on imagined armies & how fragile life is–

“we so wanted to get old
together—“, she starts weeping,
receiver pressed tight to my ear,
i trace

notepad patterns,
pale brown squares blur,
blend with blue ink, spin nervous whirls,
grow into mermaids, giant deep sea
creatures, Neptune with menacing gaze,
leads them to formate an army,
that i wish could march

against the sickness,
grant another day, year “don’t give
up” i say in search for words, that cram
weak & bulky on my tongue,

“it never makes much sense” she says,

my vietnamese colleague
discusses sales charts on the phone,
outside on the boardwalk, slow collapsing
snow piles in the evening sun,

& the printer hums a tune,
i have no use for


over at dVerse, Brian will tend bar and we’re talking about the use of detail to set a scene or create a character.. see you at 3pm EST 


60 responses to “on imagined armies & how fragile life is–

  1. this is studded with incredible images, but none more so than, ‘slow collapsing
    snow piles in the evening sun’.

  2. If mermaids existed (“Mermaids DO exist,” says Qina, the pixie who lives on my shoulder and whispers in my earhole) then an army of mermaids would march metaphorically, being unable to march literally. They could be said to manoeuvre, having hands. The printer has perfect pitch, but is limited to the ability to use two distinct tones and the quarter- and sixteenth-tones between them; that is not to exclude harmonics and undertones, nor the rhythm of the moving of its mechanical parts. It’s song is a factor of Random Voice Phenomenon (the general term under which I group Electronic Voice Phenomenon and Acoustic Voice Phenomenon, despite their reluctance to be grouped).

    So. Setting a scene. creating a character. Detail. Nailed I would say. Qina agrees.

  3. strong scene here Claudia, filled with a reality of its own, easily seen. So many excellent lines in here as well with a powerful final line. Thanks

  4. Wonderful way of expressions and these are indeed details, Claudia! When twirled about on the pad and talking, it’ll develop not just into mermaids or Neptune but lots more! Money making characters are known to have been ‘invented’ from such drooling.


  5. nice….there is such and emotional story under this claudia, with your friend…and there are def days i struggle to understand why things happen….i like the magic though in this…the doodling and what that becomes….the zoom out and then back in toward the end….i like…smiles.

  6. I love the story-telling here Claudia – the way you weave the details into your poem is so natural and really helps to enhance the picture. Just one small thing: I am constantly amazed at how good your English is, but “formate” in the penultimate line of the second stanza jarred on me because it is a chemical term and not what I think you intended. I only mention this to be helpful…

  7. Yes, agree with Luke. A printer especially interesting juxtaposition with doodling. Printers also seem to fix time, but time will not stop and stand still. Very nice and subtle poem. K.

  8. Yeah no idea why things happen some days, but I suppose each thing has its place and love the close too. Smash the printer, as it is sorta winter haha

  9. love it. totally real. just like. moments we don’t even notice. this one – i see it, crystal clear. right there. sort of, everywhere, at once, her sadness, your (my) distance, preoccupied in a mood of zero. sometimes, we want to be bored. strife. set the cradle down. doodle. get coffee from the break room and shake her off.

  10. Beautiful Claudia. You captured a moment of awkwardness in life’s unfairness so well. Somehow you included images that add to the grief of the moment. Well done as always Claudia. Hope you have a really good weekend.

  11. Once again you transform a personal event into something that we all can identify with…something much greater than as they say the sum of its parts.

  12. Sometimes hard to find the right words for someone who hears bad news. We want to say something and yet, are not sure it would be the right thing.
    I love all of the visuals. The doodling,, ink, mermaids, Neptune… and yes, the last about the printer’s hum.
    Ab fab poetry.

  13. Hi! Claudia…
    “notepad patterns,
    pale brown squares blur,
    blend with blue ink, spin nervous whirls,
    grow into mermaids, giant deep sea
    creatures, Neptune with menacing gaze,
    leads them to formate an army,
    that i wish could march…”

    Brian will tend bar and we’re talking about the use of detail to set a scene or create a character… Eureka! through your very [poetic] words you have used details to create a very detailed scene[s] in your poem… Thanks, deedee 🙂

  14. I read once…then went back and read again with the hum of the printer as backdrop. There is depth to be found in these details…loved the scene…and your constant poetics…the imagery is fantastic,

  15. Life is so fragile….I specially like the details on the second stanza ~

    But I always like how you end your lines, like its unfinished…still learning about the craft ~

  16. “& the printer hums a tune,
    i have no use for”

    how much i loved this.
    wonderful work, as always. i love your style, everything looks so easy when you do it!

  17. I think this is my favorite of yours since I read your “Rome” piece … which I’d like to listen to again soon. I’ll have to hunt it down.

    I really like your sound in the second stanza, and the way you disappeared into the mythological to capture that unreal moment of receiving bad news.

    I have lost three family members to cancer in the past year; there just aren’t words for handling fatal illness.

  18. I feel so sad reading this and I can visualise this conversation as you take note of the world continuing, the images of the notepad doodling etc and the emotion of trying to find the words. So powerful, Thank you for sharing.

  19. This says so much here, Claudia. Love the detail, doodling and search for words… sometimes it’s hard to find words (especially for me).

  20. It’s always the small details that make a poem feel like real life for me – in this case all the “life goes on” mundane stuff that’s going on around the sadness of the phonecall.

  21. Mesmerizing and tragic in the raw details you painted. I connected to it immediately. Beautifully captured.

  22. Claudia, you have set this scene brilliantly and captured the emotions, the wanting to give hope, the understanding of its futility, but wishing to offer solace. Especially effective: “slow collapsing snow piles in the evening sun.” You took us right there.

  23. It’s sometimes hard to know what to say to someone in grief…but I sense a feeling of distraction as you doodle on a note pad, listen to your collegue, etc. but perhaps that’s part of the discomfort and “not knowing what to say”. You always seem to write in great detail so I didn’t expect less from you…I could picture it all.

  24. Your words travels a road from place to place, as the mind zips from one scene to another, no preparation nor hesitation. The style of Claudia, wonderful as it is. And the HP hums…

    How difficult to find phrases to console a friend during serious time of want/need.

    Much less trying is it to bring doodles to life in a fantasy world of your own.

    And the printer sings its tune, and from it I could write a long song…the beat goes on.

    Thanks, Claudia! You GOOD, girl!

  25. My imagination went backwards and forwards with this writing, yet at the end it left me with a sense of loss, a recognition that some things are final.
    Enjoyed your work.
    Aussie Ian.

  26. ..you said on your comment at the pub that you’re not good at details… now i’ll never believe you again…for this is really excellent and oh very rich in descriptive power… you end’s amazing… triple plus like… smiles…

  27. I’ve got a name for you “The Painter of Words”. That’s what you do. Each sentence is a long or short line, delicately drawn, and with careful mixing of colour and texture. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  28. Your rockin’ the imagery… haha! I can understand the doubt creeping in… not being able to understand why certain things in life have to be the way they are.

  29. Question 1: why doodling while listening to such pain. Maybe your habit no matter what conversation. At least you turn your doodles into enemies of the disease.

    Question 2:
    I was a little confused:
    First 4 ‘stanzas’ seem like you are talking on the phone to someone, doodling while you listen about a disease killing her spouse.

    But 5th stanza you are on the boardwalk. Or is the colleague just out of some boardwalk while you are still in some office. Whey are we told about snow?
    Is your Vietnamese colleague in Vietnam on the phone – snow? This stanza just seemed unnecessary to me. I must be missing something.

    Last stanza, you are back inside or had you always been there.

    • ok… question 1 – to reduce stress and it’s a habit question 2 – i looked from my desk through the office window – and my colleague is vietnamese and sits in the same office – it’s about giving a 180 degree look…and it’s about details..right…

  30. I probably miss the whole point of you poem, but feel compelled to resond, C … I Have a husband and have 2 beautiful kids … I am proud of our kids … I am disappointed of my husband, because he is not proud of our kids …I am choose to be proud of my kids … I feel myself crawling into myself … I’m crawling out of my shell … feeling proud of my kids …

  31. when neither the mundane (printer) and nor the creative (doodling) do much than endure the inevitable, but then, sometimes that’s the best than can be done…

    nice piece claudia, thank you 😉

  32. Before ‘slow collapsing
    snow piles in the evening sun’.
    Armies of snowmen must come to occupy, and stay for a season.
    Thank you!

  33. Great combination–weak and bulky words on your tongue, so perfectly describing how useless words feel in the face of grief. And the snow collapsing, not melting, wonderful choice of words for keeping the scene 🙂