Go the Distance

My intention was to post on here once a week. Apparently I am addicted to writing / editing? This is one I was working on this winter, and the winter before that… and the winter before that. I’m reasonably satisfied though, so that’s better than usual. After three years of work off and on, you’d think so, eh?

Go the Distance

There is much snow-covered road betwixt us;
Undiscovered paths winding through mountains.
The eyes are black and boundless
Delicate only in seeming, he darts,
A flash of hooves and broad antlers;
The white hart an omen for good or ill-
I balance on the cliff’s edge.

This quest of mine, to meet with fair Dulcinea-
I am undoubtedly the mad knight of old
Who fights the windmills, believing that you
Must be the fairest and purest of maidens-
Such a quest will likely end in my ruin
And yet I cannot choose to stay or leap.

The sea stretches ominously before me
And the way will be long and dark.
Dare I brave Scylla?
Shall I tempt Charybdis?
I will do this, and more,
To see you for but a moment.

A daring leap might carry me far into that sea
Where I might fight the storm-tossed waves,
Reach those forbidden shores, and climb
Such dizzying heights over peaks and into valleys-
But shall I dare to do more than dream?
Can I confront that which holds me fast?

The world changes all around me
And I am static, unmoving-
Firmly rooted in this arid soil,
Old vines twined around my feet.
This is where storms unleash their fury,
Where eagles soar and fires blaze.

But what does it matter to me if you are, in reality,
A swineherd, a harlot, or a scullery maid?
The vines can be cut, the sea can be crossed,
And I, your foolish knight, can become more as well;
I will defeat any monster to prove my worth,
And brave any hazard to find you again.

© Bridget Noonan, 2011

If you saw any of the previous hundred drafts, this will be unrecognizable. In fact, I’m pretty sure over the years I cannibalized at least three other poems I’d half-written: tack a limb on here, nice phrase over there, borrow some liver from that one, ooh that image is nice *yoink!*, etc. Reduce, reuse, recycle was drummed into my brain as a kid in school- I apparently am living it in my poetry.

I’m beginning to hate punctuation though. I obsess about how much or little I should put in, and if it makes sense grammatically, and if I really care if it follows some arbitrary rule someone else says language has to follow, and whether I should use a semicolon, a comma, a period, nothing…

If only I spent less time worrying about that technical crap and more time hammering out more actual verses, or bits of my novel.



Filed under Poetry

6 responses to “Go the Distance

  1. Okay, you made me research. It’s been so long since I read Don Quixote (probably 50 years) that I could not remember exactly who Dulcinea was. My Greek mythology was a little better. I remembered Scylla and Charybdis. Go the Distance is an absolutely amazing poem. I cannot believe I’m the first to comment on it. Quit worrying about punctuation. Read it aloud. If the stops and hesitations fall in the right spots, the punctuation works. The punctuation works.

    • Thanks Mike! I’m glad you liked it. I think I do worry too much. I’m getting better at not obsessing as I post more – though your idea definitely has merit. I sometimes read them to my cat to decide which ones are going out to the lit magazines, but she doesn’t give feedback unless I’m writing poetry about her. Hehe. She’s a silly beast, anyway.

      Oh man, I loved Don Quixote. I’d like to read the original, rather than the translation, but my Spanish is limited to the phrases “mi casa es su casa”, and “ingles, por favor?”, so that plan is right out. Same with the Iliad and Odyssey, because I refuse to take Ancient Greek. Thankfully most copies of those that I’ve seen can be relied upon, as far as accuracy goes- I’ve read some truly mangled poetry, going from Spanish, Portuguese or French to English. There’s no perfect translations, because if you go for meaning alone, you lose out on the subtle interplay of the words themselves (and some translators, in older books anyway, try to force it to fit what they think is “proper” form which is never a good thing- I almost cried at some dude’s “interpretation” of Pablo Neruda; I’d call it more of a butchery, since the poems in the collection were originally short lines and simple words to convey something profound, and this guy went all verbose and long-winded and annoying), and if you go for word-for-word, it ends up a mess as well because the flow is gone, and some words don’t have even a rough English equivalent, especially for some reason with German…

      Well this turned into a long involved ramble! I had a bunch of friends in university who spoke other languages, and there was the occasional lively debate.

      • I envy you your classical education. I’m a compulsive reader who is interested in everything. Love Greek mythology, read the Iliad and the Odyssey and made it about halfway through Plato’s Republic. Wasted most of my life reading sci/fi and westerns. Cut my teeth in poetry by reading Shakespeare, Burns and Browning. I suppose that’s why I enjoy rhyme and meter.

        I was born without the spelling gene. I didn’t write anything but police reports until spell-check became a part of Word. Now that I’m retired, I can’t stop writing, and poetry has become an obsession.

        I always check back on anyone who leaves me a comment, and I’ve enjoyed reading some talented, young writers because of it. To me, talent is rather like pornography: I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it. You’ve got the chops to be a top-drawer poetic wordsmith. All you have to do is embrace that next degree of difficulty in meter. After that, serious rhyming is nothing more than the cigarette after sex.

  2. A life spent reading anything at all cannot be said to be wasted.
    (…I have a squishy spot for SF myself- blame Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas and Orson Card. My defense is, if they didn’t want me addicted to such things, they shouldn’t accidentally misfile Ender’s Game in the children’s section of my public library when I was nine.)

    Dang, you have more fortitude than I; I could never get into Robert Burns. I’m more of a Blake, Wordsworth, and Dickinson gal myself, if we’re talking older stuff in English. ❤ Elizabeth Browning and Shakespeare though. The way they contain such emotion in the strict boundaries of sonnet (or other forms) blows my mind.

    Thank you for your excellent feedback, Mike my good fellow! Ah, that's my dream: to keep wielding my hammer in order to craft something beautiful with words- computer as an anvil, and the word processing software my beaten metal… Okay this metaphor is getting silly.
    LOL, I'll have to remember to take a smoke break after my next sonnet :P. Funny enough, I'm working on a bout-rime on Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare- it's …limping along. Taking breaks is key to not throwing things in annoyance.

  3. Andrew

    Dear Bee,

    This is really beautiful.



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