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Narrative Poem: As He Sat Sadly By Her Side


He’d sat calmly by her side
while the tulips rotted
and the dust settled.
For weeks he hadn’t moved
the sores did blister
on his buttocks and thighs.

He’d sat sadly by her side
as the worms were born
and wriggled in her eyes.
The open note
lay yellowed next to the Virgin
unread and retired
scattered with dried potpourri

Senseless and withered
as he watched calmly by her side.
He held and read the letter
his poor old ma had wrote:
‘I’d give you all those memories.’
He put it back besides the Virgin

and waited two quick weeks
sadly by her side
and if spoiled flesh could speak
he’d had listened.
But at the stroke of noon
on that fourteenth day
he moved gently from her side.

‘Mother! Mother!’ he cried
‘I’ve seen you leave
while I’ve been stagnant inside.’
He clutched the letter to his breast and cried
as he walked calmly from her side.

The world was a mysterious place, not at her side,
the dust blew and mad dogs prowled all day and night.
White froth, their bloodied eyes
into the house where his dead ma lay
and they tore at her dress and at her face
as he walked frightened from their side.

A day and a night
and by the burning noon
of the next day
he found a dirty saloon
and inside there was wretched
old whore by his side.

‘Please brother,’ she cried
‘give me a whiskey so I can go and die.’
The boy hailed the bar-keep
and said ‘two whiskeys for our tired souls.’
The bar-keep spat into an empty glass and said
‘Without no money you’ll both go dry.’

So he and the wench
both went quietly side-by-side
the boy turned to her and said
‘My ma has died.’
The old woman looked up to the deserted sky
and then said pensively:

‘Better she’s gone and not here;
there’s plenty of whiskey in the sky.’
So the boy strode quickly from her side
then turned and spoke
‘My pa’s been lost since I was nine.’

‘All mothers stay,
all fathers go’
she replied
and spat tobacco off to her side.
The boy was still
and he spoke and he said:
‘My ma wrote his name
was Blue-Boy Joe
when she was laid by his side.’

The old wench stopped
then cackled and smirked
‘Wicked boy that big Blue-Joe,
old Stanley knife always at his side.
He’d kill any cocksucker
to have a piece
of some no-good whore by his side.’

The boy remained quietly by her side,
the crows cawed
below a relentless sky.
The old whore continued:
‘I knew your pa well,
had him by my bedside
many a’ time.’

She laughed again,
a Goddamn twinkle in her eye,
he grabbed her wrist
and slapped her cheek
and she lay frightened by the roadside.

‘You’re just like your daddy!’
she cried,
‘don’t even need a drop
of Satan’s spit
to beat a lady down to size!’
The boy stood remorsely by her side.

‘You want your daddy?’
She shrieked
to the coal-black crows
in the sky,
‘I’ll take you to the bastard;
you ‘n’ he can stand side-by-side.’

The boy came and sat down at her side
‘I didn’t mean nothing by it,’
he cried.
She said:
‘Yep, you’ll both stand side-by-side,’
‘if you ain’t his son,
then I ain’t an old whore
working for petty pennies and dimes.’


He took her wrinkled hand in his
and she let him follow by her side,
they waded through the dust and dirt
the garish sun always in their eyes.
Then over the hill,
and over the rocks

and by the road side,
was a pissin’ little town
where she did reside.
Past the General Store
and into the saloon
up rotten-shrieking stairs
to the left side,
she unlocked door
and beckoned him inside.

She sat him down
on an old rickety chair
then disappeared
into the next room
and came back out
in nothing but her slip.

Then poured them
both a whiskey
and sat herself by his side.
He took a swig from his cup
and grimaced at its sour taste,
then turned to the whore and said:
‘Is pa my dead or alive?’

She smiled coyly
and withdrew both their cups
placed them in the sink side-by-side.
She said:
‘His legacy lives on
as the hardest cunt
there ever was.’

He sat there watching
the jiggle of her thighs.
‘What’s it you really want?’
she asked
and he did not reply.
The room went blurred
and woozy,
he fell to his side.

The old whore laughed
and kicked in
one of ribs his on his right side.
The boy groaned
and coughed
wheezing, ‘why?’

She kicked him
off his side, flat on his back
and straddled his sack
then drew her face
just beside
and said:

‘Yo’ daddy
liked it rough.
You ain’t gonna cry!’
She slapped his face
and ripped open
his only shirt
tore off the sleeve
and tossed the rest of it to the side.

She wrapped the fabric
‘round his throat
and the boy began to cry.
Then slapped the other cheek
on his left side
and pulled down the boy’s pants
then punched his crotch
and screamed:
‘You won’t cry!’

Then she felt something wet
tickle down her thigh
the boy had pissed himself
and she threw herself off him to the side.
She shrieked:
‘That’s my new carpet
you fucker and you don’t own a dime!’

So she got up and grabbed
her pistol and shot
four bullets
into his head
and his blood
pooled beneath his him
on both sides.

By the next day,
the boy lay next to his daddy.
An unburied corpse
stinkin’ and pallid
to the right side
of an unmarked grave
were his dear- old pa
was rotting.
And both father and son
lay side-side.

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Review Request (Direction): 
How was my language use?
What did you think of the rhythm or pattern or pacing?
How was the beginning/ending of the poem?
Is the internal logic consistent?
Last few words: 
My first stab at narrative poetry. I think it's too long and peters out. Opinions? Also not sure about the consistency of my language. Please rip it to shreds. Inspired and a semi-ode to Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds song " As He Sat Sadly By Her Side" on <i>No More Shall We Part</i>, 2001.
Editing stage: 


have you read Judith Wright's 'Legend'? It's the poem that first turned me on to poetry as a kid. This has overtones of that, and more gutsy than anything in 'Murder Ballads'. I love 'As I Sat Sadly By Her Side' too.

I really like this but really wish I could print it out or read it on an e-reader. It is so long to read on screen. First reading, I like it a lot. The ending is right for the story. I'll come back for more and crit soon.

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'

I love Nick Cave's music. I think Pleiades turned me on to him. Anyway, this poem is wayyyy beyond my scope to critique except that I think the voice needs to be the same throughout, I know you know what I mean.

You have inspired me to return to a type of poetry I haven't written for quite a while. Thanks and I much enjoyed your narrative.


I know exactly what you mean:)!

Will work on it! Thanks again:)!

author comment

Perhaps the refrain is a bit overdone in places. One 'side' per stanza should be sufficient.

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'

I really agree with that. I need to get my head in editing mode.

Thanks for the critique it's really appreciated Jess:)!

author comment

perhaps its tweaking could be in a more lyrical cast
or more verbose

Im thinking of Nicks "Carny song"
or "Deliahs Gone" but all and all not badly done
at all and quite enjoyable

and had my chance to meet the rarest of the road
fares on my runs people of the blasted realms
where Hell runs close come day and night
and Heaven is a snowstorm full of tattered
letters and supplications scrawled on coffee
shop napkins

this definitely needs tweaking and revising. I'll keep those songs in mind when I do:)!

At the moment I'm obsessed with Curse of Millhaven!

author comment

Just time this evening to read first part. Interesting story line and good detail. Found a few bumps you might want to look over (hope I didn't miscount stanzas and lines lol)
s-4,l-4 He'd have listened
s-6, last line needs reworking for clarity
s-7,l-7 "a" wretched
s-15,l-6 think you mean remorsefully
just a few ideas. Hope to return later..........stan

I'll fix those up later tonight as well:)!

author comment
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