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Poem for the End of the Century

Sandra Beasley


They came a shackled dozen at a time.

All pale skin and saucer eyes and greasy hair,
all dragging, hauling, bearing burdens
ripped from white walls and stainless steel kitchens,
lover's bedrooms and children's knapsacks.
These sterile dreams of the new millennium
etched in silicate a millisecond at a time
gathered together by shackled masters
the tower reached toward the abandoned sky --
bricked by the hands that once caressed.

They lit a match in the hope for a new world.

The flames slipped crimson tongues
into the minds of the machines,
sucked the mute husks dry,
left monitors to stare accusingly with empty eyes --
seconds before the crystals shattered and exploded.
Only molten black structures remained,
naked circuitry and twisted wire,
oddly graceful in their warped testimony
to this pyrrhic victory of skin and bone.

They rejoiced a flawed sigh at a time.

Then curiosity slithered off to seek new blood,
casting soot-stained hands into shadow,
as the new millennium dawned into darkness.
They flexed liberated wrists,
reached out for their switches and buttons
and gasped when light did not flare brightly.
In the end they stuttered and shivered,
as no one remembered how to work
the flesh and joints of humanity

and the ashes cried out --

July 1997

Sandra Beasley's questions:

Is the style too melodramatic or prolonged?

Are any of the images unnecessary or blatant?

Sandra, I think this is a great poem. It is filled with imagery, and no, there cannot be too much imagery. Janice
Janice Meyer
USA - Wed Mar 27 19:23:36 2002
It's truly beautiful... and makes you feel as though you are there. People say that it is too "wordy"... But in real life, and poetry that is meant to seem as though something IS happening, can we ever really use too many words to describe it? I just wanted to say that you shouldn't change a line, and that all of the images are what makes it so wonderful.
Christina Beasley
Your, Sister USA - Sat Mar 2 14:14:10 2002
I think that the poem is too wordy. There doesn't seem to me to be any life it is all very motionless. Although the imagery was very descriptive.
Aaron Giesbrecht
Edmonton, AB Canada - Sat Nov 24 22:17:16 2001
so sad...the words ........haunting eyes......sterile sad that youth sees tomorrow in deperation...........
fla USA - Wed Jan 10 14:57:57 2001
Wordy, yes, but young. The more experiences one lives through, the less time there is to expound with lengthy sentences. Omit unnecessary words.
USA - Thu May 25 05:34:00 2000
I feel that the poem is very creative, and that you used a unique choice of word's. It was well written, but I think that America as a society should not rely so much on computers. It should not be a life or death matter if a man made machine breaks.
John Burke
Bartlesville, O.k. USA - Sat Nov 13 20:52:40 1999
the poem doesn't really reach a poetic objective - it is more like prose , metered...the ideas are good but there is no space for enjambement or the architectonic which that deserves ...its a good try i guess but try again please feel free to crit. last novel is reviewed at title ASHER, author mark fyfe...where i am compared to ted hughes and jdsalinger - have a look and let me know what you think of them.. ps.never be discouraged
oxford , oxon UK - Thu Apr 8 03:51:56 1999
I think it would be cool if we could talk about the Millenium with out using the word Millenium. Make me FEEL the millenium, rather than tell me. Don't underestimate your reader's ability to figure it out.
mi USA - Thu Oct 22 20:01:26 1998
Sandra No criticism. You have a strong command of English, especialy for such a young person (well, 18 is young from my viewpoint). You are obviously a very intelligent and insightful individual and you have much to say and teh ability to say it well. I'm also a fan of your Website. Sometimes I ask myself is there intelligent life out there in Cyberland, or is it all (to use your term) "cyberfluff?" Your "home" is fun but also most intelligent. I am also a fan of the wondrous Eva Cassidy and Film Noir. Keep writing and the best of luck. Roger Crane
Roger Crane
Lomita, CA USA - Wed Oct 21 13:26:16 1998
I just don't like the term WORKSHOP , when associated with anything other than engineering. I know some folk will pour scorn , but , there you go! Poetry is pure creativity , is'nt it ?
Yanto Cramer
DUBAI, uae UAE - Fri Aug 21 11:01:48 1998
Sandra, What a beautiful poem!! It's not too melodramatic. Really beautiful imagery.Good Luck.
Nell Wade
Mountain View, Ca USA - Fri Jun 26 19:19:40 1998
The poem is interesting, but sometimes you tell me too much. The first stanza starts out great, with the words "All pale skin and saucer eyes and greasy hair / all dragging, hauling, bearing burdens...." Not only do the words here paint a vivid picture, but the rhythm of the words evoke the experience. These lines are, therefore, vivid and believable. But then come the words "sterile dreams of the new millenium," and I start to wonder who is talking? Is this someone I can trust? The speaker of the poem seems to be trying too hard for me, and I end up mistrusting this person (not you, the writer, but the speaker in the poem). The writing becomes less immediate. I'm being told something rather than being shown. As mentioned by others who have commented, the heavy use of modifiers and description contribute to this loss of immediacy. The rhythm of the poem no longer helps me feel what is happening. I think that suggestions made by others that you pair the poem down are good. If you can get back to that first voice that speaks in the poem, I think that the poem will have much more intensity, and the end will have a lot more punch. I hope these comments are helpful.
Mervin Mecklenburg
Glendive, mt USA - Thu Jun 18 11:11:18 1998
Sandra, powerful imagery. The message is clear but I think it loses part of its immediate impact in the central part. Consider giving up some images,enhancing the meaning of the ones you feel more strongly. Hammering poem! Paula
Paula Grenside
Oderzo, Italy - Thu Apr 30 23:43:30 1998
Your poem is beautiful. Lengthy critique would be pretentious. There is no such thing as an unnecessary image. The style should not be questioned. Don't change a line.
USA - Tue Apr 28 21:34:41 1998
I like your first stanza; the tone changes as the poem continues and with it the direction you are headed becomes unclear to me. The lines are long and would be more effective if some of the pronouns were pared down and your descriptive imagery streamlined a bit. The language will speak for itself and portray it's own images as the poem unfolds.
Laurie Greenleaf
Oakland, CA USA - Tue Apr 14 23:45:14 1998
Your imagery is good however the theme of the piece is unclear. Try less words the piece will undoubtly work.
Everett Whitehead
Annapolis, MMMM M md USA - Mon Apr 6 09:02:00 1998
William Gibson and William Butler Yeats share a bad hangover. This is a terrific piece of work. As everyone said, it would be even more successful if you tightened it up. Clarity. Clarity. Maggie Morley
Maggie Morley
Kensington, CA USA - Thu Feb 26 12:03:57 1998
Great imagery but too much of a good thing. Try to pare down and center...with so much going on, I am not sure just what your poem is trying to tell me!
Doris Drake
Norwood, MA USA - Tue Feb 17 07:52:43 1998
I loved your poem. Maybe a little wordy, but the imagery was outstanding. I especially liked the ending.
TX USA - Tue Feb 10 14:21:52 1998
I too enjoyed the poem. However, I found it hard on concentrate and stay focused. Maybe because I am new at this. The middle stanza did seem a little melodramatic to me. But, melodramatic might not be the correct word; maybe it is too wordy. As for the images being too blantant, if anything I find them a little to ambiguous. I find the last stanza makes the light dawn for me. It brings at all into focus for me. Thank you for your poem.
USA - Sun Feb 8 13:55:47 1998
I think that you have started with a very powerful idea. At this point I would suggest that you get back to what this idea is, perhaps even writing it out. With the "what" in hand, go back through the "how" (i.e. the poem you've written) and see how the images you currently advance the idea you've started with. This should help you pare down the poem to its neccessary details. At this point the idea you are working with seems to be weigh down by too many images and words. Also, beware of burdening your nouns with too many adjectives. I think that in a pared down form your poem will dramatically convey your idea. I also think that what you have so far shows that you have the building blocks neccessary to do this!
R. Wysocki
USA - Wed Jan 14 16:36:48 1998
Less is more, more or less
rowland j
london, uk - Tue Jan 13 16:39:54 1998
I think your poem is very compelling and shows great promise. I think it suffers from too much verbiage, primarily adjectives. The images can speak for themselves and more powerfully than adjectives. It isn't immediately clear to me why the poem is entitled "Baptism."
Neil Babcox
USA - Wed Dec 31 16:24:12 1997
The style, in my opinion, is bordering on melodramatic. I think what contributes to that is over description. How can I explain this? Why crimson tongues? Why not leave it at The flames slipped/ into the minds of the machines,/ sucked the husks dry,/. WHy not simply say exploded instead of shattered and exploded. Or only molten structures remained rather than molten black structure. I think over description causes a sense of melodrama. It also prevents me from experiencing the poem for myself because the poet is not trusting his/her voice nor is he/she trusting the reader to have enough imagination to understand/experience the poem.I think also that the suggestions I made might help to loosen up the rythm of the poem which might relax the tone of the poem a bit relieving a sense of melodrama. I must also say that I did enjoy the poem. I think you have a wonderful imagination and a gift for vivid, shocking, and creative images. Keep on writing.
Rodney DeCroo
USA - Thu Dec 18 02:35:56 1997
Your poem does seem on the melodramatic side, but not necessarily because of the images etc, but possibly more because of the punctuation; causing the reader to go through each stanza like an automaton (maybe intentional?). There were two lines in the middle "left monitors..." and "seconds before..." that seemed to break the rhythm of the poem and nearly moved towards prose. The images are stark and very memorable; you definitely have talent.
Jaidene Anderlini
Denver, CO USA - Tue Nov 11 17:40:46 1997
You obviously have strong feelings about this subject matter. I felt a little like it was being shoved down my throat. Your images are haunting which speaks well of your ability as a poet. I agree with the previous comments as far as going back and keeping only the critical ones though. I would love to see some of your other works
Paul Cassidy
USA - Mon Nov 10 13:56:23 1997
I think that if you went through and picked out your favorite images and discarded all the rest that it would really enhance what you are trying to say. You are trying to cram too much in there. Otherwise it is a very good work, full of fresh ideas and images with a poignant message.
William Emery
Lawrence, ks USA - Thu Sep 18 20:32:30 1997