Erasure Poem: Faded Lustre

Anna Montgomery, illustrious host of tonight’s Meeting the Bar at dVerse, prompts us to try our hand at an erasure poem, a type of found poem using an existing text. This is a very fun exercise—why don’t you join in?

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about on the carpet,–a little personage who had come mysteriously out of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by the child’s look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter Hovenden’s habitual expression. He could have fancied that the old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the malicious question: “The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?”
“I have succeeded,” replied the artist, with a momentary light of triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such depth of thought that it was almostsadness. “Yes, my friends, it is the truth. I have succeeded.”
“Indeed!” cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out of her face again. “And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the secret is?”
“Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come,” answered Owen Warland. “You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the secret! For, Annie,–if by that name I may still address the friend of my boyish years,–Annie, it is for your bridal gift that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,–forgive me, Annie,–if you know how–to value this gift, it can never come too late.”
He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly, which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered forth, and, alighting on her finger’s tip, sat waving the ample magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were softened into the beauty of this object. Nature’s ideal butterfly was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed instinct with spirit.

Faded Lustre
The artist 
with something so real
moulded this hopeful
momentary light 
yet steeped
in such depth of sadness
produced by his own hand
as if
to express by words
the pattern of faded
This is from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Artist of the Beautiful.” I just read this yesterday so it was fresh in my mind—not particularly creative with the design here, but such as it is. I pretty much left it as I found it, without punctuation. The only change—I de-capitalized the “T” in “this” (line 3). I thought hard about replacing “lustre” with the word “paradise,” and still think it might be better. I stuck with lustre for now since I used the word “light” in line 4. Seems to be more consistent, but either word feels right.

First Love

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words clench, faint, prod. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight.

First Love
That Florida summer, the year
you moved in next door, we’d crawl
under the barbed wire fence
to meet each morning
in the hayfield,
prodded by some power
neither of us understood.
With clenched hands we’d
clumsily kiss, and in the faint
daylight return our
separate ways. Summer passed,
and now I can’t even remember
your name.


For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words vision, motion, peaceful. Also submitted to dVerse OpenLinkNight, day late and a penny short.

We put pennies
on the track and waited
for the 2:00 train
to come blowing by,
curious to see
Lincoln’s face pressed
into peaceful copper
oblivion. Scoot, the
neighborhood know-it-all,
had told us that 
if some federal agent
happened to be spying
on us we could be
arrested for defacing
government property
and he hoped we’d all
be happy spending
a hundred years behind
bars. Or, with convincing
proof he explained
that even a penny
could disrupt the train’s
smooth motion, cause
it to jump rail
and dump its freight
from here to Royal Street.
Still we put
our pennies down,
ducked low behind
the shrubs and waited,
encouraged by Scoot’s vision
of cars and coal

piled in our backyards.

Blake-ish Poems

(original artwork by yours truly)
Instructional Poems for Young and Old 
(with a Practical Moral to Close Each Piece) 

Little Mouse so proudly sat

on kitchen table, plump and fat.
Mrs. Mouse, as mothers do,
said, “I should be so very blue
if Mr. Cat should find you there
and eat you, bone, skin, and hair.”
Little Mouse, against her fears
let her words go out his ears.
A pounce. A crunch. And then a fart:
Sometimes staying ain’t so smart.
Mr. Cat asked, “Mrs. Mouse,
would you come into my house?”
Mrs. Mouse said, “Mr. Cat,
I am fine just where I’m at.”
“But look and see—it is quite nice.
A perfect place to raise some mice.
It’s warm and dry; you’ll live in style,
not like in your old woodpile.”
“All the same, I think I’ll pass”:
Sometimes staying saves your ass.


A word about this set of poems. I actually wrote and posted them a few months ago, but since they were not linked to any online poetry groups they had maybe a dozen readers. So while they are not spankin’ brand new, they are gently used and I feel justified in reposting. I think they fit what Victoria Slotto, host of tonight’s Meeting At the Bar over at dVerse, is looking for. Or one can sincerely hope so.

Now, as for the literary influence, I definitely had William Blake in mind when I wrote them, specifically Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. I’ve spent a lot of time with Blake, and he has undoubtedly worked an influence on my own stuff. There are superficial similarities between these poems and Blake’s, such as the title. And the original artwork. (For those not familiar, Blake is as well-known for his striking “illuminations” as he is for his poems. I have my doubts whether my drawing will enjoy the same appeal.) Couched within the sometimes (seemingly) simplistic poems contained in Songs, especially those in the Innocence section, Blake deals with some deeper issues of human existence. I like the way he views things from more than one perspective, and it is this aspect of Blake I was most trying to mimic. I also admit to poking fun at the moralistic poems geared toward children that were popular at the time.

All that aside, I’ve written what my oldest daughter calls “sad” poems the last few weeks, so it was time for some fun. But look closely–there may be a deeper message somewhere in there after all!


Karin Gustafson, hosting the latest prompt over at dVerse, offers us the chance to write about war, peace, and like topics. I just pulled an all-night shift, so I can’t tell how jumbled up this is, but I’m sending it along anyway. 

As the dew falls, easing down
on the new-mown meadow
like a gentle morning kiss,
she wanders over the wet
grass and weeps. Her son is
not coming home. His body, toughened
by boot camp and sent to the desert,
is blown into red fragments by
some other mother’s boy,
unrecoverable, like a
memory erased.
The government men who
brought her the news told her she
should be proud, but on this morning,
crossing the pathless field
where her boy played away
his childhood, she cannot
escape her loss. Her mind travels
across miles, thinking of
all he must have suffered—
and she wonders just now if
across some scorched dune another
mother wanders and weeps
her loss. She knows she
should return to the house;
her work awaits. The dew lifts,
and she walks on
without leaving a trace.


A great time is starting tonight over at dVerse, where Raivenne has challenged us to write a poem in Than Bauk form. Never tried this before, but it was good to stretch out a bit–I enjoy playing around with words and sounds. Hope I came close to adhering to the formal rules. (For some reason, this one turned out far darker than I intended.)

I should have gone
when day dawned, you
withdrawn inside
yourself. You’d sighed,
a gulf wide, sheer
divide between
us. Still between
sheets, crime scene, blue-
light sheen, breathless.

The Witness

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words compromise, decision, forward. Also submitted, howbeit late (as usual), to the OpenLinkNight over at dVerse

The Witness
She bends forward, low
over etched granite,
her small shoulders making
a sorrowful tremor
in the field of solid stone.
I did not mean to spy
on her private grief,
as her tears mingled
with the morning mist,
but I could not
turn away, I could
not turn away.
Did she beg
for a compromise, a
“Take me instead,”
while full knowing
the final decision
had already been made?
or was she here only
to make late amends
for past regrets? I did
not ask, but like the
stone bore silent witness
to life and death.


At tonight’s dVerse prompt, poetess and host Anna Montgomery asks us to try a poem that blends high and low art. It sounded fun so I gave it a good try–hope you can join in.

This worrisome mosquito,
                                                         grim demon
haunting the marshes, marauding round the heath
and the desolate fens,
restlessly buzzing
and biting, will not take
a hint
for my flesh is food
indeed, and my blood
is drink indeed
and she is hungry
for blood, the very wealth
of my life, so that her
own life might be sustained.
Some god or saint
may gladly give all,
may bow the head
for the life of the world
but I’m not ok with that.
So I swat and smack,
intent to kill, but she
evades and lands
once more.
                        This time, I let
her poke her proboscis
in deep, let her eat
her fill and swell up
Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row
as ever you can; fill your dam’ bellies
‘till dey bust—and den die.
With one hit I end
her meal, and am left with
my own blood on my hand.

Not sure if I’m on the right track. The subject, biting mosquitoes, seems pretty “low art” to me. The italicized portions are quotes from what might be considered “high art” sources. The first is from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf; the next two are from the Gospel of St. John; the last is from Melville’s Moby Dick