Conflation in Poetry? Hmmmm…. “Far”


As followers of this blog know, I’ve gotten very involved of late with the dVerse Poetry Pub, and poetry in general.  (There is nothing like community for stimulating work. )  The prompt today by Emmet Wheatfall deals with “conflation,” what I think of as piecing things, often disparate, together.  I don’t know if this poem totally qualifies, but it is a poem I’ve had on my mind, and that I re-wrote (and improved) with the idea of conflating themes in mind.   


We pushed from cold night into a Chinese restaurant,
the fluorescents reverberating like the din.  One waitress
wiped the table, burnishing smears into reflection;
 another balanced a rounded pot of tea and a fist’s stack
of cups (their sides glowing, incongruously,
with little seeds of translucence, grains of rice
made glass), the pot so full
that tea brimmed to the edge of its
spout with every shift from level, hip
or wrist, a
glimmering lithe tongue.

A man in my group had, some time before,
lost his adult child.  It had been sudden, she
had been young.
It was hard for me to look at him,
each expression–his patience
with the waitresses, concern about the chairs, even his
cold-reddened skin—a riddled mask
over the shear of loss that had left
the merest sense of face, worn
like the extremity
of an icon, the bronze saint whose foot has been rubbed
to a bare grip, slip
of soap, by petitioners who have
prayed to be washed clean, not of sin, but suffering.

The teapot begged to be poured; the waitress ran its
gulping stream over the beaded cups, steam rising into
air that ached to be warmed, the door, the night, opening
always at our side.

I could almost not look
at the man, as if his pain
might brim over,
scald me too, and yet another part of me,
what I like to think of as a part
that catches light like the curve of
a cup, or perhaps a part that is
dark, swirling, like the grain in the veneer
of even a plastic tabletop, that part that
somehow recalls a tree (or at least, the idea
of a tree), shifted my chair closer, wanting
to  drink with him that
fresh, hot tea, 
anything that could pass for succor.

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31 Comments on “Conflation in Poetry? Hmmmm…. “Far””

  1. shanyns Says:

    Very nicely written and intense too. Well balanced. I enjoyed this.

  2. brian miller Says:

    wow…really fine story telling…i like the textures in this…the steaming tea, the thought of a tree in the table…the man who had lost a son…the wanting not to look at him for the emotions but also to pull close to share the tea…i like it…

  3. There is so much to like (no, envy) in this poem. For me it is an example of using fine detail to express something much deeper. I’m in awe.

  4. hobgoblin2011 Says:

    Nice piece. Love the mixture of poetry and prose, and the storytelling element is outstanding. Great use of the prompt. Thanks for the read

  5. tashtoo Says:

    You pulled me in from the cold, I grabbed a corner table, and watched the scene unfold. (This is what happens when I’m told to limit rhyme…I tend to do it all the time!) A wonderful, descriptive telling, all senses engaged.

    • manicddaily Says:

      Ha! Your rhymes were so subtle I didn’t pick them up at first, so don’t worry. (I’m talking about in comment–haven’t gotten to look at anyone’s work yet.) Soon.

  6. Seek the Sun Says:

    A riddled mask…..the merest sense of face, worn…beautiful texture, imagery and use of the senses. I enjoyed the ride. Thanks!

  7. Very nice. You created two very incongruent thoughts (subtle too) and worked them into the same poem. You got talent. And, have written a very nice prose poem

  8. Mary Says:

    I felt as if I was right there with you in this poem. Vivid details. And I want to shift my chair closer too!

  9. Heaven Says:

    I love the two perspective from the one pouring and one wanting to taste it. Very clever and imaginative write…

  10. Margaret Says:

    like the extremity
    of an icon, the bronze saint whose foot has been rubbed
    to a bare grip, slip
    of soap, by petitioners who have
    prayed to be washed clean, not of sin, but suffering.

    You whole poem, really, is genius! Thank you.

  11. On my second reading of this powerful poem, I read it as prose poem. It is wonderful both ways. There is much to say, so I’ll just share some of my favorite phrases with you: …the bronze saint whose foot has been rubbed to a bare grip, slip…” “The teapot begged to be poured…” and “…as if his pain might brim over, scald me too,…”

    Your images are sharp and concrete, and, I think, add to its weight. I love the last five lines!


  12. claudia Says:

    finely woven story with palpable details that take us right into the scene…swallowed heavy when you mentioned the man who lost his hard… well played on the prompt…

  13. Wow, this is my favorite of yours that I’ve read so far; intricate detail masterfully orients your storytelling, thank you.

  14. hedgewitch Says:

    What a fine and lyric poem–I was struck again and again by the potency of the images–the slip of soap, the accuracy of that observation, to be free not of sin but the suffering implicit in every line here, and the image of the succor there may be for humans in each other, in even a spurious warmth shared. Just an excellent poem. My pleasure to read it.

  15. zongrik Says:

    good detail and a nice story.

  16. Nick Rolynd Says:

    Wow, I loved the imagery in this. I could really see exactly what was happening. Great piece. ❤

  17. Initially the focus is on the tea and then the admittence of the difficulty of facing the man as his grief/pain would spill over/scald you.

    This is the selfish part of us who doesn’t want to/is too embarrased to get involved, and then the real us, the caring us comes to the fore and then we do drink with him, give him succor.

    Excellent piece (and observation)!

    Amma :o]

  18. Wonderful poem! I can see the conflation of the disparate elements.

  19. Very powerful stuff! A wonderful poem.

  20. Oh sorry, didn’t mean to comment twice; came back and couldn’t see my first. Well at least you know I really meant it – and that I came back for a re-read.

  21. […] this post, several weeks ago, I happened upon a poem written by one of our very own dVerse poets, Karin Gustafson, who blogs as manicddaily. I’m grateful to Karin for allowing me to include it in today’s […]

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