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Featured Guest Poet Cheryl Higgins

Black Ice

Warped benches peel
in the park by the pond,
wet around the bonfire pit,
permanent in cement, ready
for skaters after school -
for a childhood of
twenty years ago.

               A generation comes and leaves
               not gliding on black ice at night,
               parents' jeeps left high-beams on,
               turtles frozen halfway up the ice.

They'll pass out of youth
Not scraping down glassed
streams with the moon strobing
through bare branches,
a swing around
each tree before
scraping on, on,
into moonlit woods,
a quick glance behind
to see who follows,
an extra swing
to catch them up,
a race to the end,
a furtive kiss
in the white night.

               Grass grows in the bonfire pit.
               How long since the ponds froze?
               Nine years? Fifteen?
               And how will their children
               know to gather at this pit,
               throw small boulders onto black ice,
               listen for the dull boom?

February, 1999

Cheryl L. Higgins's Questions:

I have had several people read this and really wish I would omit the punctuaiton at the end of the lines. I don't really know how to evaluate commas on line endings, I have always considered them on a poem or poem basis. I am told they arrest the eye and draw attention away from the flow of the poem. To me, the commas are placed where there is a bit more of a pause, compared to the usual pause or brief intake at the end of a line. When I read it, the commas put a bit of a swing into the cadence and begin to suggest long glides or skating strokes, and even the extra time taken for a "swing around each tree'.

I'd like to know if you, as readers prefer the commas or not, like, or dislike them in this poems and your opinion about line endings with commas in poems, in general?

I think the commas are fine. Yes, maybe they do arrest the eye a little, but I think the effect it makes on reading it is a very positive quality. The commas can be overlooked as a reader. And if you really want that effect then I say keep it. I personally feel that a rythm is more important than the way things look on paper. I think you've established a good rythm and it's what makes the poem strong.
Eric Tang
USA - Sun Feb 21 23:22:02 1999
In general, I feel that the commas are not needed at the ends of the lines. I understand your wanting more than an end of line length pause but feel that for this effect a dash is more commonly used.
Margaret Dukes
USA - Tue Feb 23 03:45:44 1999
i would treat sentences with commas as frames in a film. all these sentences put together then go on to make up the total picture. since poetry is an interpretation of a thought and conveyance, thereafter, in a written form it is essential to punctuate. i would disagree that punctuations disturb the rhythm. each sentence woven together creates the canvas and punctuations assist in the weaving.
pradeep n. mane
india - Thu Feb 25 20:16:30 1999
dripping down commas ending lines - what a drag!
Izabel Sonia Ganz
USA - Sat Feb 27 20:55:32 1999
toss out the punctuation completely, don't be constrained by number of lines or rhyming. strive for rhythm that feels, sounds "right", revisit the work occasionally and add punctuation and rhyming if you think it makes the work better. Example:

on bright Sundays
we scrutinize
the tattered lives
of epileptic saints

who quietly remain

among the cheated dead
in cosmic space and time

press crusted leaves against the eyes
hear cows and doves and geese

hear god and gods and men and myths
poetry and dreams......

in realms of pain and beauty

alive and bright as a fish


Editor's Note: the above formatting is HB's, but APW inserted these breaks manually so that you could see them where HB entered them. This posting format (Matt's script) does not support formatting tags. To indicate line breaks, insert them by typing in slashes "/" in the text/like this/so the reader can see where/you mean to/indicate a break. --Thanks.

hugh bone
USA - Sun Feb 28 06:00:31 1999
Cheryl, I really enjoyed this poem! When I read a poem, I automatically pause at the end of a line. Therefore, I do not think the punctuation is necessary at the end of the line. But I do think the punctuation in the middle of the line is very good and very important: "permanent in cement, ready". "Turtles frozen halfway up the ice" is a vivid yet eeire touch to the frozen pond. I like it!
USA - Tue Mar 2 09:47:48 1999
I do not think you need commas at the end of the lines. This poem in particular, flows so well and the pause is created by the line break. I also love the displaced stanzas, conveying the skating movement, and there are good images in your frozen pond. Very enjoyable read. Paula
Paula grenside
ITALY - Tue Mar 2 13:34:09 1999
I agree with you that a comma placed at the end of a line adds a bit of a pause in the reading of a poem, I do this myself. But judging from some of the comments there are always going to be readers who pause at the end of every line, miss punctuation in the middle of lines or will just do anything to break away from grammar, or rules. From your comments it seems that you think the commas serve a purpose, and they do for me, they create a swing to guide the reader, whether or not the reader follows is sometimes out of your control. The other suggestion I would give is in the line /parents' jeeps left high-beams on,/ leave out the word "left." Maybe say /parent's jeeps--high beams on/.
Brad Vogler
USA - Sun Mar 21 19:51:43 1999

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