MICKEY ON THE SLAB

Did you ever try an elegy? I stumbled over one on a writer’s site and was intrigued. By scribbling down the first thing that came to mind, I ended up with something I thought was okay . . . but far from perfect.

An elegy is described as: A poem that is sad and thoughtful, and often said in lament of a person who has died. My first attempt was written loosely in free verse, and while I do not have anything against free verse, I tend to be traditional. I like poems to rhyme, and it is nice to have a consistent meter—would that all mine did. When I began this blog, I promised myself to look over my stuff prior to posting it here and to improve it where I could. The improvement(?) turned out to be in iambic tetrameter, not something I work in often, but that is the way it came out. An improvement? I don’t know; I do know it was a whole lot of work, therefore, I decided to post it both ways and ask which you think is better—I’m asking for feedback here folks. What do you think?

MICKEY ON THE SLAB
By Mike Patrick

A neighbor girl fetched me to Mick’s;
Her somber voice a-brim with tears.
Short was the path, but long the walk,
‘Cause it was Mick I’d known for years.
With heavy heart I trudged along,
Mulling o’re the years once shared.
Since we were lads I’ve know him;
No grander man hath ever fared.

Long, as youngsters, would we wrestle.
It was a rare, great strength he bore.
Hard his knuckles were when boxing,
And oft his foe would hit the floor.
He fought savage, with will to win,
But nary temper did he boast.
After a tussle, ’twas to the pub,
And there, the victor he would toast.

Nay man ever called him a foe.
To all he met, Mick was a friend.
When neighbors fell in illness grasp,
The  fields of neighbor’s would Mick tend.
For travelers low in pauper’s need,
Mick would shake from his purse a stand.
The only payment e’er he asked:
A shake of his bare, calloused hand.

When at last we reached his cottage,
The lass passed by to Mick’s work shed.
It was his favorite place in Erin,
Where daily his feet did tread.
‘Twas the place where grew our friendship,
Where together, the hours we’d burn.
‘Twas a place I’d toiled beside him;
He taught me all that I could learn.

Inside the door was Mick’s fair wife,
Her graceful beauty still a-bloom,
And even in this somber hour,
It more than lit the darkened room.
For all his life, Mick loved this girl,
and ’twas only with her he’d lie.
His songs were sung only for her
His smile shone only in her eye.

Two fine, strong lads she’d given him:
Pat and Tom, their given names.
Tall and proud they stood ‘side her now;
While somber tears fell unashamed.
Their future bright, holds not a doubt,
With character strong as their sire.
What better start could men receive,
Than tempering in Mick’s strong fire?

A slab of wood, o’er two chairs,
Held a hollow, empty shell.
For a closer look, me courage shook;
Is this the man I’ve known so well?
Two pennies lay upon his eyes,
As soft I touched his deep-lined brow.
His age to me was ne’er revealed,
So very clear I see it now.

“Goodbye,” said I, to me grand friend.
In words no one but he could hear.
Tonight, in Sean’s dark pub, I’ll mourn.
With Jamison’s best, I’ll raise a cheer.
‘Tis a sad, sad day for Ireland . . .
’twas Mickey on the slab.

This is the original: very, very different.

MICKEY ON THE SLAB
By Mike Patrick

A neighbor lass fetched me o’er to Mick’s; her voice a-brim with tears. Short was the path, but long the walk, ’cause Mickey was me friend. With bowed head I trudged beside her, mulling o’re the years. Since we’d been lads I’ve know him; a finer man ne’er lived.

As young lads we’d wrestle. ‘Twas a rare strength he had. And his knuckles were hard when fighting, but nay temper did he boast. After a tussle, ’twas to the pub, where the victor he would toast.
Nay man called him foe. Mick was a friend to all. When a neighbor was ill, Mickey tilled his fields. For a traveler in need, Mick would shake a punt from his purse. The only payment e’er he asked: a shake of his callused hand.

When at last we reached his cottage, the lass passed by to a shed. ‘Twas the shed where oft he labored: his favorite place in Erin. ‘Twas a place I’d toiled beside him; he taught while I would learn.

Inside the door was Mickey’s fair wife, her beauty still a-bloom. For all his life, Mick loved one woman, and she had loved but him. His songs were sung for her ears only; his smile was for her eyes. Her hands he held in all his dances, and ’twas with only with her he’d lie.

Two fine, strong lads she gave him: Pat and Tom by name. Tall and proud they stood side her now; men in their own right, with the character of their sire; their somber tears fell unashamed.

On a slab of wood, o’er two chairs, lay a hollow, empty shell. For a closer look, me courage shook; there with pennies o’er his eyes. I ne’er noticed Mick’s age ’til now, I touched his deep-lined brow. His hands still were callused from the tools lying ’bout, but nay more work would they do now.

Goodbye, said I, to me grand friend. In the pub tonight I’ll mourn. With Jamison’s best, I’ll raise me cup. ‘Tis a sad day for Ireland . . . ’twas Mickey on the slab.

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3 Responses to MICKEY ON THE SLAB

  1. kolembo says:

    first off, it’s a great piece! I think you want to not get lost in metre as a concept, instead, look at the page and listen to the rhythm of the piece. Put it down how is SOUNDS to you, the breaths, the rushes. I think you’ll find that it’s both pieces you’ve put up here AND something inbetween.

    the shape on paper, for me, looks like a bell i.e. ‘…A neighbour girl fetched me to Micks.’ …expaaaaaannnnnd…contraaaaact…’…I’ll raise me cup, ’tis a sad day for Ireland…’twas Mickey on the slab.’

    I hope that’s helpful!

    • Mike Patrick says:

      @ kolembo

      I understand what you mean when you say, “do not get lost in meter as a concept.” Most of my writing is very organic, living and dying by the feel and ear of the spoken words, much as the original Mickey on the Slab. If it had been any more organic, I would have had to weed it. That is why I posted it both ways. My goal here, and the goal of the blog, was to experiment a bit, to try out new things and to get some feedback. That way, I will know when my experiments go awry. The meter-as-a-concept was extremely confining and difficult, and I fear much was lost in the transition. Thank you so much for your response.

      Today’s posting will be more organic, so you can see what I mean.

      Mike

  2. I loved both of these, but, being Irish (Laughlins, Dunns, Gordons, pigs-in-the-parlor Irish), the charm of the first, if you can truly call an elegy charming, caught me. The details of his life, and the mere title, “Mickey on the Slab,” so perfect. You know from the start where the man is headed, and his recounting of all the tales on his way down the road is wonderful. Loved them both, Mike, and thanks so much for sharing the link with me! Amy

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