Two Versions

This is a poem that I wrote as blank verse first, then in verse form.  I wanted to post both versions together, to see how they compare.  

That Front Porch (Version 1)

That front porch faced west. It was big enough for
an old couch and a barbecue grill, a glass, an ashtray,
a yellow dog, and me. When we bought the house
in the last week of 2000, the porch was one of the things that sold us on it.
The porch, and five bedrooms, a walkout basement,
and a seller who had a good relationship with a disreputable bank.
We bought it for our children, who never lived there.
The state of Missouri had custody of them—
having a house was part of plan to show that we deserved them back.

That front porch was a comfortable place, to sit, to smoke,
to pet the dog, to talk to God, who, if He wasn’t listening,
at least never talked back. The barbecue grill rusted out,
I didn’t feel much like cooking for just the two of us
and as time went on it was just the one of me more and more.
The couch and I grew to fit each other better as time went on,
it grew soft in the same places that I did.
When I was on call I’d bring my radio out next to me,
and sit and wait for something to happen.
When I wasn’t on call I’d sit and drink,
secure in the knowledge that nothing was going to happen.

That front porch was a good place to see the seasons change,
everything growing brittle and turning brown.
When the snow came I’d wear my coat.
I wrote a screenplay on that porch, entered it in a contest, and almost won.
In the good days she’d play guitar on the couch beside me,
but there weren’t that many good days
and they came early and passed soon.
In the mornings I’d drink my coffee
and watch the windows of the house across the street
turn red with the sunrise behind my back.

When I moved out it was that front porch that I missed,
that I saw in those dreams you get right after you move
and you can’t remember what bed you’re supposed to wake up in.
What I took with me I carried down the big concrete steps of that porch.
It wasn’t much, one load in a van.

Recently I received some letters from a lawyer
saying that the house was being sold.
Evidently she hadn’t kept up the payments,
which didn’t surprise me.
It doesn’t really matter much to me,
I gave the house, porch and all, in the divorce.

I drove past there a couple of weeks ago,
and there was a new car in the driveway,
but the old one that one of her boyfriends
left in the backyard was still rusting there.
The couch was gone from that porch.
I hope the new owners put some new furniture out there,
it’s a good place to sit.

That Front Porch (Version 2)

Westward facing, stone clad
Eight wide, four deep, six high
Room enough for a yellow dog
Couch, barbecue grill, and I

We bought the house in winter
A place for the kids to come home
That spring we hired a lawyer
We waited and we lived alone

For a while we were still a family
Her and I and the kids that weren’t there
We furnished the rooms that the kids didn’t live in
We trusted in waiting and prayer

That summer she’d sit on the porch with me
She’d play guitar and we’d sing
We’d talk about the plans we had
When we could still plan anything

I didn’t smoke in the house itself
The couch was a good place to think
I’d sit and I’d smoke and I’d think and I’d read
And when bad turned to worse I would drink

The grill rusted out and the couch
Grew soft in the places I grew fat
Seasons changed and the grass turned brown
Leaves fell, snow fell, and I sat

I left that house in August
Took my books and some clothes in my van
Left the couch and the grill and the dog
And her, and her wonderful plan

I lived there five years, I’ve been away five
In dreams I remember the scope
The size and the shape of a place that was mine
And the dog, and the feeling of hope.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Two Versions

  1. Betty Burnett says:

    I like both versions, but probably the first one more so. I very much admire your clarity and honesty.

  2. yepirategunn says:

    I’m sorry, its very hard to decide which is ”better”..!

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Well, by “compare” I didn’t really mean “decide which was better”. I did this exercise actually in response to a discussion about matching form to content in poetry. While I feel that a particular content will often suggest a particular structure, I also feel that themes can be explored in different ways in different forms without losing the original meaning or sense of the poem.

      • yepirategunn says:

        Yes, my apologies. I suppose unconsciously one strives to prefer one over the other. I found myself looking to do that – didn’t hurt the reading, in fact gave me more insight than normally perhaps. Thanks very much – it was interesting.

      • yepirategunn says:

        Yes, my apologies. I suppose unconsciously one strives to prefer one over the other. I found myself looking to do that – didn’t hurt the reading, in fact gave me more insight than normally perhaps. Thanks very much – it was interesting.

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