Street Sounds

March 7, 2010 § 6 Comments

To continue my editing experiment, I’ve worked up what I think is the very-close-to-final version of Street Sounds.  For newcomers, you can follow the process and poetic changes here, here, here, and here.

For the quick view, I’ve placed the initial word spill below, followed by my latest version.

Has this last version lost power? I’ve added several elements that were not there previously: naming the subject and religious references are primary.  Do these help or hurt the poem? Of course, all is subjective, but I welcome your feedback.

First Word Spill

She’s there in her torn hose and high heels, wobbling down the chilly street; traffic slows for light and not her; no one heeds her shouts, her wildly waving arms, open mouth and no words, dark sweater, she is singing, shouting, gesturing to whom? Her fingers form the words – American sign or gibberish, I cannot say. Are these sounds she hears as she speaks in her own silence? Is she threatening herself or others? Talking back to her own head? A homeless heart survives through shared mission – violence, camaraderie, food joined by speech, fueled by isolation. I imagine her first home: Two caring parents, one deaf, one not, or maybe both hearing. They learn her world, her finger-speak and take care to curb their sounds so she doesn’t feel left out. Then one day her signs turn sour, she’s speaking not to them but to others not in the room. They try to force her eyes so she can read their words, but she closes them and they cannot make her hear. So she spends her days in double-bubble wrap of deafness and psychosis. A gift from the gods that protects her fantasy – with her eyes closed no one can enter. Street sounds belong only to me.

Close to Final Version

My Lady strides in battered hose and high heels,
and teeters slightly down the chilly urban sidewalk.
The morning traffic slows to gawk
and shoppers swerve to avoid her wildly waving arms.
I watch her dingy fingers forming shapes as I pass by —
American Sign? Gibberish? I cannot tell.
Why does she stir the air? Is she threatening herself or us?
Answering her harsh internal critics? Begging for redemption?
I believe the lost are rescued by communion,
and My Lady’s mouth is tightly shut.

I imagine her first home: Two parents, one deaf, one not.
Maybe both could hear.
They learn her world — her finger-speak — and
curb their sounds so she doesn’t feel alone.
And then one day her signs turn sour.
She speaks, but not to them — invisible playmates fill the room.
The family tries to force her eyes so she can read their love;
but she squeezes them tight-shut, and they cannot make her hear.
Soon she spends her days in a double-bubble wrap
of deafness and psychosis.

I whisper My Lady a prayer as I push open the cafe door.
Waves of soft music and fresh coffee cover me.


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§ 6 Responses to Street Sounds

  • Such helpful comments! Thank you all so much.

    G, I’m going to make a decision about your question, and write it clearer one way or the other. I already have a couple ideas.

    Linda, thinking about the difference between observation and interpretation is something I haven’t done, and will do.

    Scott, I don’t like the last two lines at all now – they seem obvious and unnecessary. Something belongs there, but they need changing.

  • I love them both! Where do you want to re-edit?

  • Linda says:

    Oh, and I think both versions are wonderful.

  • Linda says:

    I don’t have enough knowledge about poetry to advise you. But I will tell you the two words that come to me when I read the first and present versions: first= observation, present= interpretation.

    I’m curious about the religious association in the present version.

  • G says:

    This one seems to tighten up everything and makes things more specific then earlier. I don’t think giving the primary a name is a problem, but did you want to be specific about the religion, or did you just want to generalize about what her possible religion might be?

    Just a thought.

  • After rereading, this is not the final version!

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