The Faithful

by Sue Ann Connaughton

Boston, 1959: smack, crack
the whip of education in corridors
we get whacked for truancy
on an ordinary Friday in junior high

Saturday night
we travel in imitation gangs
with rock band names:
Dukes, Royals
for the girls, feminized corruptions:
Duchesses, Royalettes
we steal barrels that claim parking spots
prowl the project
chain-smoke Lucky Strikes
incinerate medals
and spin the bottle on flat tar roofs

Sunday morning, we attend Mass
the luckiest play altar boy.


Sue Ann Connaughton writes compact pieces from an eighteenth century, perukemaker’s house in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in White Cat Magazine; Oberon’s Law; Red Dirt Review; Unlikely 2.0; Linguistic Erosion; Bete Noire; Boston Literary Magazine; Twenty20 Journal; Subliminal Interiors; South Boston Literary Gazette; American Tanka; Modern English Tanka; Bete Noire; Every Day Poets and The Binnacle Seventh and Eighth International Ultra-Short Competition anthologies.

We’ve previously published your compressed fiction. How is the compressed poem both like and unlike the compressed prose piece?

Similarities:

My process for developing “The Faithful” and “Myopia” was the same. Shards of memory inspired both. From those fragments, I built each piece inductively, by adding words, concepts, and images, one by one in multiple drafts, each draft a bit longer than the previous one. I wrote both pieces in a sparse, straightforward style, without physical descriptions of characters, or obscure metaphors. Both cover a period of time longer than an instant, and my goal for both was identical: to communicate quickly, to capture readers, immediately.

Differences:

“The Faithful” represents my adolescent years in Boston. My friends and I participated in everything described in the poem, except removing trash barrels from parking spots—nobody would have dared to do that. Because it’s a poem, I changed, deleted, and moved words around to balance cadence and the visual and auditory length of lines. To maintain compression, I adopted a modified list format to punch out activities and recreate a time and place.

In “Myopia,” I relied upon personal items or experience for background knowledge—my collection of quilt books; an exhibit of Amish Quilts with rigid geometric designs, bold color combinations, and exquisite workmanship; lectures at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—but the entire story is fictional. Because it’s prose, I fleshed it out with a storyline, some characterization, and dialogue. To maintain compression in this piece, I set up a sharp contrast between the two sections, by creating one focused scene in each section.

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