Young Poets Network

Posted 03.06.11 in Writing

‘come back’ by Helen Bowell

eyes like keystrokes,
hair
the black and white teeth
of Schubert’s favourite song
interlacing, replacing baroque and romantic and ragtime and jazz and
rock and bloody roll,
her teeth: here they are,
here we go.
her band
ready,
her hands
steady,
she doesn’t
go,
her heart like
drumsticks slicked
with the sweat of
the percussionist,
her heart like the
drumsticks he drops
and hesitates before picking up
to check
nobody was looking.
her voice is not flat,
not sharp,
just natural, just one of those
huge church organs from your childhood,
a pedal and a bellow and the firewood for the fire.
and she looks directly into the
world through the camera
(roll the camera!
roll the eyes!)
and she picks you out
yes
she picks
you
out –
you know who you are,
like the lonely bass line
at the end of a melody:
and says,
“I’ve missed you like the last page of
Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.
I’ve missed this.” 

Helen Bowell wrote come back in response to Joelle Taylor’s ‘No Man’s’ Land’ Challenge

Joelle Taylor says: There are moments of pure confidence and utter genius within this poem; in fact throughout most it. The most stunning section for me is “her heart like…” to the crescendo of “I’ve missed you like the last page of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.” The beginning is slightly more problematic for me. When you say here eyes are “keystrokes” do you mean like semi-quavers or crotchets on music scores? I think that might work a little better – remember when you are using similes and metaphors for this kind of thing it is useful to find objects that not only embody the emotion you are trying to convey, but also look like the thing you are replacing with a simile. Another simile for eyes in a big theatre would of course be the spotlights – but I appreciate in your poem your focus in more on the art form than on the venue. You give superb detail – the church organ, the dropped drumstick – which is the perfect way of getting the reader to connect with the piece. You involve us with the writing, and I want to read more of your work. I would say that is success then!

Comments (3)

3 Responses to “‘come back’ by Helen Bowell”

  1. bethy says:

    This is gorgeous, so jazzy! And it has so much confidence about it, I like that a lot :)

    “nobody was looking.

    her voice is not flat,

    not sharp,

    just natural, just one of those

    huge church organs from your childhood,

    a pedal and a bellow and the firewood for the fire.”

  2. Helen says:

    Thank you so much for the feedback :) I agree about the beginning – I just wasn’t sure how to improve it. The keystrokes were really meant to be more a reference to the keys on a piano – black and white; simple. The hair like the black and white teeth (keys again) were meant to be descriptive, because her hair is streaked black and white. But none of that really comes across very well – I’ll have another go at it. Thanks again!

    A little something is missing, though – you’ve missed off another ‘L’ at the end of my last name – it’s ‘Bowell’. :)

    Bethy: thank you a bazillion!

  3. The Wig says:

    ‘the black and white teeth
    of Schubert’s favourite song’

    Oh my. *if only stealing was legal* :P