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Improbable Tales

Sheila Ferguson


A statue stands beside the lake,
A marble maiden with fair skin.
Inscribed below are these few words
"She said her name was Jenny-Lyn."

Now, this is how the story goes;
I report it all, just as I heard.
I repeat it all from memory,
I haven't changed a single word.

It was a celebration day,
A picnic planned for the whole town.
To join together in this place,
The people came from all around.

They played some games, ate lots of food.
The kids were swimming, having fun.
They laughed and danced, and even sang
Until the setting of the sun.

And then the day, it turned to dark.
They could not find the smallest one.
They called his name, searched everywhere;
But could not find him, he was gone.

A splashing sound down in the lake,
They saw her walking with the boy.
She brought the child and laid him down,
Then sang to him a song of joy.

She placed her hand upon his head,
Then whispered something in his ear.
When he awoke and spoke to them,
The crowd roared out with a loud cheer.

They looked for her, but she was gone.
The little boy spoke once again,
And this is what he told the crowd-
"She said her name was Jenny-Lyn."

An old man standing in the crowd
Began to cry and shake his head.
And when the crowd asked what was wrong,
He smiled at them and softly said-

"My daughter drowned in this same lake;
She was my angel, only ten.
For twenty years, I've grieved for her-
My daughter's name was Jenny-Lyn."

January, 1998

Sheila Ferguson's questions:

Is the wording too simple?

Can it be improved, or is the idea hopeless?

I liked the poem, I can't say anything much else, because I'm only 12, and I suck at poetry, but again, I liked it. ;)
USA - Wed May 19 17:14:55 1999
Some of it is too repetitive, and you are trying too hard to rhyme. the rhyme just isn't working at some points. Try to get the rhythm to flow a little more. An enjoyable poem otherwise.
USA - Thu Oct 29 16:25:09 1998
Hi Sheila: The words are simple but the poem is good. Its something like a miracle to witness a nymph like Jenny-Lyn. The tragedy is her own father cannot see her! He last her 20 years back and is still expecting to see her when the boy spoke out her name. It resembles a fairy tale.
Rathnashikamani Bijja
Kalpakkam, TN INDIA - Thu Aug 20 06:14:51 1998
When I first read the last stanza I got a chill. Considering how difficult the ballad form is to write in, I compliment you on being able to put such feeling into this poem. I agree with Scott that you do not need the 2nd stanza at all. You might have to change the wording of the 3rd stanza a little to fit the change. Otherwise you have a very strong poem here, and using simple words help it to be powerful. In the 8th stanza I'm confused about how she was able to appear and then disappear so quickly. Did the crowd actually speak to her? That should probably be cleared up a little.
Barbara Ehrentreu
Bedford Hills, NY USA - Tue Jun 16 09:08:11 1998
Pleasant presentation - 90%
structure - 80%
Inspiration -40%
Subject matter -30
imagery -50%
passion / emotion 10%
vocabularly -40%
has promise but needs more work and power to it but appears far better than many broken up letters pretending to be poetry.sounds like a kiddies story that someone has mechanically rhymed. - sorry
terry howe
Norway - Sun May 31 09:02:06 1998
The poem is very interesting. It was to long and drawn out.
Raven Blood
PA USA - Fri May 22 08:55:46 1998
Beautiful poem. It's not flashy and you let the story speak for itself. Your approach and style is perfect for the tale. There aren't too many folktales being written these days. Thanks!
USA - Wed May 13 11:38:55 1998
"Jenny-Lyn" is a chilling, ironic poem. I don't think that the wording is too simple because the theme of the poem is direct and not freighted with a lot of philosophical pontification. It is a good solid poem. Scott's commentary on it being in near ballad form is on the mark. I was reminded of some of Poe's poetical works due to Ms. Ferguson's haunting evocative images.
Kenneth E. DeBacker
Denver, CO USA - Sun May 3 22:19:57 1998
Sheila: This effort adheres fairly closely with the ballad form, and only occasionally slips out of ballad rhythm. I don't think the second stanza is entirely necessary because it interrupts the flow already begun in the first stanza.

The story is chilling to me though, as it is very close to a story I heard recently about a couple of young mothers who took their children out for a picnic and a swim, and one of the boys was drowned. This story seems to be one more from "reality" than one you might have discovered while reading an "improbable tale" in a tabloid newspaper.

I'm a tad confused in the 6th and 7th stanzas. If the "her" in the 6th stanza is Jenny-Lyn, the dead girl, then perhaps this needs to be a bit more clear. If you are working with the idea that a "ghost" of Jenny-Lyn is singing to the boy, then you have something of a legend working here, but this is not exactly clear.

Also in the 6th stanza, you have "her" laying him down and singing to him a "song of joy." Again, this is a tad unclear. The action of her "placing her hand upon his head" is somewhat similar to the act of artificual respiration. Is this what you have in mind, or do you mean this action to be somewhat of a mystery?

I love the irony in the end where the old man identifies the girl as his daughter, Jenny-Lyn.

In all, this is a fairly well-controlled ballad, which tells us an interesting, though tragic, narrative. Thanks for your poem.
Scott Reid
Healdsburg, Ca USA - Mon Mar 9 11:52:50 1998