JULY 8th, 2018 In the tunnel
We dreamed of art
We played with fire
The ending was out of sight
Hearts skipped with fright
Moisture drifted through the air
Bloody signs said to beware
And yet, we did not foreswear
Our journey deep
Into an abandoned place
Where you could barely see another face ///////////////////////
I don't know when I actually started writing poetry--I had a book called "Rip the Page" I loved a lot when I was eight or so--but this poem is from a couple day's after I started claiming I was a poet. From what I remember, the previous day my summer camp and I had gone to visit the abandoned turnpike tunnel in PA where the opening of the Road was filmed. I was around 13 at the time and this was all very exciting. I was writing about five hundred poems a day (this was a camp for young writers) and making a bunch of new friends. This poem was definitely written as a product of that excitement.
Firstly, it doesn't actually have a title? And for an untitled work, the first line is pretty darn weak. "In the tunnel" doesn't really say anything about the tunnel--which sucks, because it was a really cool tunnel. & the vagueness doesn't serve the piece, either.
Second off, the "Profanities rule" line is weirdly capitalized and why was I so scared of punctuation? "We dreamed of art" is almost interesting, especially in contrast with the second and fourth line, but it's all so general there's no real life to it.
Two notes about "The ending was out of sight/ Hearts skipped with fright." The bit about the ending could've been interesting if it was placed properly so it could be a play on the tunnel's ending versus the poem ending versus life ending or something, but it wasn't. So it's just weak. "Hearts..." is both completely cliche and rhyming for no apparent reason. I'm not too mad at my 13 year old self, I didn't know how structure worked even a little bit but still....I'd advice her to please for the love of God only use form that is both constant and coherant but actually helps the piece at the same time.
Now, we have three rhymes in a row--I don't even know. Oh. "Moisture" is weird, because I know I meant to say there was weird drippy stuff from the ceiling. The signs weren't even actually bloody, that's just dramatic. None of this is to say you can't exaggerate the truth in poetry, but this just reads as silly. My final rhyme here "forswear" doesn't even make sense.
Finally, we end on an xaa rhyme scheme. "Our journey deep/ Into an abandoned place" gives me Hobbit vibes, but the ending line with the pointless rhyme--I don't know how to feel about it.
That's not to say this poem has absolutely no positive elements to it. I like how hard I tried to set a tone, like man oh man, I was going for it. I like how I did that without telling the reader what to feel, I never said anything like "this place is so scary/ but the magic of art compels me to not pee my pants." Okay, I'm going to take this a step further and rewrite this. I'm definitely not a master poet by any means, but it might be beneficial to see what I'd do differently.
The Abandoned Turnpike, from December 2020 we slipped into the earth through a hole in the forest
tiny green stalks sticking their way up through the concrete
the councilors begged the children not to look too close
at the walls, where the graffiti turned explicit, sharp, rude.
we whisper back and forth about the people who died here,
the ghosts who might hear us. we talk in childish tones about
the books we read, like a book club that hasn’t met before but
is willing to work through a lifetime of backlog. mz someone someone
hands out little torches. we write our names in the man-made
caves’ mist. “we’re halfway through the tunnel, kids” yet no one
sees a thing. when the light’s turned off, there’s nothing at all.
here’s the only ending i can imagine: the tunnel crashes in, later
other children (not our own) tell each other about all the young ones
who stumbled together into a tunnel and didn’t ever come back out.