents arrive, so I shall scuttle off before I can embarrass myself further.

Cheers,

Fran
Billydo
Hi Fran

QUOTE
I always find your work fascinating and thought-provoking, so nice to have a pre-holiday treat with a new one (ta! ).


Thank you ... that's very kind.

QUOTE
My first thought on seeing the title was of Churchill's description of depression - his black dog, never far away. However, I gather (from a bit of Googling, lol) that he himself didn't start that description  - he used "the black dog on my back" more as a description of a grumpy "got out of bed on the wrong side" mood.

This is the Black Dog of depression.
QUOTE
So, in your poem, we may have a real black dog wandering in the icy garden, but perhaps we may also have a "black dog" of a narator, at least in his partner's eyes, as he stares balefully out of the window until she tries to distract him from that intense gaze.

Is the azalea salmon pink even in the mid-winter?
No, that's why the stalks are stark ... clearly that does not work ... back t'drawing board.
QUOTE
Right, I am probably way off the mark, and I need to go and clean the bathroom before the parents arrive, so I shall scuttle off before I can embarrass myself further.

Pretty much bang on as usual. :)

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Cheers

Mike




Toumai
Cheers, Mike

Have a peaceful holiday.

Yes, I did wonder how the azalea could be salmon pink and stark at the same time ... but that may be just my perverse reading

Fran
PashernatePoet
Hi Mike.

Your piece induced a real visceral reaction in me, which is no bad thing. I, as well, picked up on the Black Dog of depression theme, which is pretty much evident from the sagging landscape.

My main point would be that the poem doesn't really give me much more than that. I understand that there's a mutual recognition of this lurking sadness between the narrator and his lover but all this leaves me with is the brooding edifice of unhappiness. What I mean is that I'm not sure if you've discussed the nature of depression or the narrator's depression or if you've really just said: this is depression.

Having said all that, I'm not even sure if it's a valid criticism. It's perfectly legitimate to try to conceptualise depression in this way and it avoids the self-indulgence that often comes about from trying to present the inner workings of unhappiness.

So I suppose my comment would be that I'm not sure of the motivation for writing this piece nor what the piece is trying to get at, in the sense that 'depression', as a concept, is rather vague.

Again though, I admire the imagery greatly and I think much of the language you use is sympathetic to your themes, not only in the chosen vocabularly but the sound and rhythm as well.


If you are happy with what the poem's conveying, then I'll just suggest a few small changes:

The Black Dog

The last sycamore leaves are overwhelmed:
they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass
and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

This morning, he posed in the back garden    

'Posed' sounds out of place - depression, as I understand you to be conveying it, lacks the kind of vanity the word sugggests, it makes the dog sound ornamental.

by the rhododendron - still heavy with leaf -
his breath condensing as pendulous drops
on the stark stalks of our salmon-pink azalea.

You brought me some tea and cake.
I asked, "Have you seen the black dog?"
You combed my hair with your fingers
and whispered, "Yes, darling";
then softly grazed my lips with yours.

And all the while, I stare through the window.
Billydo
Hi PashernatePoet

Thank you for your thoughts.

I wanted to take a pleasant scene ... a beautiful day, a tender moment, and negate everything good thing about it in order to capture that feeling of utter bleakness, futility and paralyzing hopelessness.

The sycamore is the tree of curiosity and all curiosity is gone; sugar frosting and quick-lime, all the associations of sun, flowers and bees are juxtaposed against the sinister image of the dog with the yellow eyes.

So, I'm pleased that your reaction was visceral because that was the intention.

I agree with you on the 'posed', now you have pointed it out. I wanted to create an 'always there in the background threat' but posed is too ornamental.

Thanks for that thoughtful review.

Cheers

Mike
Nina
Hi Mike

I hadn't heard of the black dog of depression so that metaphor passed me by.  However I still got the feeling of depression and sadness in the poem from the narrator's total lack of reaction to his partner's tender affection because he just continues to stare out of the window, not even looking at her.  

In some ways the dog feels a bit distanced from the narrator, kept at bay in the garden, near enough for there to be a connection with the man (the fixing of the yellow eyes) but not close enough to be overwhelming or too threatening.

This morning, he posed in the back garden
by the rhododendron


I agree with Liam that posed doesn't quite fit, perhaps lurking or roaming.  

I also wonder about the use of back garden since in the previous verse you have described the leaves on the drive and a drive is usually in the front of the house, perhaps you might omit back.

Certainly an unsettling piece that leaves the reader with a lingering sadnes and wanting more detail to form a more complete picture.

Nina
Arnfinn
Hi Mike,


The last sycamore leaves are overwhelmed:
they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass
and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

This morning, he posed in the back garden
by the rhododendron - still heavy with leaf -
his breath condensing as pendulous drops
on the stark stalks of our salmon-pink azalea.

You brought me some tea and cake.
I asked, "Have you seen the black dog?"
You combed my hair with your fingers
and whispered, "Yes, darling";
then softly grazed my lips with yours.

And all the while, I stare through the window.



Take the black dog out of the poem and you have the picture of colourful normality.
That is how it is with depression, the average person is aware brightness and the enthusiasm of life.
The depressed stare out from the window and see bleakness and futility.
Mention your feelings to others and they try to be helpful by being positive and agreeing with your outpourings.
Well, I was caught in the rigid stare of the yellow eyes of the black dog and felt thus.


John



 :troy:  :vic:




circumsolar
hello there, mr. billydo   wave.gif

exceptional work, imho, understated yet chilling and althought the 'black dog of depression' is, in itself, a tad cliche, you don't even touch that base with this work. It's sort of compulsive, fearful, yet almost hypnotic that feeling between the eyes of your narrator and the yellow stare of the dog... almost as if there's an acknowledgement there between the two that this thing is waiting out there, but that the narrator has to meet it halfway if it is to overwhelm him. Kind of  ???  There's something cool happening too with the fact that there's this pane of glass between the two - fragile and transparent, but still that final barrier... like the narrator can see the warning signs, it's clear to him, and there's a fear present about taking those steps beyond the point of no-return, but - for the time being - the darkness is still separated. It also makes me think like there's this idea lurking there of complicity... that the black dog's powers are incomplete until the narrator gives up completely. Oh, i know what i mean.


as for your salmon-pink azalea, that didn't give me a problem since i read it as the stems are bare of the plant that has salmon-pink blooms when in flower.

posed does feel misplaced, but i get what you're saying about it's presence there, contained, deliberate, like a wedge of blackness. i looked up the word to see what else might be offered, and it did have 'to place, to cause to take a certain attitude, to assume an attitude or character'... which, i guess, is pretty close to what you might want to show, but just under that was 'pose' (that e with a accent above it to sound 'a' which would sound all wrong in your line, but offered the meaning 'applied to a lion, horse etc, standing still with all four feet on the ground'. Probably doesn't help much though, does it?  Oo.gif wonder if maybe you could go with 'he appeared'? or just 'he was there'...

the tenderness and normality (desired normality anyway) is summed up with the tea and cake, and the softest brush of her lips on the narrator's own, though this leaves me with the feeling that perhaps the solidity -  the living, breathing wedge of blackness that's portrayed by this black dog - is more of a concrete image/reality to the narrator than the tenous physical touch of love in its settings of 'normality'.

can't stop thinking about this one, it's just one of those that opens out the more one does. nice one.


sorry, just came back to add something else: your 'they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass'...  it feels a tiny bit sugary, which may have been your intent anyway, setting up a good contrast. However, the sugar-frosting and the limed grass doesn't work so well (imo), and i kept wanting to see the grass not so much as 'limed' (which gives us that white-washed colouring which, again, sets a nice contrast for the blackness of the dog) as textural - like frost-sharp, or stiff... something more than the lack of colour, although that might be exactly what you needed to show us. As for your leaves, the word 'limned' kept jumping into my head, like illuminated around the edges, though i suspect that too doesn't do the image justice since while the word 'illuminated' suggests to us a certain brightness that could, at a stretch, be useful for the brightness of the frost rime, the illumination of 'limned' is really applicable for bright colours per se, where manuscripts were painstakingly beautified. oh well, maybe not then... but i still like illuminated as a light thing :D




circumsolar
tenuous, sorry, not tenous
ohsteve
I thought the black dog might be death and was just biding its time to come out from the back yard and take you away.....Just my read and my two cents.
Steve
Billydo
Thanks Nina

I've gone with stood rather than posed. I've kept in the idea of front and back. Initially I used front garden instead of drive. I wanted to create an idea of constant presence.

Yes, there is that idea of distance, but you can't go through the door because he'll get you. It's the constant background menace I wanted to achieve in part.

I'll be back as soon as I can to comment on the other posts.

Cheers

Mike




Billydo
Hi John

Thanks for that. Only once for me, thankfully, and it was nearly thirty years ago, faced with a situation I had to do something about, but could not control. Something I'll never forget.

Cheers

Mike
Billydo
QUOTE
hello there, mr. billydo   wave.gif

exceptional work, imho, understated yet chilling and althought the 'black dog of depression' is, in itself, a tad cliche, you don't even touch that base with this work. It's sort of compulsive, fearful, yet almost hypnotic that feeling between the eyes of your narrator and the yellow stare of the dog... almost as if there's an acknowledgement there between the two that this thing is waiting out there, but that the narrator has to meet it halfway if it is to overwhelm him. Kind of  ???  There's something cool happening too with the fact that there's this pane of glass between the two - fragile and transparent, but still that final barrier... like the narrator can see the warning signs, it's clear to him, and there's a fear present about taking those steps beyond the point of no-return, but - for the time being - the darkness is still separated. It also makes me think like there's this idea lurking there of complicity... that the black dog's powers are incomplete until the narrator gives up completely. Oh, i know what i mean.
I know what you mean, it's the combination of present gloom and potential blackness. It's a self propelling condition.

QUOTE
as for your salmon-pink azalea, that didn't give me a problem since i read it as the stems are bare of the plant that has salmon-pink blooms when in flower.
yep! Colour is not so far away. A matter of time but an eternity.
QUOTE
posed does feel misplaced, but i get what you're saying about it's presence there, contained, deliberate, like a wedge of blackness. i looked up the word to see what else might be offered, and it did have 'to place, to cause to take a certain attitude, to assume an attitude or character'... which, i guess, is pretty close to what you might want to show, but just under that was 'pose' (that e with a accent above it to sound 'a' which would sound all wrong in your line, but offered the meaning 'applied to a lion, horse etc, standing still with all four feet on the ground'. Probably doesn't help much though, does it?  Oo.gif wonder if maybe you could go with 'he appeared'? or just 'he was there'...
I went with 'stood'

QUOTE
the tenderness and normality (desired normality anyway) is summed up with the tea and cake, and the softest brush of her lips on the narrator's own, though this leaves me with the feeling that perhaps the solidity -  the living, breathing wedge of blackness that's portrayed by this black dog - is more of a concrete image/reality to the narrator than the tenous physical touch of love in its settings of 'normality'.

can't stop thinking about this one, it's just one of those that opens out the more one does. nice one.
Brill! Ta!

QUOTE
sorry, just came back to add something else: your 'they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass'...  it feels a tiny bit sugary, which may have been your intent anyway, setting up a good contrast. However, the sugar-frosting and the limed grass doesn't work so well (imo), and i kept wanting to see the grass not so much as 'limed' (which gives us that white-washed colouring which, again, sets a nice contrast for the blackness of the dog) as textural - like frost-sharp, or stiff... something more than the lack of colour, although that might be exactly what you needed to show us. As for your leaves, the word 'limned' kept jumping into my head, like illuminated around the edges, though i suspect that too doesn't do the image justice since while the word 'illuminated' suggests to us a certain brightness that could, at a stretch, be useful for the brightness of the frost rime, the illumination of 'limned' is really applicable for bright colours per se, where manuscripts were painstakingly beautified. oh well, maybe not then... but i still like illuminated as a light thing :D
I see what you mean. I was going for the two whites ... one sweetness and the other associated with dead bodies.  I think I'll consider changing 'limed' to 'brittle' but I also like your limned idea. Decisions, decisions.


Thank you very much for that. I'm pleased you enjoyed it. Is that the right thing to say?

Cheers

Mike




Billydo
Hi Steve

Ain't that the wonder of poetry.

Whatever floats yer boat. Thanks for commenting.

Cheers

Mike
circumsolar
mr. mike... a manchester lad, eh?

as for if Brill and ta are the right things to say, i saaaay "when one's too concerned for correctnesses, and being proper dictates one's words, then what one truly wants to say tends to go right outta the window", so just say what's in ya head to say, man, and correctnesses be damned  :highfive:
Cyn
QUOTE(Billydo @ Dec. 23 2005, 07:27)
The Black Dog

The last sycamore leaves are overwhelmed:
they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass
and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

This morning, he stood in the back garden
by the rhododendron - still heavy with leaf -
his breath condensing as pendulous drops
on the stark stalks of our salmon-pink azalea.

You brought me some tea and cake.
I asked, "Have you seen the black dog?"
You combed my hair with your fingers
and whispered, "Yes, darling";
then softly grazed my lips with yours.

And all the while, I stare through the window.



Changed: posed to stood in S2L1

There are many many things I like about this poem.

It leaves a shiver in what it implies but also makes you feel safe in the love and safety of your home.

I am also opposed to posed. I think your stood is better but maybe something like stood motionless might get your posed feeling across.

I like this poem and chose it to crit for my required first crit *because* I like it and don't have much to add LOL I am a chicken but never fear I will be coming out of my shell far too soon.

Cyn
Cleo_Serapis
Hi Mike.

Another very interesting and image-filled poem I'm glad to have read!  :sun:

I've made a note/suggestion for some slight changes in the opening stanza for you to ponder - please take or toss as you wish.

The last sycamore leaves are overwhelmed:
they lie sugar-frosted on the limed grass
and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

Overwhelmed, a finale of sycamore leaves
lie in a sugar-frosted menagerie on limed grass

and honey stone of the drive; around the feet
of the black dog fixing me with his yellow eyes.

This morning, he stood in the back garden
by the rhododendron - still heavy with leaf -
his breath condensing as pendulous drops
on the stark stalks of our salmon-pink azalea.  

I’m in love with the imagery Mike here in L and 4! wink.gif

You brought me some tea and cake.
I asked, "Have you seen the black dog?"
You combed my hair with your fingers
and whispered, "Yes, darling";
then softly grazed my lips with yours.

And all the while, I stare through the window.

I had wondered if you were set on the word 'window'? I was thinking of windowpane as an alternative. My only other thought is the abrupt ending - I wanted to find out what happened next? Did he go outside and frolic in the leaves?

Best regards.
Lori  :pharoah:
Billydo
Hi Cyn

Thanks for your first crit ... I'm flattered.

I think I'm happy with stood ... it's static enough and simple.

Cheers

Mike
Billydo
Hi Lori

Many thanks.

I was after conveying a feeling through imagery as simply as possible.

Window/Windowpane? I'll think about that and your other suggestion.

I changed limed to rimed because, whilst I wanted the quick-lime idea, it was too green. I might change it back again though.

What he does next is up to to you. :)

Cheers

Mike
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