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Thread: I Cannot Hate

  1. #1
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    I Cannot Hate



    I CANNOT HATE

    The spear of dawn serrates the sleeping hillside
    smearing lurid spills of light across its darkened pelt;
    this haze like steaming perspiration,
    undercurrents deep beneath its sleek and heaving flanks
    throw ripples through the rock,
    a stamp-mark on the coal dust,
    horns caged in by twisted towers
    framed by ragged beams of daybreak.

    My father sprang intact from these cold rocks
    and now lies fossilised in those same strata that gave birth to him,
    embedded in the darkest tomb a man could choose,
    no breathing space in there,
    his corpse impressed from toil then crushed by time.

    I cannot hate these hills outside my window
    any more than I can hate the waxing sun,
    although its light brings suffering to each new day.

    To hate those hard, black mountains,
    curse that glinting devil with its drooling maw,
    its sharded teeth and gloating grin,
    is to deny my father dignity;
    his choice to scrape and claw his living
    from those cherished rocks.

    I cannot hate these hills outside my window
    any more than I can hate his stubborn pride,
    his split black nails and gritty tide mark,
    blisters blue from blast not friction,
    heaps of rusted slag piled high with cold despair,
    the waste, the tainted streams,
    the gravity of air.


    A continent away
    another mountain, barren, treeless,
    scarred by craters
    pestilent with jagged bones and rotting flesh and bright red clay;
    an alien landscape scalded white with heat and hatred.

    That hot white sun a galaxy away,
    a sun that scorches every breath
    and burns each shadow into glaring light
    and etches tear-stains in the bitter salt;
    its touch as sharp as any gutting blade.

    I cannot hate the villages;
    he wrote and told me all about them, see;
    the stench of burning dung and garbage,
    peasant farmers smoking flimsy roll-ups,
    playing dominoes ‘til sunset,
    watching football on their satellite tvs.

    They did not choose to lose their fields to battle,
    had no wish to watch a war outside their door.
    Their hills are just as innocent as ours;
    they had no choice but watch him suffer,
    writhe with muted fury
    as their valleys carried back and forth the echo of explosion,
    shredding pity in a screech of helpless desolation.

    I cannot even hate this war that made me proud to be a mother;
    why demean the boy’s ambition,
    fighting for another’s freedom that was never his to sanction?

    Torn to dust beneath an alien desert sun:
    the tainted scent of war deodorised
    then helicoptered here from Helmand.
    brought back home inside a flag-decked coffin;
    surely better that
    than held to ransom in a coal mine,
    ever out of reach but never out of sight.


    H

  2. #2
    dafydd dafydd manton's Avatar
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    Too late to think coherently, so I'll drop you a line tomorrow, but from a swift and inadequate glance, I know how I shall feel. Superb as ever.
    Dafydd Manton, A Legend In His Own Lunchtime!! www.dafydd-manton.co.uk

    My Work Has Been Spread Over Many Fields!

  3. #3
    Something's gotta give PrinceMyshkin's Avatar
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    You must have torn this from your flesh rather than simply write it with your fine, fine eye and vibrant vocabulary. A masterpiece. I will surely bump it later if it doesn't get the many comments it deserves!

  4. #4
    Still, on a chalk plateau Bar22do's Avatar
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    It's impressively splendid, hill, to repeat it's a masterpiece won't add much, but it is a masterpiece.
    Here too it's late and I'll certainly get back to your poem later this week... Thanks for the riches of it. Bar

  5. #5
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    gosh Hill this is absolutely superb. I could feel it being wrenched from your guts word by word.
    Before sunlight can shine through a window, the blinds must be raised - American Proverb

  6. #6
    on the run lallison's Avatar
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    Hey Hill, heavy stuff. The violence of your language here is majascule. It contains the same crunching consent sound that vibrate through the apex of your work. I love the opening lines, it's as if dawn is a hunter, like Diana, awakening us to a harsh reality:
    The spear of dawn serrates the sleeping hillside
    smearing lurid spills of light across its darkened pelt;
    and then beautiful, beautiful imagery to follow, illuminating the content as if with the sunrise. A tribute anyone should feel a great deal of pride in receiving.

    i wonder if roman numerals (or Arabic) would help clarify the designation of the second section instead of an ambiguous double space.
    another mountain, barren, treeless,
    the last two words in this line are redundant, something I've always heard is a poetry faux pas.

    I felt a bit befuddled at what you were trying to do with the second part, but the last three plucky lines make the connection:
    surely better that
    than held to ransom in a coal mine,
    ever out of reach but never out of sight
    A tragic statement made by someone who has felt and seen things we all hope never to experience. You are taking on an intrepid voice here.

    Something about this poem reminds me of a Bollywood film (and I do enjoy them) in the sense that it makes a twist towards a completely different direction than I was expecting (not withstanding the song and dance numbers). I'm talking about a jump from what seems like you (hillwalker) as the narrator, eulogizing his father, to a mother who lost her son in Afghanistan (had to Google Helmand to make the connection).

    Poetically, I thought, or rather felt, the first section of the poem superior to the second, but you tied them together well, and ultimately, you paint a beautiful portrait of the narrator as someone who has lost so much but still finds a way to go on. In the end, the greatest beauty of this piece resounds through the title. A very nice work, thanks for giving me the opportunity to ponder over it.

  7. #7
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    Hi hill, firstly this is a great poem with your trademark imagery let loose on us full force. I do have a couple of observations though: as always, feel free to disregard etc.

    S1. Punctuation.

    "this haze like steaming perspiration,
    undercurrents deep beneath its sleek and heaving flanks * put a comma here
    throw ** ripples through the rock, ** Should be throws.
    a stamp-mark on the coal dust,"

    S2 L2 The line would read better as "...gave him birth,"

    S4 this is a great piece of writing and grounds for a poem in its own right but I feel it is a digression and the poem would be better without it. The same applies to S7.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this poem hill. Great imagery with a nicely woven narrative about a serious contemporary issue.

    Best, H

  8. #8
    dafydd dafydd manton's Avatar
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    The first bit put me very much in mind of Idris Davies at his towering best, his Gwalia Deserta but without the (sometimes irritating) simplicity. I can't think of the words, but take it from me, that was meant as a great compliment. Again, I don't know if this is written from personal experiences, and given the obvious suffering, I sincerely hope it wasn't, but it is a superb piece of work. As you know, I can't write decent poetry, so this one is even more special. Thanks so much.
    Dafydd Manton, A Legend In His Own Lunchtime!! www.dafydd-manton.co.uk

    My Work Has Been Spread Over Many Fields!

  9. #9
    Something's gotta give PrinceMyshkin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hillwalker View Post


    I CANNOT HATE

    The spear of dawn serrates the sleeping hillside
    smearing lurid spills of light across its darkened pelt;
    this haze like steaming perspiration,
    undercurrents deep beneath its sleek and heaving flanks
    throw ripples through the rock,
    a stamp-mark on the coal dust,
    horns caged in by twisted towers
    framed by ragged beams of daybreak.

    My father sprang intact from these cold rocks
    and now lies fossilised in those same strata that gave birth to him,
    embedded in the darkest tomb a man could choose,
    no breathing space in there,
    his corpse impressed from toil then crushed by time.

    I cannot hate these hills outside my window
    any more than I can hate the waxing sun,
    although its light brings suffering to each new day.

    To hate those hard, black mountains,
    curse that glinting devil with its drooling maw,
    its sharded teeth and gloating grin,
    is to deny my father dignity;
    his choice to scrape and claw his living
    from those cherished rocks.

    I cannot hate these hills outside my window
    any more than I can hate his stubborn pride,
    his split black nails and gritty tide mark,
    blisters blue from blast not friction,
    heaps of rusted slag piled high with cold despair,
    the waste, the tainted streams,
    the gravity of air.


    A continent away
    another mountain, barren, treeless,
    scarred by craters
    pestilent with jagged bones and rotting flesh and bright red clay;
    an alien landscape scalded white with heat and hatred.

    That hot white sun a galaxy away,
    a sun that scorches every breath
    and burns each shadow into glaring light
    and etches tear-stains in the bitter salt;
    its touch as sharp as any gutting blade.

    I cannot hate the villages;
    he wrote and told me all about them, see;
    the stench of burning dung and garbage,
    peasant farmers smoking flimsy roll-ups,
    playing dominoes ‘til sunset,
    watching football on their satellite tvs.

    They did not choose to lose their fields to battle,
    had no wish to watch a war outside their door.
    Their hills are just as innocent as ours;
    they had no choice but watch him suffer,
    writhe with muted fury
    as their valleys carried back and forth the echo of explosion,
    shredding pity in a screech of helpless desolation.

    I cannot even hate this war that made me proud to be a mother;
    why demean the boy’s ambition,
    fighting for another’s freedom that was never his to sanction?

    Torn to dust beneath an alien desert sun:
    the tainted scent of war deodorised
    then helicoptered here from Helmand.
    brought back home inside a flag-decked coffin;
    surely better that
    than held to ransom in a coal mine,
    ever out of reach but never out of sight.


    H
    Unless someone has already done so, I'll be entering this on the Favourite Lit-Net Poems thread.

    The repetition of "I cannot hate" puts one in mind of Shakespeare's "Methinks the lady doth protest too much and also of the powerful ending of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, in which Quentin Compson, a descendant of the Sutpens, tells his room-mate at a northern nuniversity, the history of the Sutpen's, which stands as an allegory of Southern history. After hearing it the room-mate asks (as best I remember):

    "Why do you hate the South so much?" to which Quentin replies:

    "I don't hate it. I don't. I don't."

  10. #10
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    Thanks everyone for your responses:

    @Bar - your kind comments welcome as ever

    @Delta and Prince - I'll admit this was one I struggled to write; to convey the emotion a daughter/mother might feel without making it sentimental or sensational..... and Prince, I'm humbled that you enjoyed it quite that much (especially as I had almost given up on this particular one)

    @Dafydd - although none of this was written from personal experience, I remember enough from my schooldays of the coal miners' lot. Thanks for your generous comparison.

    @lall - you write so vividly yourself that the trouble you have taken to 'ponder' over my effort is indeed a compliment. I take your point regarding the ambiguous separation of the two pieces, and also the redundancy of 'barren/treeless'.
    The first part was written several weeks ago then put to one side awaiting some more fitting counterpoint (and I'm aware the two halves, although eventually balancing, obviously have distinctly different geneses).

    @hawk - again thanks for your valued crit.

    Regarding the matter of punctuation to begin with -
    no comma needed because it is the 'undercurrents' that 'throw' (not throws) the 'ripples' rather than the 'haze' (hope this makes sense)

    and 'gave birth to him' / 'gave him birth' - metre overcomes elegance of phrase in this line unfortunately.

    S4 I agree could stand alone (but I feel has its place). S7 I was less satisfied with and see it as probably the weakest verse in perhaps trying too hard to contrast the 'two hills'.
    But that you took the trouble to be honest about your doubts means as much to me as any praise, so thank you for that.

    and again thakns to you all

    H

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hillwalker View Post
    @hawk - again thanks for your valued crit.

    Regarding the matter of punctuation to begin with -
    no comma needed because it is the 'undercurrents' that 'throw' (not throws) the 'ripples' rather than the 'haze' (hope this makes sense)


    H
    Yes I see it now, I was reading it in the wrong sense. Anyway, it's still a great poem.

    Best, H
    Last edited by Hawkman; 08-09-2010 at 10:55 AM. Reason: worked it out

  12. #12
    Registered User miyako73's Avatar
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    I also like this one.

    "Torn to dust beneath an alien desert sun...." just beautiful.

  13. #13
    It wasn't me Jerrybaldy's Avatar
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    Amazing Hill.
    JB

  14. #14
    flung (but not far) hack's Avatar
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    This is a piece that seems written to me. My grandfather died of silicosis at a
    rather early age. The mountains of Colorado, which he loved dearly, literally
    filled his lungs. He was a hard rock miner all his life. My family should hate those
    mountains, but we can not. My cousins husband was killed in Iraq in May of 2006.
    He was an amazing man, the best father you could imagine. You might think that
    that would engender some hate, it did not. It would not be a fitting tribute to
    Carlos. He was older than most of the soldiers there, he went because he thought
    that he could make a difference. He was not wrong.
    It is a great privilege to read your poems on this site. Thank you, Hill.
    ...peace...
    Last edited by hack; 08-10-2010 at 08:55 AM.
    "Remember, we are all in this alone." - Lilly Tomlin

  15. #15
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    @hack – thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on here – I am touched that this poem resonates with you in such a positive way. It was indeed written for all those who choose to work underground (putting their health, and often their lives in peril) and of course those soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause they personally believe in rather than some politician’s posturing.

    @miyako and jerry – thanks also for your kind words

    H

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