Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another Poem for Poetry Thursday

X's and O's

At the cocktail party
you are the X
in a room full of O's.
They are everywhere
while you, the lone X,
wait in silence
for your first engagement
into conversation
that never comes.
How they think you don't notice:
crossing the room
to avoid conversation,
pretending, if approached,
not to hear,
going out of their way
to deny acquaintance.
The X is used to going it alone.
From their vantage
displeasure is X.
And there you are
in medias reys--
every insecurity
filling your pockets
like old napkins.
What do you really know
of this world
and its soft hurts?
What do you know about
the power of X? Still,
you have to give it to the O's--
they recognize the order of things,
and how to speak the words
not yet spoken.



I wanted to write a poem that was somewhat generic but still a bit confessional. But at some point, I took "me" out of the poem an opted for the more universal "you." The concept: anyone can be an X or and O. Anyone can be a minority in the broadest sense of the word, and even if you expect it, it still can be disarming. How many times have you been on the outside looking in?

By taking myself out of the poem, it becomes harder to end because I'm missing the emotional attachment. At this stage, I think my ending falls flat so I'd like to see where it goes with the next revision.

I'm feeling a bit like an X posting an unfinished poem for Poetry Thursday.

16 comments:

Suzie said...

I LOVE the Xs and Ox analogy, like coded love, a hidden romantic mystery, elusive and hard. Awesome work!

Cate said...

Like Suzie, I love the analogy. This poem works because, as you've said, the sense of minority can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Another absolutely penetrating poem, January!

jim said...

January, you ARE good.

But I do see how the ending, which does go universal, is being proffered as a lesson that goes outward. It is very smart, and I believe it, but the poetry part of it does go flat. Hmmm.

I wonder if the singularity of the I wouldn't cure that impulse. I don't mind at all reading poems that risk my alienation, as long as they get to the business of theirs truths. Besides, I'm a big reader (multitudinous, large, contradictory--I'm a Whitman as a reader).

bb said...

Hey- I'm all for shifting pronouns today :-)
I think you're capturing the essence of the confessional poet, the poet as troubador, as the one in exile, as the one who stands outside of the crowd.
If you're looking for reader pointers, I must admit I get confused at this point
*What do you really know
of this world
and its soft hurts?
What do you know about
the power of X? * I'm not sure if this is still the 'you' of the x or if the poem has shifted to the 'you' of the o.
But thank you so much for giving me a glimpse into your work in progress. Keep with it because it's definitely a keeper - the idea's got real spark!

January said...

Great feedback, Jim and BB. Exactly what I'm looking for.

The poem is so tight in the beginning, and then it loses something along the way.

*sigh*

And that is why the poem is a work in progress.

THANKS!

ecm said...

I really liked "every insecurity/filling your pockets/like old napkins" and "world and it's soft hurts"
I can relate to x...

LJCohen said...

every insecurity
filling your pockets
like old napkins.
What do you really know
of this world
and its soft hurts?


Good stuff here--whatever you play with, please keep this image of the napkins. I could relate.

ljc
(another MA poetry blogger)

Lynn said...

I love the image of insecurity filling pockets like old napkins and the way you follow that up with “soft hurts.” Goooooood stuff.

And Jim, what a wonderful comment, I don't mind at all reading poems that risk my alienation, as long as they get to the business of theirs truths. I am printing that out and putting it somewhere so I can always see it.

Happy Poetry Thursday!

Anonymous said...

stumbled here from new york hack site.
very nice. i love the blurb down the left hand column at the start. sweet like chocolate.

cordelia
xox

GreenishLady said...

I liked this sOOOO much because the X and the O can stand for anything. We can find ourselves in a room and not "fitting in" because we're wrong size, shape, wearing wrong clothes, carrying the wrong money, have the wrong accent, don't understand the words being used, came from the wrong place... and so many "soft hurts" come from all those feelings. X stands for the universal. Very well done.

January said...

Thanks greenishlady, that's exactly what I was hoping to do.

I had to reel myself in with the X--too easy to go into so many directions.

VLAW said...

X's and O's

At the cocktail party
you are the X
in a room full of O's.
They are everywhere
while you, the lone X,
wait in silence
for your first engagement
into conversation
that never comes.


Great beginning, great metaphor.

How they think you don't notice:
crossing the room
to avoid conversation,
pretending, if approached,
not to hear,
going out of their way
to deny acquaintance.


These 7 lines descend into the land of "tell." You could "show" this better – describe a forest green heeled shoe turning away from X on a Persian rug; a curtain of glossy black hair swirling as it turns away from X, or something.

The X is used to going it alone.
From their vantage
displeasure is X.


More "tell."

And there you are
in medias reys--
every insecurity
filling your pockets
like old napkins.


This matches the beginning for strength. The old napkins are inspired. In medias "res", though.

What do you really know
of this world
and its soft hurts?
What do you know about
the power of X?


Who are these questions addressed to? X? Open-ended questions are more satisfying to the writer than the reader. This may be better formulated as an assertion – show us the power of X.

Still,
you have to give it to the O's--
they recognize the order of things,
and how to speak the words
not yet spoken.


I find this ending deflating. Your ending could be much stronger. You have a great start going here. Good luck with the revision!

January said...

Wow! Thanks for the level of detail. I'll let you know when I have second draft to see.

Writing Blind said...

"filling your pockets/like old napkins."

Love, love, love this line.

paris parfait said...

Fascinating poem - love it!

chiefbiscuit said...

Love the 'soft hurts'. great stuff! A great idea to write it about x and o. Gives that distance ... but creates a tension at the same time.

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