on the waterside path

Running away from fireworkson the waterside path
by the levy familiar geese
gaggle along

while a fat boy rests on the bridge
while his backpack rests beside him on the bridge
while the train goes by

that jackrabbit lolloping headlong
that reaches cover in the tall grass
and runs out the other side of the tall grass

toward the shack with walls no longer square
whose roof is rows of weathered slats that gap
to sunlight and the morning air

while two crows black and black
perch atop two dirty chunks of broken concrete
upon a low mound of broken concrete

and me watching
me watching
as if my heart would break

Image: Running away from fireworks by David Rynde, published under a Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license.

Under the Hood:

First Draft:

Bored on the train and utterly lacking ideas, I wrote down brief descriptions of some things that I noticed, in the order I saw them:

on the waterside pathSecond Draft:

Before I got off the train I typed up my handwritten draft, making some changes, adding some things:

a cluster of familiar geese
on the gravel levy

a fat boy sitting on the bridge
with a backpack by his side
while the train goes by

that jackrabbit running as if his heart would break
reaching cover in the grass
not stopping and running out the other side

and two crows dirty black
perched atop two dirty chunks of broken concrete
atop a low mound of broken concrete
watching it

an empty rutted road along the waterside

a lone pelican in the lead of a rabble of gulls
broad wings beating the air down the waterway
which has begun to stir from stillness

a shack with walls no longer square
its roof just rows of weathered slats that gape
admitting sunlight and the morning air

Third Draft:

Seven hours later, l edited this file, moving words and paragraphs around until I liked their heft and flow somewhat better:

along the waterside an empty path
a cluster of familiar geese
on the levy

a fat boy sits on the bridge
backpack by his side
while the train goes by

that jackrabbit running straight
reaching cover in the tall grass
not stopping and running out the other side

toward a shack its walls no longer square
its roof just rows of weathered slats that gape
admitting sunlight and the morning air

and two crows black black
perched atop two dirty chunks of broken concrete
atop a low mound of broken concrete

and me watching
me watching
as if my heart would break

The language of the first draft tends toward vagueness, imprecision, and cliche, but is rather more interesting than the language of the second and third drafts, which I intentionally tried to make matter of fact, mundane, and accurate: “a family group of geese” became a less-interesting but less-human “cluster of familiar geese”; a jackrabbit “running as if his heart would break” became a jackrabbit “running straight”; the vague “cover” becomes the slightly less vague “tall grass.”

For the next couple of hours I continued to pare away at the poem, word by word, revisiting the images and trying to make the words carry the weight of memory, now that memory itself had receded. I rewrote it again (and again, and again, incrementally…), moving words and lines and sections, but leaving no trace because I did it all electronically.

 

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