Fahrenheit, Not Celsius (version 4)

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CalebPerry
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Mon Apr 01, 2024 7:02 pm

Fahrenheit, Not Celsius (version 4 -- slightly more concise)

A big meal before bed turned my body
into a steel-smelting blast-furnace producing
prodigious amounts of heat. The covers
were too hot, so I slept on top of them
and froze, then slipped under them and broiled;
it seemed an hour before I found a balance.
But as I settled into the perfect warmth,
all I could think of was the homeless woman
I walked past forty years ago at midnight
in New York City, sleeping in the window
of that famous modern church at the foot
of the Citicorp Center, in twenty-degree cold,
wearing a jacket, yes, but also a dress,
her bare legs making friends with the fierce air
as it whipped around the glass giants.

Today I wonder why it is so hard
for me to sleep under covers that aren’t
just so, not too thin and not too thick,
like Goldilocks tasting the bears’ porridge
or the princess sleeping on the pea,
never having known the indignity
of homelessness, never having missed a meal,
never having lost my life to poverty,
or slept outside with bare face, bare hands
and legs exposed for everyone to see.

============================

Fahrenheit, Not Celsius (version 3)

Last night was a delivery from Hell.
A big meal before bed turned my body
into a steel-smelting blast-furnace producing
prodigious amounts of heat. The weather
had warmed, and the coverlets were hot,
so I slept on top of them, and froze,
then slipped under them, and broiled, until
finally I removed one to find a balance,
and so I did — but then my body cooled,
and the room cooled, so back on it went.

But as I settled into the soothing warmth,
I could only think of the homeless woman
I walked past forty years ago at midnight
in New York City, on my way to the subway
from a second-shift job. She slept
in the window of the modern church beneath
the Citicorp Center in twenty-degree cold,
wearing a jacket, yes, but also a dress,
her bare legs making friends with the fierce air
as it whipped around the glass giants.

Today I wonder why it is so hard
for me to sleep under covers that aren’t
just so, not too warm and not too cold,
like Goldilocks tasting the bears’ porridge
or the princess sleeping on the pea,
never having known the indignity
of homelessness, never having missed a meal,
never having lost my life to poverty,
or slept outside with bare face, bare hands,
and bare legs for everyone to see.

============================

Fahrenheit, Not Celsius (version 2)

Last night was a special delivery from Hell.
A big meal before bed turned my body
into a steel-smelting blast-furnace producing

prodigious amounts of heat. The weather
had warmed, and the coverlets were hot,
so I slept on top of them, and froze,

then slipped under them, and broiled,
’til finally I removed one to find a balance,
and so I did — but then my body cooled,

and the room cooled, and I had to put it
back on the bed; but as I settled into the perfect
warmth, all I could think of was the homeless

woman I walked past forty years ago at midnight
in New York City, on the way to the subway
from a second-shift job. She slept

in the window of the modern church beneath
the Citicorp Center in twenty-degree cold,
wearing a jacket, yes, but also a dress, her bare legs

making friends with the fierce wind whipping
around the glass giants. Today I wonder
why it is so hard for me to sleep under covers

that aren’t just so, not too warm and not too cold,
like Goldilocks tasting the bears’ porridge,
or the princess sleeping on the pea, never

having known the indignity of homelessness,
never having missed a meal, never having slept
outside with a bare face and bare hands

and bare legs for everyone to see.

============================

Fahrenheit, Not Celsius

Last night was a special delivery from Hell.
I ate before bed, which turned my body into
a steel-smelting blast furnace. Two thin coverlets
were just too much, so at first I slept on top
of them and froze, and then slipped under them
and burned like a serial killer atoning for sins,
’til finally I remove one sheet to find a balance —
and so I did, until my body cooled, and the room
cooled, and I started shivering under the sheet,
teeth chattering like a broken fan. So the top
coverlet came back on, but as the warmth
enveloped me, all I could think about was
the homeless woman I walked past at age thirty,
at midnight after leaving a second-shift job
in New York City, sleeping in the window
of the modern church under the Citicorp Center
in twenty degree cold, with the wind whipping
around the giant buildings, wearing a jacket, yes,
but also a dress, her bare legs making friends
with the fierce air, and I wondered why,
never having known such hardship, I couldn’t
sleep unless the covers were just so, not too warm
or too cold, like the porridge-eating girl
in the fable, or the princess sleeping on the pea,
never having been homeless, never having missed
a meal, and never having slept outside dressed
only in my bare legs.



I usually try to write more lyrically, but I felt this subject needed a blunt treatment. This actually happened (last night!).

In the time since I last wrote a poem, I've critiqued lots of poems, so I've done my part.
Last edited by CalebPerry on Thu Apr 11, 2024 10:56 am, edited 21 times in total.
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jisbell00
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Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:10 am

Hi Caleb,

I was wondering about changing from Hades to Hell! It makes sense, but OTOH I think there's an argument form aking the entire poem have feminine endings, since you have a bunch of them and they seem to be working.

I think the turn to the homeless lady works very well and gives the poem unexpected weight. Nice that you remember her today.

Cheers,
John
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CalebPerry
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Tue Apr 02, 2024 9:45 am

Thanks, John.

I am working on making the poem more lyrical. I have already changed "Hades" to "Hell".

Does English have feminine endings? Is "Hades" feminine?

What I actually did at that time was I called the police and asked her if they shouldn't try to rescue the woman from the cold, and they told me that they didn't have the authority to force people into shelters. They said that she probably knew that she could go to a shelter but didn't want to.

Yes, I never forgot her.

I'll post a new version in a day or two.
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jisbell00
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Tue Apr 02, 2024 10:48 am

Hi Caleb,

To me, "Last night was a special delivery from Hades" has a feminine ending. And yes, to me English has them.

I agree, a person shouldn't be forced into a shelter. But it lingers in the mind, as you note.

Cheers,
John
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CalebPerry
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Tue Apr 02, 2024 6:36 pm

Oh oh oh -- a feminine ending is one with an unstressed vowel at the end; I see. I was thinking in terms of muchacha and muchacho, etc.
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CalebPerry
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Wed Apr 03, 2024 8:50 pm

New version, more lyrical.
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CalebPerry
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Fri Apr 05, 2024 10:40 am

Now on to version 3.
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Macavity
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Fri Apr 05, 2024 12:27 pm

CalebPerry wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2024 7:02 pm
Fahrenheit, Not Celsius (version 2)


But as I settled into the soothing warmth,
I could only think of the homeless woman
I walked past forty years ago at midnight
in New York City, on my way to the subway
from a second-shift job. She slept
in the window of the modern church beneath
the Citicorp Center in twenty-degree cold,
wearing a jacket, yes, but also a dress,
her bare legs making friends with the air
as it whipped around the glass wealth.

Today I wonder why it is so hard
for me to sleep under covers that aren’t
just so, not too warm and not too cold
or sleep outside with bare face, bare hands,
and bare legs for everyone to see.

============================
It is a contrast worthy of a poem Caleb. I feel a succinct, austere poem, less ornamentation and preamble, has more impact.
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CalebPerry
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Fri Apr 05, 2024 12:40 pm

I agree, Phil. I tend to say too much. I love the sound of my own voice.

On the other hand, I see myself as a narrative poet, and narratives aren't usually concise.

I'll work on it, though I won't be cutting out THAT much. The part about getting comfortable in bed could be its own poem, and I see an important contrast between that portion of the narrative and the story about the homeless woman.

Thanks for looking in.
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jisbell00
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Fri Apr 05, 2024 9:38 pm

Hi Caleb,

I agree, this could be trimmed a bit. The core of the poem is the shift from your discomfort to the memory of the homeless lady. It's good to keep her vivid.

Cheers,
John
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Sat Apr 06, 2024 2:54 am

Hi Caleb

As Mac suggested, you don't need the first verse. But it's a bit forced overall too. You could trim it down

here is my version



I could only think of the homeless woman
I walked past forty years ago at midnight
in New York City, on my way to the subway
from a second-shift job. She slept
in the window of the modern church beneath
the Citicorp Center in twenty-degree cold,

Today I wonder why it is so hard
for me to sleep under covers that aren’t
just so, not too warm and not too cold,


Maybe it reveals the empathy of your piece more?

Tony
Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Robert Graves
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CalebPerry
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Sat Apr 06, 2024 7:27 am

Thank you for your suggestion, Tony, but I'm not going in that direction. As I said to Phil, I am going to cut some stuff out -- most specifically, the part about the coverlet going off and then coming back on, etc. That can be condensed. But the basic structure of the poem -- the trouble sleeping contrasted with the woman sleeping outside, and then wondering about my entitled attitude, is going to stay. That's the poem I want to write, just better than I have.
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If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
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CalebPerry
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Thu Apr 11, 2024 10:14 am

Version 4 posted, not as reduced as you all wanted, but slightly more concise.
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If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.
Macavity
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Sat Apr 13, 2024 2:37 am

I feel the poem is where you want it to be Caleb.
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