The Process

the things we do for Kings must end sometime

master of the dawn, i hold
two steaming tea cups toward the sky.
i am so used to putting the water on
to boil still naked, walking through the house
as either uninvited wraith or being which belongs.
Louis XIV is in the next room, still tangled
in blankets: small pieces of skin stick out,
an arm here, a fillet of thigh thereó

What is for breakfast? he asks before he's even tasted the poison.

Morning.  i hand the cup without saucer; his hands
are sticks, bones which grasp round the circumference as though
frightened it might drop to the tile at any moment.
as King he must not admit to such things.  no, never.

the Sun King draws his own draperies
and we watch the people stir below, or chance
glimpses of those remaining behind
on similar balconies with their own cups of tea,
exuding auras of loudmouthed, come-and-go sociability.

i was hired as lover not apothecary.
i'm not sure which of these hocus-pocus remedies
would work, make you vibrant again so
you might sit in the drawing room 'til dusk
underlining passages from Milton to be read aloud
at table.  i've stopped my ears with cotton
and feign jester instead, offering
wormwood to be Socratic, juggling
balls, balls, balls for your pleasureó

Your Majesty!  how wonderful to pry open your eyes
and find you still alive, your glassy orbs searching my own.
how wonderful to greet the sun together,
hand upon hand, the sill a bony sort of balustrade
from which we can choose to descend.  or not.

what voyeurs are we.  the steam from the cup dims
the sun slightly but still
it is dawn / it is here and

this dawn i've spent without sleeping a wink and am
without regret.  i've taken the dog-eared copy
of Milton and thrown it
obligingly into the incinerator, thinking
we might draw our own conclusions
from such a sight since Milton himself (toward
the end) had none.

later, after you've retired without Milton,
albeit slightly grievous at not having found him,
i walk the edge of the grounds alone and
capture in puddles stoic little rainbows.
i stuff these into my pockets, my own secret.
i need to keep something for my own, don't i?
and you, almost comatose, sucking me dry...

head propped up on a gilt-edged pillowcase,
visage grey, looking postmortem. 
a rose.  a fucking rose for my time, is that all?
what's this?  No, no we are not calling Wordsworth,
i tell the others.  i close the drapes, allowing no light through.
Milton had him in a frenzy as it was, had him
thinking he'd die at any moment.  Wordsworth would have
had him picking daisies and smelling the crabgrass.
we couldn't have either one.

i quit the room and do not look back, Lot's other wife.
outside there are rainbows.  they are the cure, i'm sure,
the cure i've been denying him all along,
the Sun King waiting in the richest darkness
for that cracked moment of twilight to come, with scythes.

Editor #1 -- astounding story line. 105/100
Editor #2 -- B
Editor #3 -- B+ This poem is very hard to gage. It started out in a kind of erratic manner, but toward the middle/end became very tight, at points wonderful even. I think it has incredible potential, but isn't ready yet.
Editor #4 -- This is long, but it seems to work very well anyway. Very original and surprising in places. A
Editor #5 --
Editor #6 -- D
Editor #7 -- A
Editor #8 -- B+

I must say, I'm a sucker for a great long poem and am always partial to publishing them when they receive strong reviews. And there is no one better at the long poem these days than Sometimes City editor, kris kahn. His work is always fascinating, image-heavy, and smart, my three favorite characteristics in a poem. Most importantly, his longer poems can hold your attention all the way through, which is such a rarity these days.

There was one D given this poem, and while I respect this editor's comments a great deal (mostly because they completely dissed my work too. ;) ), I know from past submissions that they don't respond well to kris's poetry. I understand how this goes. There are a great deal of famous or beloved authors whose work I abhor (see Maya Angelou, Robert Frost), however I do recognize that I am in the minority. Thus I don't disregard these comments, but simply don't place as strong an emphasis on them. The opposite of this is also true. Some of our editors always seem to give the same authors ridicuously high marks, even though our submission process is blind. The authors' style simply seems to mesh with that of certain editors, and therefore, I don't put as much weight into their grades if they are all A's. What really makes me sit up and pay attention is when an editor who usually has a preference for an author gives an above or below average grade. For example, Editor #2 also usually doesn't mesh well with kris's style either, however, they give him a B on this piece, which meant more than the A's from Editors #4 and #7, who usually love his work.

Another thing that kris has going for him is that he was invited to submit. Anybody who receives an invitation to submit to Stirring gets a free pass through the first round of cuts that I make and goes straight out to our editors, who are left to make the decision. Not only that, but when things come down to ties in grades, and I feel that the issue getting too big, I always lean toward those who were invited. Not to say that an invitation is a guarentee of publication, but it certainly doesn't hurt. However, kris's poem would have been accept regardless of his invitation or his prior status with Stirring and his relationship to Sundress, D or no D. It's an incredible piece.

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