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Advent, the Second Day: Teeling Small Batch

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et terra nostra dabit fructum suum.

In full parade, a second marching soldier –
Now up, now down, from head to chest, and left
To right across the scapula, from shoulder
To shoulder – signs the seal by spirit’s craft
A second day of Advent: falling out and feted
This Dublin distillate of lively liquid
From Marrowbone Lane is the golden mean
Conciliating holly’s red and green.
So malt and grain untouched by smoke can soothe a
Distinctive thirst – to infant bottle, once
And twice and thrice refined, this fractioned ounce
Announces itself uisce beatha
And halting stands at ease, his sentry post
A watch before the empty crib of Christ.

Advent, the First Day: Haig Club

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Et cum spiritu tuo

The battles fought, the whiskies drained, the spirits
Command the day that comes, some dreamer’s dram
To celebrate the First of Advent’s billets.
With joy’s anticipation, bob the tam
And strike the colors! Marshal Haig is marching
Across the field of battle, razing, torching,
Besieging taste with texture on the tongue.
This thirdling ounce engages old and young
And makes each tender-footed Yank a hero –
How else explain the velvet smoke and peat
Awash across a mountainside replete
With heath and history. From hayrick’s harrow
The Haig provides us easy means to wait
For Corporal Christ in swaddled epaulette.

Oath and Abundance

visitationFor Elizabeth, on her birthday

Elisheba, young Aaron’s wife, saw
The scorching sun and torrid sand
On Israel’s treck avow no shadow
Nor soothe the azure sky – such land
Where all the colors drained from Eden
And drowns a rainbow’s hope for heaven…
The voided desert shades refuse,
In justice, spectrum’s seven hues.

Elizabeth, though, aging wife to
Old Zachariah, sits and rests
And waits to see her promised guests
Descend the everlasting hills now
From heaven’s blue – her mantled earth,
An advocate for mercy’s birth.

Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 14-19

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One chapter down; forty to go! Today’s post concludes Part 1, Chapter 1 of my attempt to rewrite Crime and Punishment as a verse novel à la Eugene Onegin.

Click here and scroll down to review the story to date.

Thanks to all who have read along so far. As always, your comments — including, but not limited to, negative comments — would be very welcome.

Is the story bogging down at any point? Is the action or setting ever confusing? Are there any trite rhymes? Any syntactic absurdities, prosodic infelicities, or lapses of characterization?

And is there anything that ‘works’ especially well?

1.1.14
He scans the space: a table (smallish),
A sofa (tall), and chairs (a few) —
All cheap and old, yet bright with polish,
Immaculate; the floor gleams, too.
(‘Lizavéta’s work’, he thinks; ‘that’s certain.’)
Here hangs a small icon… A curtain
Hangs there, in lieu of bedroom doors;
Beyond it stands a chest of drawers,
He knows — though he has yet to enter
The shadow of that shrouded cell….
… His hostess pipes up sternly: ‘Well?’
‘I’d like to pawn…’ he says; presents her
A pocket watch (worn silver-plate).
‘Good sir, your payment’s two days late:

1.1.15
‘Your other pledge is past redemption.’
‘I know, Alyóna, ma’am — my ring….
Please give me just a month’s extension.’
‘I’ll do as I please with that thing.’
‘Well…. How much for this watch? It’s silver.’
‘Not even worth the work to pilfer
A piece of trash like that, my friend.’
‘It was my father’s…. If you’ll lend
Four roubles, ma’am, I will redeem it.’
‘I see. Before, I was too nice —
I lent you more than that ring’s price.
As for this watch, now, take or leave it:
A rouble and a half.’ ‘You might —
One and a half, good sir.’ ‘…….. All right.’

1.1.16
She takes her keys out of her pocket;
She takes his watch behind the shroud.
He strains his ears; hears her unlock it —
The top drawer, scraping high and loud….
While he had been discreetly peering
At her (right pocket’s) steely keyring,
One key’d looked larger than the rest:
(‘Not for a drawer…. A trunk? A chest?
… But this is all so nauseating!’)
‘You owe me thirty-five, all told.’
(She’s back!) ‘Here’s one-fifteen; I’ll hold
The watch.’ He stands there, hesitating —
Then speaks: ‘In one more day… or two
… I might… have another pledge… for you…

1.1.17
‘… A cigarette case… silver… fancy!’
‘All right. We’ll talk about it then.
Good night.’ ‘Your sister! Any chance she
Might sort of… sometimes… wander in?’
‘What do you want with Lizaveta?’
‘Oh, nothing, ma’am.’ ‘You want to meet her?’
‘No no, madame, I just… Good-bye.’
He turns, and goes — and starts to cry:
‘Oh God! Can I –? Can I imagine?
How could –? Is my mind capable –?
My heart, so hateful? Horrible!
A month! A month, bent to this passion –!’
His self-disgust is oceans wide….
He sinks, and chokes — and steps outside.

1.1.18
The evening sun continues bleeding
Its dying light upon the host
Of Petersburg, while, all unheeding,
Our Rodya passes like a ghost
Among them, heart and mind encumbered:
He reels, colliding like a drunkard
Along the boulevard, until
His feet and thoughts at last are still:
Up from a dingy basement tavern,
Two tipsy, cursing men emerge;
Raskolnikov now has the urge
To go spelunk that urban cavern.
A sticky table; frosty beer;
A gulp. His thoughts begin to clear!

1.1.19
‘No need to worry any longer,’
He says — and smiles! — with rising cheer.
‘A simple side-effect of hunger;
Just takes a little bread and beer!’
Smiles all around! Lighthearted, hearty,
He beams at one departing party
(Four men; a girl; accordion),
Grins at a fat Siberian.
Above the pale cucumber salads,
Black bread, and kippers past their peak
— Which emanate an evil reek —
Drone mediocre drinking ballads.
An ex-official sits aloof —
Alone, but for his eighty-proof.

Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 11, 12, & 13

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The adaptation of Crime and Punishment into a verse novel à la Eugene Onegin continues.

Click here to catch up on the story.

1.1.11

If you’ll excuse the interruption,
Dear reader — Something in the way
Of a digression on the Russian
For ‘crime’: It’s ‘prestuplénie’,
Which (in more literal translation)
Means (to a close approximation)
Transgression, or ‘a step across’ —
Concision’s gain, nuance’s loss.
(I claim no special erudition;
I’m just repeating what I’ve read,
But this is what I think it said
In Norton’s Critical Edition.)
We here conclude our brief aside
And rejoin Rodya in mid-stride.

1.1.12

He’s in. His hostess glowers sharply —
Sharp little eyes, sharp little nose:
A tiny, desiccated harpy,
Of sixty years, one would suppose.
Her head is bare; her hair is sallow,
Just touched with grey, smeared thick with tallow.
Her neck is yellow, long, and thin —
Much like the leg of some old hen.
Upon her shoulders hangs a mangy
Old capelet cut from yellowed fur,
For even summer’s cold to her.
She coughs, regarding Rodya strangely.
(‘Does she suspect –? Of course, I must
Act all-correct… establish trust…

1.1.13

‘… show some respect — That’s always prudent!’),
He thinks, and makes a little bow.
‘Raskolnikov, madame — a student.
I came last month…. I’ve come back now.’
‘I know, good sir.’ She’s brusque and hurried.
(‘Was she this way before? I’m worried….
Her piercing eyes… her voice’s edge….’
)
‘I’m here about — about a pledge!’
She glares, then points — still coughing, groaning,
‘In there, good sir.’ And so he goes
Into a faded room that glows
With ruby hues before the gloaming…
Stained scarlet by a long, late ray….
(‘The sun will blaze like thisthat day!’)

Raskolnikov – Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 9 and 10

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In honor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, whose feast-day was 14 February, here are the latest stanzas in my ongoing project of adapting Crime and Punishment to the sonnet-stanza form of Eugene Onegin. It’s been thirteen-and-a-half months since the last update, but, plot-wise, things are, I daresay, on the verge of getting real.

Click here to read the previous stanzas.

I welcome your comments, whether effusive or abusive.

1.1.9

The stairs he climbs are dark and narrow.
‘Still dark… still safe…. That’s good… but think!
Just now, I’m frozen to the marrow!
How, then, will I feel… on the brink
Of –?
’ Rodya all but crashes into
A pair of porters — two old men who
Are lugging down the furniture
From someone’s flat… Fourth floor! He’s sure
It’s from the old crone’s only neighbor.
‘That German clerk is clearing out
… So no one else will be about
If I…. That’s good! Then why belabor
The point? It’s time. I’m doing well….’
He’s at the door. He rings the bell —

1.1.10

And flinches from its tinny tinkling:
Its feeble chime seems to recall
Some distant, half-remembered inkling.
‘That certain sound…? It’s nothing! All
These flats have bells like that! … I know this!
Why did I cringe? It goes to show this
Is still too soon; I’m still too weak
For now!’ The hinges groan and creak:
A little gap; a glimpse; the glitter
Of wary eyes that peek, then spy
The porters and the clerk nearby.
The hag seems reassured a bit: Her
Apartment door now opens wide —
And now, our Rodya steps inside.

Like Rain and Thunder

Fire-Horizontal

On the west side of Front Street, flames
were temporarily retarded by the walls
of the Safe Deposit Building. On James
Street the fire shrinks and then even stalls,
but the pause is short. A pitiless wind
rose. Dancing orange demons grinned
in expectation before licking the glass
windows and fittings made of brass.
They soon leapt over to Gordon Hardware,
where the roar of their maws was punctuated
by tons of cartridges exploding, unabated.
Civilians dove for cover, said a prayer
and more, then waited in awe and wonder
as all the ammunition boomed like thunder.

Rumors of Death

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While discounting several rumors of death,
The Post Intelligencer was obliged to report
several casualties related in good faith:
An unknown man, trying to stop the fire short
of the trestle of the Oregon Improvement
Company, was struck by falling timber and sent
swiftly into the fire. Fireman Derby rushed
into the San Francisco Store and was crushed
by falling walls. Two blokes, looking tough,
were seen dashing into the Wa Chong
Co. for plunder amidst the pillage … wrong
place, wrong time. Already in flames, the roof
fell the moment they entered. He sendeth rain
on the just and the unjust
—but there is no rain.

Raskolnikov — Part 1: Chapter 1, Stanzas 7 and 8

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For those who never knew or have forgotten, I’ve been rewriting Crime and Punishment as a verse novel in the style of Eugene Onegin.

Click here for the story up to now.

Here’s the latest ladle of psycho-stroganoff. As before, your candid appraisal would be most welcome. That includes criticism, constructive or otherwise.

1.1.7

Each fateful footfall draws him nearer:
His destination looms ahead,
Its details redrawn larger, clearer.
He counts each step with mounting dread
And racing heart as he retraces
The seven-hundred thirty paces
From his room to… that place’s door.
What seemed an ugly dream before
Now fills imagination’s page
With dialogue… direction… action.
Repulsion yields to the attraction
Of playing that scene on that stage.
Despite his nerves, he can’t reverse.
He mounts the stage; he must rehearse.

1.1.8

Between canal and Sadóvaya,
It rises — the familiar shock:
Higher and higher, layer on layer,
That building hulks above its block.
Within its warrens dwell assorted
Tradespeople; Germans; unsupported
Young ladies…. Now the fading day’s
Rush-hour foot-traffic runs two ways:
Both back and forth; its hot disorder
Swarms two courtyards. Through one yard’s gate,
Into a stairwell, swift and straight,
Unseen by any lurking porter
(Four porters work here… maybe three?),
Slips Rodya, thinking ‘Lucky me!’

Adam Connel

A couple of alert young guardsmen apprehended a man clothed in four new suits.

A man named Adam Connel, lurking
Behind the shell of what had been
The tailor’s — where his wife was working
When fire’d come like Adam’s sin —
Peeked in. Against the soot, red dapples
Attracted his attention: apples
His wife had left behind, unburned
Somehow and sweet, so Adam turned
And, seeing no one looking, hastened
Within to have a taste. The juice
Was dribbling down his chin like sluice
When Adam saw the suits. They glistened
Like royal robes of silken thread.
So Adam put them on and fled.

image source

Sebastian Ness

One man found a large lump of melted gold and the haste with which he shoved it under his coat and made off was astonishing. He was chased several blocks by the police, but was not captured.

Sebastian Ness was kicking through the
Still cooling ash at First and Main
When something solid led him to the
Enticing thought that not in vain
A gloved hand might venture, bending,
To touch some mystery, depending
On fortune’s smile to turn his fate
From lead to gold, to love from hate.
The lump he lifted flamed like foil
Beneath the blue, bird-speckled skies,
And Ness took flight with silent cries
That oozed out from his soul like oil.
His feet were fleet and did not pause
To ponder morals, rights, or laws.

Furth Steps Forth

… when firemen pried up planks from the sidewalk near the north end of the block, intense heat drove them back. The basements of buildings were roaring furnaces …

Jacob Furth, dressed in tails and top hat,
was hastening across Western Avenue
when he saw smoke rising around a slat
near the curb. He hailed a fire crew
busy hauling hoses toward the dock
at Pier Two, then knelt on the boardwalk
to get a closer look. Felt the plank
for heat. As the firemen began to yank
loose the boards, Furth stepped back
to survey the entire block. Up the street
there was a shout, then a blast of heat
as the firemen fell back, their faces black
with smoke. Furth stepped forth … nervous …
the basement itself was a roaring furnace.

The Denny Party Clears a Hill

Seattle was founded by members of the Denny party, most of whom arrived at Alki Beach on November 13, 1851 and then, in April 1852, relocated to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay. With the filing of the first plats on May 23,1853, the “Town of Seattle” became official. – “Seattle: A Brief History of Its Founding”

That settled it. Our hunger beckoned
We cross the bay once winter ate
Our stores; here, clearing trees, we reckoned
To tip the balance back to what
We had in Illinois, what took us
To Alki Point, and there forsook us.
So timber shivers, cedar shakes
And lumber quivers, falls and stakes
Our claim to land. We mean to bear it
When snow and rising winds combine
To needle sighs from match-stick pine.
For future’s fire (Can man endure it?)
Ignites the morning, tree by tree,
And lights our dawning industry…

The Last Coffee

It was our final midday coffee
Before the world had singed our ears –
Then, cupboard doors flew off, and whisky
And tumbler served to douse my fears
With flame – soon shooting horizontal
Across the sky while sacramental
Destruction drapes an ashen pall.
You looked at me – and saw it all
But kept your wits and rose to gather
The full importance: “Smoke, not steam
Is now your business, Rob. The dream
Of Pontius Pilate’s wife would rather
That Rome not face that man, the Jew.
And what’ll Seattle do to you?”

Melissa’s Dream

A naked Mr. Back was courting
My hand behind your back. He slipped
His hand beneath my skirt, and hurting
He pulled it quickly back. He gripped
And held it out – all burnt and throbbing,
A hive of bees. He kept on sobbing,
“My hand! My hand!” The honey dripped
Like molten blood from icy crypt,
Igniting parquet floor and ceiling.
Our bedroom chamber burned to hell –
I called, you came, and silence fell
(With Mr. Back on prie-dieu kneeling).
You pulled at hose along my thigh –
But could you reach a fire that high?

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Moran Composes His Will

I flipped a switch and ghosts were banished
By cold electric light. The bed
And room were bare. Melissa vanished
And silence hummed with words unsaid.
Rosario and I said farewell
(I left her by the servant’s stairwell)
And Argus-eyed, her windows blazed
With conquered fire – I’m still amazed
That tame destruction had established
A city: Sown as dragon’s teeth
A million volts had sprung a myth
And shone, a jewel that’s never polished –
Secure the flame and time forgets
The gross reward that nets regrets.

The Prophet Rises

June 7, 1889

The smoking signal of disaster
Is blanketing the sky and makes
Its message known: the cracked pilaster
And crumbled tombs on Blake’s
Discovered island rumble thunder –
The earth, a curtain, slips from under
The waking ghost of Chief Sealth
Upon the dawn, his day of death,
The seventh day of June, some twenty
And three Duwamish seasons dead,
Has raised a hand above a head
Still crowned in clouds of silver, flinty
As words that sparks his tongue to speak
And cut through smoke on mountain’s peak.

Read All About It

The Post-Intelligencer outlines –
(The second column from the left,
Above the fold) in piled headlines
With fonts of varied size and heft
That spread the burning news post-haste and
Describe how all the Southern lowland
Was sunk beneath a fiery sea –
The awful news: that charred debris
Is all Seattle has to sell now.
The paper tallies up the cost
The acres, blocks, and millions lost –
Both brick and wood made food for hell now –
But ends with this more hopeful claim:
A phoenix rising from the flame.