Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodnight Irene

















I am writing by the flame of an oil lamp,
plodding along with an LED* flashlight -
word by word - six days after the storm.

It is two a.m. and I can’t sleep
in the absolute blackness of a night
without power. There is no moon.

Old thoughts and new mingle
in nightmare confusion -
in this stifling atmosphere

of desperate dark.
Dreams of years ago - so real;
I feel even now the grip

of a cat’s teeth in my left hand-
hanging over the edge of the bed-
my scream of fear

when I first began the novel.
No words of any use come now
to propel the story along.

I can’t make connections;
all that comes to mind is forced;
I waste the paper I write on.

I am reduced to a yellow flame
and a tiny blue-white spotlight –
crying to my ghosts to return.


  Hurricane Irene: 8/28/2011
*Light Emitting Diode: A semiconductor device with two terminals,
  allowing the flow of current in one direction only.

Original Library of Congress recording of Goodnight Irene
 by Lead Belly in the Louisianna State Penitentiary. 

Posted for
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26 comments:

  1. 'desperate dark' - what a fabulous phrase.
    I tensed as I read your words and felt the underlying distress.

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  2. oy i have felt this utter writing desolation...may your muse strike as a storm and pour down...smiles.

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  3. Haunting piece, really evokes the presence of the image and lets hope not too many ghosts show up...haha

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  4. I'm just imagining that tiny blue-white spotlight, calling to your ghosts.

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  5. Mysterious and black thoughts on a black night. Well written Mag, which makes me know what happens next.

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  6. This is powerful,
    I am reduced to a yellow flame
    and a tiny blue-white spotlight –
    calling to my ghosts.

    (and that line - I waste the paper I write on -
    I found very hard to read... but it nestles in a poem that contradicts by its skill, and very existence:)

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  7. I know these wild thoughts in an insomniac's night...

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  8. I have lived through three hurricanes ... two of them coming in the night. I found your Magpie chilling and quite wonderful.

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  9. Your poetry never fails to grip me.

    I have no personal experience of a hurricane in the night, but your poem takes me to where the ghosts arise.

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  10. You're so good at kind of easing the reader along and then delivering an ending that's hard to forget. Nicely done as always, Ann.

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  11. The 'desperate dark' is so powerfully evoked here Ann. I find it hard to think of any paper you write on as a waste but I know only too well the feeling and experience of forcing words. This speaks so much to us as writers - with all our fears and insecurities. But then there is the writing, despite it all, the brilliance of your poem defies the dark night.

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  12. You capture the feeling of desperation well. I also thought "Goodnight Irene" when the rains came (and kept coming!)

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  13. I'm lingering right now digging on this Leadbelly recording....

    The cat's teeth image - the whole stanza - tears this poem out of the mundane, elevates far above, I think, the image/prompt.

    Strange, that an expression of failure can be so potent, and ironic that part of that strength comes from making a connection between the experience of riding out the hurricane (and its aftermath) and a part of the psyche left in disarray.

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  14. good to see you at dverse as well...smiles.

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  15. hmmmm I don't think you waste the paper you write on- at all!!! this is intense and beautiful poetry
    thanks for sharing

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  16. Ann, I enjoyed your comment at Night Blooms. Thank you for being brave and persistent!

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  17. Wow! I was a moth, trapped in the light of your lantern, as you struggle through to find your words. A wonderful submersion in an overwhelming (and all too common) dilemma!

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  18. Writer's block the nth degree! powerful but if you just wrote this captivating piece then you certainly have found some beautiful words to write!

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  19. great how you take an image - everyday image and
    make it a powerful statement

    of a cat’s teeth in my left hand

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  20. You capture desperation...all that comes to mind is forced...some days are just that way.

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  21. amazing... you didn't waste any paper here that's for sure.

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  22. writing by the flame of an oil lamp and LED flashlights sounds fantastic smiles...love the inclusion of six days after the storm...makes for a great extra effect...hope the inspiration pours down like rain soon...

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  23. I'm glad I got round to reading this at last, even though a bit late. I don't wonder that your muse has shrunk from the total blackout - so would I. Mind you, your lamplight brought her close enough for you to write this heartfelt piece. ♥

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  24. Your poetry really grips me and I can imagine the spotlight on your ghost. You are such a wonderful poet and writer I do enjoy reading your blog so much. Thanks for sharing this I am so glad I dropped by to read your excellent words and inspiration to me.
    http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/09/27/addiction-to-solitaire/#comment-1224

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  25. This is an interesting take on this image and I love the way you have used it to focus your feelings and thoughts. Some beautiful turns of phrase there...

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