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the ocean always dreamed blue dreams

Nitro Express

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Anyway, in the great state of Texas last week we spent three days giving standardized tests, which meant that we spent a lot of time "monitoring" them. I did have enough time in the afternoons after they finished their tests to read and one of the things I read was George Orwell's essay, "Shooting an Elephant," which I loved, except for the actual part where he shoots the elephant, then had to decide if he needs to shoot it some more to get it to die, after which he finally leaves. He finds out later that it took the elephant a half an hour to die.

And I thought "that is a perfect metaphor for the end of a relationship." And so I wrote this. I did, myself, go through a breakup a few months ago. The other person did the actual breaking up, but the relationship had been slowly deteriorating for awhile. I should have done it myself earlier. There was an imbalance of power in our relationship and it tilted in his favor. I was uneasily aware of this to a degree, but I was unable to articulate it very well.

And that's what this poem is about. The woman finding her voice. I just hope that I can, too.

The original title came
from the elephant gun: (Wikipedia) "The Nitro Express line (c.1895), so named because the composition of the early smokeless powders such as Poudre B, ballistite and cordite, were the first of the new order of elephant guns."

I thought also, of naming the poem "Antimony" which was used to harden the lead balls used in the first elephant guns.

I ended up re-naming this "The Break Up." The metaphor works for me, but without some explanation I think what I have written is too easily taken to have another meaning. There is a death involved, but it is not that of a human being.

I believe
one meaning of the lotus is rebirth.

The Break Up

the bullet traversed her head
from ear to ear
how ironic she thought
as her legs buckled, collapsed
that I've made peace
just as he has not

his gargantuan appetite
his will to prevail in all things
"But we have a relationship"
he once had said

her temper
her life
and those that she gave birth to

and now it's turning black
and she can feel the keening
around the edges
like vellum singed

and still he shoots
first with an old .44 Winchester
then, to make it final, an elephant rifle
he wonders if he has as yet managed to justify
the killing shot
he looks at what's left
sees her open mouth, hears the rhythmic breath
the pink folds of her velvet throat
shoots once more
and turns away

it's lucky he doesn't see
the pink silken thing
that floats down to the floor
a lotus
that's taken by surprise

I think I'll pluck it for my own

April 30, 2010

Updated 08-26-2012 at 02:16 AM by qimissung



  1. PrinceMyshkin's Avatar
    Oh my God, Qimissung! This is so far from most of your other poems, as confident in its construction as they always are, but the subject! And the mystery (and horror?) of that lotus, taken by surprise, that the persona plucks for her own, as if she anticipates that this might be her own fate? or to commit herself to the memory of that woman?
  2. TheFifthElement's Avatar
    Wow! Powerful poetry, Qimi, as always delicate, yielding, and yet not. This reminded me, not directly but rather because of its impact, of a poem called The Girl by Sharon Olds which I read on the train once and couldn't stop my stomach shivering afterwards, and everytime since I have skipped, not because it is bad but because it makes me feel so bad.

    Ironic, and lucky. Two words you wouldn't expect to see in this poem and yet there they are. I guess there is always something we get to keep, despite the violence of others. Interesting.
  3. Lote-Tree's Avatar

    Whats going on here!?
  4. qimissung's Avatar
    Thank you, Prince and Fifth. I hope you still find it to be powerful after you read my explanation.

    I hope this is a little easier to read and understand, Lote, with my explanation.
  5. PrinceMyshkin's Avatar
    Yes, the background provided something - a lot, in fact - but the pain was already evident in the poem itself.

    And thanks should be given to Thefifthelement for bringing the Sharon Olds poem to our attention (or at least to mine).
  6. qimissung's Avatar
    Thank you, Prince.

    And thank you, again, Fifth. I found the poem and read it and I am deeply honored.
  7. Virgil's Avatar
    It's an interesting poem Qimi, but I wold never have gotten it without your commentary.

    As to your relationship, sounds like he wasn't a good one. Better to be out of a bad relationship than to be stuck in one.
  8. Lote-Tree's Avatar
    Thanks Qimi. It is - as Virgil said - an interesting poem.

    But I feel sad now for asking the question :-(

    However I am glad that you are out of a bad relationship...

    You don't have to give explanations for your poems. The poem was enigmatic without the explanation.

    Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize wining Bengali writer, prefered not give explanations for his poetry because he thought it destroyed original mystery of the poem...
  9. Maximilianus's Avatar
    Well, qimi, I think you are a wonderful lady who deserves a wonderful knight, and he is clearly far from it, so I would say you are free now. And I would say it's his loss and not yours. So the moron kinda got it coming

    On another note, an excellent poem depicting your feelings exquisitely, as it is customary in you

    Remember... his loss, not yours
  10. qimissung's Avatar
    Thank you, Max. Actually, although it might not be apparent from this poem, I do feel free. When it was over I really did feel as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
  11. Maximilianus's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by qimissung
    When it was over I really did feel as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
    Then I'm happy for you, qimi Now go hunt a decent, reliable sweet guy!
  12. qimissung's Avatar
    h-m-m-m...You know what I like the sound of? Just being open to experience. Not wishing for something good, or fearing something bad. But ready to leap out into the world and discover...something. (Aren't you glad I didn't ask...'And where would I find one of those?')
  13. Maximilianus's Avatar
    I am glad indeed. It proves that some women still trust the possibility that not all men are equally flawed, which is very fair