Earful

A distillation and clarification of last night’s response to the RWP prompt. Now I think I’m getting somewhere.

Oh rare & wild ear, translate these nuggets of noise until they gleam. I am too restless with desire’s ever-shifting surfaces to coalesce around a single planet or communion cup. I hear the ticking in a slab of meat, the crackling of an old 78 record pitted with meteorites of dust. A bird lisps its satisfaction in a minor key & I hear a spare sorrow, a sparrow’s grief. Ear like the ornate lip of a jar, part human, part gyroscope: no matter how I turn, you keep me from falling. Bare twigs of synapses light up until the whole gray cage is aglow, some autumn morning.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

17 Comments


  1. Oh yes. I’m always so skeptical of exercises like this, but you’re making me want to try one!

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    1. I’m skeptical, too, but only of those who let the rules constrain them. This kind of exercise is valuable in the same way that writing a sonnet or ghazal can be valuable, by forcing one to consider words and combinations of words foreign to one’s habitual trains of thought. And I know I don’t need to convince you of the importance of resisting ruts!

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  2. Ruts! You are the paradigm ORV.

    Ticking bacteria work better, but I did love the original allusion to ticking meat. We are but meat-bombs, awaiting a Death-triggered heart explosion.

    Quick: what is the sf story in which one alien tries to convince an incredulous fellow that humans are “meat, meat, meat all the way down?”

    I may have read this in an orthodontist’s office, circa 1973.

    [Editor’s note: This comment refers to an earlier version of this poem in which the third sentence began, “I hear the bacteria ticking in a slab of meat…”]

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    1. I’ve never been called an off-road vehicle before, but O.K.! (You know those things carve ruts almost everywhere they go, though, right?)

      I’ll let you and Barbara (see below) argue about whether I should’ve put the bacteria in there. I sometimes wish I didn’t feel such a compulsion to make at least some kind of sense in my poetry, but to one’s own self be true, I guess. Not familiar with that SF reference. Maybe someone else will be.

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  3. I like the poem MUCHO Mr Bonta. I didn’t want to look at it before writing mine, for fear of stealing you images, and a good thing too, else I’d have stolen “lip of a jar.”

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    1. Steal all you want, as long as I get credit. :) But I’m glad the title proved such a useful prompt. It was fun watching your poem unfold on Twitter.

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  4. So glad you kept the first of the line … can’t express how delighted I find this poem in its altogetherness. Every word just. So.

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  5. Ah, this is nice. I haven’t made it past your previous step. I hope you don’t throw away “ticking meat” which gave me a whole raft of thoughts–hearts, clocks, deists. Love the ear/jar/gyroscope chain.

    The physical form works really well for this, which no one would mistake for prose.

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    1. I didn’t quite do away with the ticking meat, but I did explain it — which may or may not have been a mistake. Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback.

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  6. I love how you gave us a window into your process by presenting both poems. It gave me a better sense of what to do with this method (though I’m humbled by where you took it). “O rare and wild ear”: I have a feeling that line might stick with me for some time.

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    1. Hey, thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you found the presentation useful. In the past, I’ve been reluctant to share early drafts, since I tend to view this blog more as a publication than a notebook — but of course there’s no reason why it can’t be both.

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  7. I should have guessed that ORV, like necrotizing fasciitis, is impossible to twist into compliment. Any allusion to adventure is necessarily subsumed by the actual experience of despoliation.

    But I can’t leave my analogy to die on (off) the road. To travel perforce renders an impression. The ORV leaves (is designed to leave) a fresh impression. “Ruts” in contrast consist of repeated impressions in the same place such that they trammel future trajectories.

    ORVs don’t leave ruts: ORV drivers do.

    Barbara is right, I think, on ticking meat. Although you were prompted by bacteria, the poem suggests aging generally. The unspecified allusion lets everything tick: heart; blood cells paying single-file toll in capillaries; DNA-bases slotted into the helix like abacus beads; the telomere count-down.

    Ticking Meat as a title: go.

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    1. Oh, I don’t know. I’d love it if someone compared my methodology to necrotizing fasciitis. But ORVs (or ATVs as we tend to call them here) are from hell. I would support an open season on them with no bag limits. ORVs don’t leave ruts: ORV drivers do. Yes, ORV ownership and NRA membership do often go hand-in-hand, affirming the white American male’s sacred right to terrorize.

      I think you’ve convinced me about the wisdom of dropping “bacteria,” though. I like the poem better without it. Thanks. (The title’s gonna remain “earful,” though.)

      Reply

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