Between the Acts


Felt-lined pockets,
ragged now,
to fabric’s brim,
jagged stones,
concrete bones.

Weighted down
in daily dolor,
cloaked in
overcoat of grey,
slim fingers lift
each wretched rock,
release, discard
to well-trod path.

No sorrowed search,
no river drag,
solitary walk
into the water
to take
the first breath
not the last.



Filed under Free Verse

20 responses to “Between the Acts

  1. Each ending is a beginning, no matter how much sorrow attends the change. Sorrowfully beautiful.


  2. i much like that you chose the image of walking into a river for this topic because there is death and birth and a stream in a certain direction…fine touches..the solitary walk. i know you’re always more for neat line breaks and i’m always a bit the line break messy…but with regards to the topic i think i would go for a bit messed-up line breaks…maybe in the first part of the poem to underline the being torn and with the mind coming to peace i would make the line breaks more peaceful…but that’s just me…

  3. ..and sending you hugs…

    • Thanks Claudia. I did play around with the line breaks a fair bit on this one and will probably continue to do so, this has been one of those pieces that I’ve tinkered with a lot.

      Thanks for the hugs, much appreciated.

  4. Julie… do believe you have suggested the stifled nature of the suicide’s mind very effectively, both in word choice and the column-like architecture of the piece. As you know, I feel a pronoun would really hammer home the decisive change of stance in the final stanza…are you still on the barbed wire?

    • I think you’re right Becky, that last stanza does need personalising a wee bit to empower the narrator. I’m leaning towards this one at the moment

      No sorrowed search,
      no river drag,
      a solitary walk
      into the water
      to take
      my first breath
      not my last.

      Thanks for sticking with me on this one, I don’t usually fanny about for so long over little details but this is quite a personal write for me and I’d like to get it right.

  5. No extraneous words heighten the emotional impact and tensive feeling of your poem. As you know I also found inspiration in this topic. My only critique which is only my humble opinion is of the word choice ‘dolor’ which the sound of in my ear wasn’t quite right. I was especially moved by:
    Felt-lined pockets,
    ragged now,
    to fabric’s brim,
    jagged stones,
    concrete bones.
    The whole marvelous piece captures the shocking and disorienting quality of walking into cold water. The title works well. I too appreciated the happy ending. Thank you.

  6. Thanks Anna. I chose ‘dolor’ for several reasons. I feel it carries the weight of depression far better than well-worn words like pain or grief. I often associate words with colours and for me ‘dolor’ feels like a grey word if that makes sense. I also chose it for the sound. I love the ‘d-l’ sound with daily and also the assonance with ‘cloaked’ and ‘overcoat’. It does depend on how you say the word though. I pronounce it doe – ler which has a little more power I think than if it’s pronounced doll – er.

    As I mentioned on your post, this write was prompted when I caught the last fifteen minutes or so of the film ‘The Hours’. I found the image of Woolf stepping into the river with the pockets of her overcoat filled with stones incredibly powerful and moving. I think the strongest thought that I had was that this was an act of choice. She could bear the pain no longer and chose to end it. Coupled with thoughts of new beginnings and also of water being involved in baptism, I wanted to turn that choice on its head, the choice of survival is also an option. I’m glad you enjoyed the hopeful twist at the end. Thanks so much for your feedback.

  7. Hey Julie
    I really like this piece – the ending was too positive for me but that is a personality thing – so ignore at will lol – such a desperate topic i understand why you would want to spin out some positivety. I would have gone for

    the first breath
    the last gasp

    (some positivety) but not to much – (im such a depressive lol) mind you so was she…

    Just my newbee two peneth – burn this after reading – i dont want to bring every one down lol!
    we want maggots!
    we want maggots!

    • Thanks Arron, you’re doing pretty damn well for a newbie my friend. I know it’s very unprofessional of me but I have a deep personal connection to the piece, especially at the moment, going through a bit of a tough time so the positive ending is really important, an affirmation of strength of sorts I guess so I’m afraid I’m going to have to confine any negative thoughts to Room 101 for the time being haha

      I posted another ‘maggoty’ poem for you on the board earlier, will send you the link. Something I wrote a little while ago about the struggle to write *holds hand to forehead* ‘oh woah is me’ I’d do a smiley face but I hate emoticons.

  8. Hi Julie.
    This piece is intensely personal all the way through and I love the way you’ve written it with no personal pronouns. I think to change that would change the atmosphere, and not enhance the mystery of this act. It starts like a suicide and ends as a baptism. Using water as the element brings in the emotions so beautifully.

    Bravo (again)

  9. Aida

    Hi Julie,
    I love this poem! It becomes more personal with each read.

  10. Fine, perhaps too fine. You couldn’t compress this any further and it shines for it, but it’s too bare and spare for me. You’ve revised too much of the heart out. Forgive the criticism, I love your work, but craft can leave too little surface. I don’t get a person wading here, not even a persona, but a figure carved in riverlight. A red wheelbarrow glazed with rain. Maybe that’s all that’s inside for this transition, but I think you cut something important in the revisions. Sorry.

    • Thanks Brendan, I love reading your feedback. It’s invaluable because it’s always honest. I spend so much of my critiquing time (on the work of others) recommend trimming and cutting redundant words/phrases that I think I do it automatically on my own. Other than a tiny bit of rewording in the last stanza this one hasn’t been edited at all, it’s pretty much how I wrote it in the first draft. Perhaps I’ve gotten so used to stripping poetry back to its essence that I do it without thinking. Maybe this one could do with a little ‘fleshing out.’ Hmm will have to give it some thought.

      Never apologise for honesty my friend.

  11. There’s an end I never have and never shall be able to grasp…all that talent, washed away by grief…

    Interesting way you had about this one…wasn’t expecting the positive ending, particularly given the subject matter, but I have to say it works. Emotional throughout, and certainly atmospheric – a weighty narrative. Some may have critiques, but I, at the moment, find nothing to nit-pick at, and certainly nothing others haven’t already prodded. Fine work as ever Carys.

    Also! I was good – you should check Facial Expressions, because I posted a work there for critique and whatnot, in addition to posting the first poem on my blog in a while. Busy busy out here in Colorado let me tell you. Hope all’s well with you 🙂

  12. Hi Chris, yes such a tragic waste. The piece started out about Woolf but then somehow transformed into a more personal cathartic write.

    I’m afraid I haven’t gotten around to critiquing your piece yet. Trying to get my younger son ready to go off to university, such a lot to do. Will get to it soon, I promise.

    Hope you’re settling well in your new surroundings my lovely.

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