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52 Card Pickupnec te quicquam nisi ludere oportet
Start small. One half-open eye may survey thirty
square feet of bed for several hours. Note that not one
of the seven shining hells you built is half as hot
as this field of white linen. Know all your dreams
are now the same six confidence tricks, shuffled.
Trust nobody. Not the old goon at the instruments:
the nerves splutter imperatives, but all news
is duff gen, scrambled, haywire. Be resigned,
if not accustomed, to the rank flue that opens
between heart and mouth. Learn to bluff, and bluff.
Get superstitious. Develop a taste for patterns, pairs,
but know that you’re all out of luck. Here you are
sinking the black on a sure shot, snake-eyed, dropped
right in it with no getaway. You’ve got one bad hand
and you’ll play it. Sweet nothing, and you’ve stuck.
Tally up. Find the same spilt deck, the same face
turning up, whichever way you look at it. Bluff,
but fool no one. There he is again, the duff joist
that brings the whole lot down. This is the house.
This is you, in bed at noon. Weeks pile up, discarded.
— by Abigail Parry, from A Poetic Primer to Love and Seduction
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Emma's thoughts. I love the nervy, disarmingly earnest tone of this poem. The litany of curt commands creates a paranoid atmosphere which becomes almost comforting, as it suggests the narrator understands the situation thoroughly and must have personal experience of it. The more extreme suggestions ('Trust nobody' 'Develop a taste for patterns, pairs') are balanced out by the observations which feel truthful and empathetic ('Be resigned / [...] to the rank flue that opens / between heart and mouth'), so the very end of the poem feels like a betrayal, with the narrator turning suddenly on the reader and stating coldly 'This is you, in bed at noon.' The fact that I'm often still in bed at noon (self-employed, baby!) irregardless, this clear-eyed assessment of the situation undercuts the sympathy earlier in the poem and is fabulously chilling.
|A Poetic Primer for Love and Seduction|
Your thoughts. We had a lovely note from Nellissima, who really enjoyed the poem, and, Emily Tealady commented: 'I love the image of the weeks piling up. I really get a sense of the emotion and almost the boredom of a break up; the bluffing, having to force yourself to get up.' I think she's spot-on about Abigail capturing the boredom of heartbreak. It's not something that tends to be discussed much in relation to heartbreak, or at least not in relation to the heartbroken person themselves - I'm sure we're all familiar with the idea that heartbroken people can be boring. As Emily Tealady explains, the process of survival and recovery can be just as tedious for the dumped: 'This poem reminds me of that utter uselessness and helplessness you feel after a break up; everything is such an effort and all the while you are calculating your 'hand'- what you have to give and putting on a facade.'
And the winner of the book this week is ... Emily Tealady!
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What do you think of '52 Card Pickup'? Which is your favourite image? Do you think it's a good depiction of the aftermath of a break-up? Is this good advice? Do any stanzas in particular speak to you? What do you think of the card metaphor? Let me know in the comments section below. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid! Just let me know what you like about the poem or what it makes you feel. All comments will be held for moderation, so don't worry if it doesn't appear immediately after you send it.
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