843 Readings | 3 Ratings

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,
repetition.)

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
repetition,
when elements previously functioning
discern

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:

DO SOMETHING HORRIBLE. 

BE A GOOD SPEAKER.

MUDDLE. ALIENATE. POINT BETWEEN LINES.

FORCE “STATEMENT” TO END.

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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