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All You Ploughboys *

Young men and rural life
have a romantic tone, the vocabulary
of another era. My question is,
do we need to know more, or less?
Regardless, it’s electric and unsettling
and delights me.
(Like two sides of a coin,
lines seem to connote violence,

So many things point to an unnamed act
of violence. I think of murder
over and over. (The voice is strange
and compelling—
declarative love hinges each transition.)
The only question is: Do something horrible?
Tell too much? Something’s missing here,
and this sets me up. Guilt? Conceit?


The rest of the world has a hidden darkness
I somehow admire. Whoever goes “all the way,”
even if the implication is sinister,

I can’t tie. This isn’t a problem for me—
I love echoes, how cadences
get recycled. I struggle mostly
with endings
I can’t connect to. (Ending
seems too forward; the tone
I’d be curious to see
is something sick.)

A dislocating moment unsettles
linguistically. More interesting than this,
I think the repetition of
“I am now to do something”
could really affect
small moments. Work becomes integral,
ties gestures (with a lower-case “g”)
one hundred percent. Until the final
when elements previously functioning

Love! The inversion
where I feel like there’s a literal
as well as figurative movement
I can’t quite get a grip on,
which to me is a large part
of the appeal. Patterns of repetition
create a hypnotic texture—
re-purposing language suggests a world
that is inventing and re-inventing itself.
(The speaker declares himself capable.
Anything hinged is compelling.)


Whatever the speaker sees is underlying this.
I’m dying to know what it is. (I’m not sure
I should.) Rhythm seems like odd wording,
perhaps because it pollutes. Generally,
an object is implied,
a kind of nausea. (“Should I be reading this?”)
Sex? A play? Houses? The horrible act
of visualizing? A few clinging clothes?
Seems ridiculous.
(Make us believe! I want to see you! Push farther!)

I’m not sure this is working,
unless the “horrible thing” is having your way
with cows. (Kidding! I really like
all the reversals in this poem.)
This is strange enough, relatively innocuous,
maybe sweet. Lovely
how the meaning changes. (Could also be,
solved.) I don’t know if this is sinister.


Fatalistic phrases function as euphemism
or metaphor. (Callous violence, destruction?
Never happens.) 

I pause here—shift tone—and it helps me 
make sense of it.


Seth, carrying a sense of inarticulate isolation
and contempt,
a vaguely conflicted motive—
a boy in a swamp—
has a way of avoidance. (Conviction
is constructed style.) Circle the emotion that
needs work:

1. “functioning”
2. “close”
3. “actual”
4. “wind blowing over a lake”

Make it strange! Father and mother as words
carry weight. You are describing stars
naturally—a part of the scene—but defamiliarize years.
I’m not sure if I’m being clear enough:





The secret to “the middle of there” is, lose momentum 
somehow. In the middle.
You’ll enjoy it, once it gets more sinister.

Posted 10/15/13
This poem is an erasure of workshop comments received on the poem "All You Ploughboys," from Thievery (University of Akron Press, 2013). Eight pages of workshop comments from a University of Wisconsin-Madison course were used; each stanza in the poem above comes from a discrete comment sheet, though most comment sheets contributed more than one stanza to the erasure.
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