Posted by: John Looker | 17 February, 2013

THEY RUN AT THE SPEED OF TERROR

 

THEY RUN AT THE SPEED OF TERROR

……………………….across our field of vision
from the bare oaks and ash on the left
across the field of snow
to the tangle of hawthorn on the right:
the stark silhouette of a fox
and that of a hare
one length apart.
The chase. In black and white.
It’s like an early movie: 
the only sound
is the sound of a scream
in your own head.

© John Stevens 2013

This poem continues the break from the series of poems Looking at Life through Work. More of that later.

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Responses

  1. Hij John, I like the way the poem already starts running in the first line!
    The silence gives us room for the scream, lovely. thinking 🙂

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  2. Well John, I may be way off, but as I read this poem I find myself wondering if the fox and the hare are not just figments of the imagination, of our own terror running through the silence, and the scream in our minds. Chilling.

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    • That interests me Anna. Thank you. You would not be wrong.

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  3. I’ve seen this scene before (you’ve captured it well!). I think it was about 3am – I had my legs out the car door for a stretch, and a crick in my neck.

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    • It certainly makes an impression on the mind doesn’t it!

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  4. Amazing use of syntax to shape an image! The specificity works wnders. Feels so fresh! How about cutting the line “the chase, in black and white” and leaving the space bank?

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    • Thanks for kicking off a debate Tom. Please see my response below.

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  5. You’ve given me quite an image to ponder………….

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  6. Yes, John, this is a good one. I like the way the title can’t wait to get to the poem. The chase is on. That paralleling of ‘field of vision’ with ‘field of snow’ is quite nice. It prepares us for the upcoming dash across the black and white old fashioned movie where not only the view is black and white, but the elements of life are too. Forget that stuff about ‘nature red in tooth and claw’, that hare is either supper or he’s free. The scene is quick, the chase is quick, the sentences in the poem are quick. And the details—the oak and ash trees, the tangle of Hawthorne—are sketched in nicely. One thought: I would lose that last line altogether. It tames the poem way too much. Let it scream. (Tom’s cut is also interesting: but you lose the ‘moral’ overtones.)

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    • I’ve been thinking about your comments Jim. Please see below.

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  7. Wonderful John – such a stark image.

    And following on from other comments –

    I would remove the same line as Tom would, and I would also remove the next line.

    But I would very definitely keep the last line!!

    Best wishes

    David

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    • Thanks for these thoughts David – please see below.

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  8. I’ve been thinking about all these comments and I’m very grateful to you, everyone; you’ve helped me to see my own poem from a different vantage point.
    The changes you have suggested, starting with Tom D’Evelyn’s, are all valid and the poem would perhaps be improved by some of them. I’m not sure yet and need to brood on that. My immediate thought is that the poem would become subtly different from the one I intended, and I might prefer to stick with that. But I’ll ponder; they are stimulating comments and I’m grateful for them.

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  9. Love the way one image leads to the next, super writing, have to read more, so will be back.

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  10. Wow! Very good!

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    • Thanks a lot, Jose Ruy! Good to hear from you.

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  11. What makes the poem to me, John, are the details in it:
    from the bare oaks and ash on the left
    across the field of snow
    to the tangle of hawthorn on the right
    What the details do is give reality to what you imagine to be a movie-like, unreal scene.
    The ending brings the unreal into reality as a scream in your head as you empathize with the hare in its terror of the finality of the fox.
    This reminds me of an incident of my childhood, which was in The Alkali Cliffs, a novel out of print that I just put in print on Kindle. We were rabbit hunting at my grandmother’s small farm in North Delta, and I shot a rabbit, but I did not hit it square, and it ran around in a circle screaming as I kept trying to hit it again. The experience was so traumatic that I mostly lost my taste for hunting, although I did hunt after that. Today I never do.
    I like the imagistic terror of the poem. This is good work.

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    • Thanks Tom. I’m pleased you’ve shared this reminiscence – what a story to tell! I went hunting only once, with a friend who shot a hare for the pot (a memory that underlies my poem “Game” in March last year).

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      • I come new to your poetry, John, and am taking my time to absorb Tribal Loyalties (even as I hum the tune to “Three Blind Mice” about the house). This fox and hare introduction is gorgeous—lines 5 to end take it much deeper than mere description—which is my way of saying please do not change a word of it.

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        • Thank you Cynthia – I value your opinions.
          (Three Blind Mice, indeed! 🙂 )

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