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Poem: "The Picket Fence Committee" (revised) - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Picket Fence Committee" (revised)

Discussion of "The Picket Fence Committee" revealed that several people felt it would benefit from expansion.  They wanted to see more members of the committee, and mulled over what the committee's goals and individual members' motivations might be.  This version of the poem includes two other committee members, and a few more hints about their perspectives and tastes.  Special thanks to my_partner_doug, kelkyag, kitrona, and janetmiles for revision assistance.

Remember that in crowdfunding, the audience serves in the editorial role.  What do you-all think?  Do the changes make the poem stronger and/or clearer?  Is it done now, or does it need further tinkering?


The Picket Fence Committee


Not long after moving in
to the house on Hollow Oak Drive,
I met the Picket Fence Committee.
They billed themselves as one of those
"neighborhood beautification" groups,
but their plans seemed lacking
in both neighborliness and beauty.

The three of them stood on the sidewalk:
a tall thin man with a sour face,
a young woman who looked like a grown-up cheerleader,
and a plump older woman in a flowered dress.
Their spokesman gave me a flyer
and some unsolicited advice.
I made polite noncommittal noises
and nobly refrained from laughing
when they realized they were standing on an anthill
and hurried away trying to shake the insects off their shoes.

They followed me onto the porch
the next time they saw me.
"Really, dear," said the cheerleader,
"you should give some thought to appearances."
"Mmm," I said.

"This house is a disgrace,"
the tall man grumbled.
"It's bringing the property values down."

"Yes," I said through my teeth,
"that's why I could afford to buy it."

Just then a loose board gave way
and dropped his foot through the front porch.
The cheerleader and the older woman
managed to avoid falling through,
but both wound up snagging their pantyhose.
Cursing loudly, the spokesman pulled his leg free.
He had to crawl under the porch
to retrieve his shiny black shoe.

"... heap of ... falling-down, dilapidated ..."
More complaints floated up through the porch floor,
and as he scrambled back out, ended with,
"... and ought to be condemned!"

I leaned over the rail and said,
"Well, the ad did  specify it as a fixer-upper."

"Then fix it,"
he said tightly, "up."
He shoved his shoe back on
and stomped away,
his compatriots trailing behind.

"Don't worry," I said, patting the porch rail.
"If that stupid committee proves too much of a nuisance,
I can always hang a No Trespassing sign or something."

As it turned out, the house
proved capable of expressing that sentiment
without my assistance.

When the tall man came back the following week,
only the cheerleader accompanied him.  I found them
prying at the siding with demands that I repaint the house.
Something shifted with an ominous groan, and
they got their fingers soundly pinched by the gingerbread.
I waved a handful of sample strips at them and shooed them away.
I also ignored their advice.  I mean, honestly:
who puts white  paint on a Victorian?

The cheerleader complained that the porchlights --
an elegant antique gaslamp style --
clashed with the neighborhood's modern streetlights.
"It's really not fair, you know, to the people
who have to drive down this street every day
and look at this horrid old wreck of a house,"
she said.  Just then,
a lightbulb fell out of the fixture
to shatter at her feet.
Meanwhile the spokesman
yanked his hand out of the mailbox
yelling that something had bitten him.

I hoped it was the last I'd see of them,
and indeed the cheerleader gave up,
but the tall man was made of sterner stuff
so he kept stopping by to rant over the house.

The suggestion to replace the lovely old ironwork fence
with a white picket fence ended abruptly
when the gate opened a wide rip in the man's pants.
Criticism of the wild condition of the oak trees
was cut off by a hail of acorns.
The sidewalk shifted to trip unwelcome feet;
the driveway manifested sharp nails into tires.

"I've heard stories  about this place,"
he said.  "I'm beginning to think they're all true."

I gave him a bland smile.
The realtor hadn't said any such thing,
but I had my suspicions.

The next time I saw him, I warned him,
"We're having the chimneys cleaned today.
You might want to step back."

"Fireplaces are archaic and dangerous,"
he huffed, glaring at me.  "Perhaps I'll get lucky
and the whole place will burn to the ground someday."
A load of soot and trash burst from the chimney
and rained down, leaving a bird's nest on his head.

So it went, repairs and recriminations
proceeding apace.  My girl and I did what we could
and hired what we couldn't do ourselves.
Soon the house was presentable if not perfect,
the yard tidied, and all ready for winter.
In spring there would be time to add flowers
and more of the loving little touches that make a house a home.

The last time I saw the man
from the Picket Fence Committee,
I was raking leaves in the front yard.
He stopped his car in the street and yelled out the window,
"I don't see how you can stand to live in that dump!"

"It's easy," I replied,
"as long as I remember about
catching more flies with honey than vinegar."

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

19 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: September 9th, 2011 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes! Much better.

If I may make a suggestion, I'd take the "with" out of this line, or say they wound up with snags in their pantyhose.

but both wound up with snagging their pantyhose.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

I deleted "with."
kitrona From: kitrona Date: September 9th, 2011 06:32 am (UTC) (Link)
It feels more complete now. Before it felt like a one-man crusade against the house, which is perfectly possible. Now it feels like the house is REALLY lucky the narrator and his wife... well, formed a symbiotic relationship with it. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 9th, 2011 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>It feels more complete now.<<

Oh, good.

>> Before it felt like a one-man crusade against the house, which is perfectly possible. Now it feels like the house is REALLY lucky the narrator and his wife... well, formed a symbiotic relationship with it. <<

Thinking about this further:

1) Yes, the house is lucky.

2) I like the way this expansion contributes to the idea that the surrounding social sphere is clinging desperately to "normal."

3) Which is probably a significant reason the house fell into such poor repair in the first place.

4) But if push came to shove, I wouldn't place my money on the bulldozer.
kitrona From: kitrona Date: September 9th, 2011 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Agreed on all points. :) It would be awfully mysterious the way that darn bulldozer kept breaking down... or falling in a sinkhole... or the tracks came loose... or... ;)
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: September 9th, 2011 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

reminds me of the way the car always broke down on the way to summer camp...

(My dad scolded me for that ;-)

But yes, it fits better with the title, and with the feeling of a lovely house becoming a home in a ticky-tack cookie-cutter world.
eseme From: eseme Date: September 10th, 2011 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, this is a big improvement. Much more of a committee.

The typo mentioned above :

The cheerleader and the older woman
managed to avoid falling through,
but both wound up with snagging their pantyhose.


The word "with" is not needed.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Fixed!

All taken care of.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: September 10th, 2011 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked the poem before, but I think it works even better now. And I love the idea of the house being able to chase away unwanted visitors on its own.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 10th, 2011 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear this.
red_trillium From: red_trillium Date: September 10th, 2011 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the revised better than the original. I agree, the committee seems to make it stronger.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 11th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This is good to hear.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 15th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Blasted nosy neighbors. They should be glad they didn't find themselves saddled with a lawn nazi.
Enjoyed reading the poem!
:)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 15th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Blasted nosy neighbors. They should be glad they didn't find themselves saddled with a lawn nazi.<<

Nosy people and Monster House don't mix well. ;)


>>Enjoyed reading the poem!<<

Yay!
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 16th, 2012 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It's rather sad that an old-fashioned friendly welcome-to-the-neighborhood is all but non-existant these days.
Another of my LJ friends recently moved and she described the "friendly" interrogation that she went through while she was still trying to get moved in. (Friendly acting but extremely nosy questions designed to ferret out her personal beliefs.)
:[
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 16th, 2012 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That's largely because people are so much more mobile now, and less connected. They don't get to know neighbors because they'll just get split up soon. Plus when people are accustomed to seeing society screw them over, they feel less inclined to reach out; losing a job just once makes a permanent drop in people's willingness to volunteer. Many younger people haven't even learned neighborhood-making skills ... and that's the fruit of the Boom on down. It's very frustrating.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 16th, 2012 06:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

"Many younger people haven't even learned neighborhood-making skills ... and that's the fruit of the Boom on down. It's very frustrating."

The vast majority of younger people don't even understand the benefits of having a tight-knit community--all they can see are the drawbacks.
Frustrating and sad.
:[

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 16th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Sadly so. That's one reason why I write community-related stories and poems, and support other people who do like haikujaguar and kajones_writing, and write for Communities. I keep hoping to clue people into the options.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: February 16th, 2012 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

It's a good thing to do.
I've always been told to be careful what I sow; what they should have added is that when you KNOW you're sowing something good, you should sow with a lavish hand.
:)
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