Goarskill

January 14, 2013

Tell you why. Corruption of ‘goats’.
Used to be a whole pasture of them out here.
‘Kill’ is Dutch for river, sure, but
Concision can be a wound too deep for suture.
The goars kill, that’s all. Slate sharpened.
But perhaps you’d like
To wade across another river
Or ramble aimlessly in another pasture—
The Goars is always all we are
Even as the shadows
Surround our meadows,
Even as the goat and the water spar.
The rivers grow so still.
The Goarskill finds those rivers. Kills.

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4 Responses to “Goarskill”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    I thank you.

  2. John Stevens Says:

    Been thinking bout your remarks Jim.
    What you say about the voice of the narrator interests me – because there’s always that decision to make, isn’t there? And, like you, I prefer to avoid writing in the first person singular – and when I do it’s usually not me speaking.
    Understand your search for a gruff voice here, therefore, and you achieved it – initially! But look how those iambs came creeping in to occupy the lines from half way through; vermin!
    (I love your joke about the guide to Maine by the way! That made me laugh.)

  3. extrasimile Says:

    Actually, John, it was the discussion we had about narrator’s voice in your poem ‘Hotshot’ that got this one going. I’ve been tending of late towards a voice where ‘the earth speaks’, if you know what I mean. It can be somewhat limiting. I’ve also been reading a book of poems by Laura Kasischke called ‘Space, in Chains’, which I highly recommend. She is a master of the short sentence—sentence fragment—syntax with a vengeance. I wanted a voice that was blunt and gruff—Billy goat’s gruff—a voice that was a ‘just the facts’ kind of a guy, a kind of natural parataxis (I’d like to think). ‘Tell you why,’ for example, not only cuts the sentence off ‘I’ll tell you why’ but it cuts a natural iambic beginning off—or should I say prohibits it from beginning…
    There a lot of bodies of water that use the Dutch ‘kill’ in around New York—Arthur Kill, Great Kills Harbor, Batten Kill, Beaverkill, Wall Kill. There was a time when New York was named New Amsterdam.
    And, yes, seeing ‘Goarskill’ is a kind of sonnet is helpful in the reading of it (I must confess, though, that Goarskill started out as a typo—nothing more, but nothing less.)
    And, no, I suppose neither the guide nor the poems are to be trusted.
    (Aside: a tourist wanted go hiking in the Maine woods, but it’s a big wilderness and he was worried about losing his way. He shopped around and found what everybody said was the best guide in all of Maine. Once out in the woods, however, he noticed they seemed to be wandering, plain lost. ‘Hey,’ said the tourist, ‘I thought you were supposed to be the best guide in Maine.’ ‘I am’ said the guide. ‘But I think we’re in Canada now.’)

  4. John Stevens Says:

    I’d been rambling through this poem, Jim – not exactly aimlessly like your goats or goars though – more like a holiday maker relaxing, soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the ambiance. And then, just as I was thinking I knew where I was, and was learning a bit of old Dutch as well, you ambushed me with that sonnet break-point between lines 8 and 9 and I found myself taken across the river and in the shadows as the light faded, the river grew strangely still, and bloomin’ ol’ Death entered the scene. I suppose I should have anticipated this from earlier lines, but I’m an innocent abroad. And you are a cunning guide not to be entirely trusted by the tourist! Clever guy!


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