You feed me platitudes,

from an outstretched

robot arm,

like fine chocolates,

wrapped in shiny

foil, nuts and nuggets

sweet but suspect.

This arm reaches me

through bars on my


a jail of your dis-ease,

and I realized

that the arm

is not your own,

it floats disembodied

upon your

nuance and diplomacy,

assigned there to

reinforce the captivity

your disdain has created for me.

A convenient arrangement,

but I no longer eat the chocolates,

as they pile up

beneath the bars,

like defecation from

a mechanical Easter bunny.

And as I try to break out

of this jail of my own

lack of understanding,

I shed tears of

not knowing

what it was I did

to be sentenced here,

to a term of


solitary confinement,

watched over by

this robot arm of your


An arrangement I somehow

signed onto,

without meaning to.

And I discovered

a fissure in the wall

of my own disillusionment,

a barrier of self-doubt

and self-deprecation,

self-blame being the

strongest mortar ever made,

and I chiseled at it while

the arm dropped its


upon the altar

of the gods of Cowardice and

Lies of Omission,

and I chiseled at it

until I made a hole

big enough to see through

to the other side,

and with sentimentality

biting at my toes as I

forced my way through,

I escaped into unfamiliar


A new beginning

of realization,

that it was not me all along,

it was you.


7 comments on “Gratuity

  1. “assigned there to reinforce the captivity your disdain…” You lost me here in the abstractions…which also draws out this image of the arm to a rather improbable length…perhaps another image? Or a break for the reader?

  2. ejalvey says:

    Thank you for your comment. I’ll consider what you are saying.

    To be fair, though, you did not quote the line accurately, so perhaps you misread it?

    Anyone else?

  3. hootoo22 says:

    There are a few too many abstractions, yet overall this is a well thought out poem with a great sense of rhythm. It also holds a sensual quality that I find appealing, and there are several lovely little images, e.g. nuts and nuggets/sweet but suspect.


  4. ejalvey says:

    Yay, more feedback. Thank you, Max.

    I would be interested in learning what abstractions you find troubling to consider them with what TOG said before.

    It’s nice to get feedback. Kind of like online workshopping.

    I shall take a look at your site as well, though I read your bio. I have found trying to get published so unpleasant. I, too, have a novel but can’t even get a bit. They say it is about perseverance. We’ll see. Sorry–just feeling bitchy about it this morning.

  5. hootoo22 says:

    Yes, publication is a trial certainly. That’s part of the reason I’ve created my site – it sort of ‘puts me out there’ a bit.

    Back to your poem though – it’s things like ‘a barrier of self-doubt/and self-deprecation,/self-blame’, ‘offerings/upon the altar/of the gods of Cowardice and/Lies of Omission’, and ‘sentimentality/biting at my toes’ that I found to be too abstract personally. I would replace them with concrete images that give the same message.

    Overall though, as I said, I think it’s a good poem.


  6. ozymandiaz says:

    Hey EJ
    What first struck me about this poem was that it appeared to me at first as being, well, a bit wordy (an issue I have run into in my own writing quite often), almost bogged down and tedious. I actually like the abstractions and found them useful.
    Reading the poem several times, though, I find usefulness in the length as I felt it represented the almost tedious nature of realization.
    All in all I found it a great representation of the first agreement “to take nothing personally”. Perhaps not a poem for all but what poem is.
    It represented to me the problem of internalizing what is “fed ” to us and the difficulty inherent in realizing this and beyond that making change, the hardest of all things.
    Though change is inevitable it is different to be a conscious catalyst for change instead of change’s victim.


  7. ejalvey says:

    Hey Ozymandiaz,

    I appreciate your taking a look at this one 😉

    Thank you very much for your comments and reactions. I have not tried digging into this poem yet to revise, and am glad you got and were receptive to the tenor and vibe of this it.

    I write from a different sort of place, I guess. The poems flow out of me like aroma, or water; feelings, thoughts, all dance around me and pour onto the page. Therefore, revising takes me to a whole different plane, and that makes it its own challenge for me.

    I will keep what everyone said in mind, and again, I appreciate your time and attention!

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