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Oh how I loved you,
mottled toad on stilts.
Swollen body covered in black and purple flowers
blooming beneath the rice
paper membrane of your skin.
Permanently melded to the beige couch,
perfuming the room with your breath,
a silent ode to Philip Morris.

I see you from above, behind.
Skinny legs draped over bony shoulders
as I comb memories from your thin hair,
Memories of people I'll never meet twice.
Golden light infused with poplar
filters through the window,
casting a sallow light
walls matching carcinogenic skin.

Mother of my father
entombed in silent reruns
and scorched upholstery.
Your grave adorned by the singed jewels
of spent cigarettes.

Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Editing stage: 


inspired this poem?
I think it's very good, a sort of bitter/sweet memory of your grandma?
Some very good imagery, if not slightly sad. I particularly like the light filtering through the window, sort of ties into to the cigarette as well.

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You've got the right idea about what I was trying to say. But this poem wasn't inspired by anything here. I was just thinking about her in general.

author comment

Yes, I remember such times spent with grandparents, all smokers; so I enjoyed your poem, truly evocative of those people, all gone now like the yellowed walls. As a boy they seemed so terrifying and yet quietly heroic, considering, (all born in the 1920s) the events of their lives. Your imagery and language captures them so well.

Great choice of title, used ironically here I think, moving me as a I recall that famous image of the cowboy and the West, and all it represented. I think for us it seemed so exciting in Europe. I remember how sought after the cigarettes were visiting Prague in 1988, then the black market stalls selling American cigarettes in 1990, when everything had changed; it is an image I pondered again watching footage from Saigon in Ken Burn's Vietnam, shown here recently on the BBC.

Thank you.

The title, theme and logic all work with the images very physical and sensory.
I don't really count beats, poetry is not so much music where to be comprehensible the notes have to fill the bar or measure. But the work has an inner meter flow. In this poem it's like 3-5 beats, and if we read the poem using the lines as pauses to create the tempo (which is what we do with blank or free verse) these lines stick out and do not fit:

Blooming beneath the rice paper membrane of your skin

So the walls match your carcinogenic skin.

Your grave adorned by the singed jewels of spent cigarettes

My take is these lines should be broken into two or reduced: examples only:
Beneath the rice paper of your skin
So that walls match the hues
Of your carcinogenic skin.
Your grave adorned by singed jewels
Of spent cigarettes

Just seems to me to fit the cadence of the words. But these are subtle issues, like commenting on the perspective of a drawing or the use of light...the painting has not lost its desired response.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance
ee cummings

Thank you for pointing those issues out! I'll rework them and see how it turns out.

author comment

that I would add to the critique, but I want to say, that I enjoyed the poem as a whole and it did bring back memories of my grandmother and great-aunt; both smokers, and the walls of the huge apartment that they lived in being stained that nicotine-yellow from the many thousands of cigarettes smoked there by them and the other people that passed through those doors, aunts, uncles, father and so on... Nice work! ~ Gee.

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