Message in a Bottle

A ballad written on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

While birds above the beachhead soared
__and winds began to blow,
I took a bottle from the froth,
__condemned to ocean’s flow.

Within its void a treasure showed;
__a note on paper stored.
‘Twas dated twenty years ago
__and tethered with a cord.

A desperate teen was at his end.
__He could not take much more.
With folded hands and bended knees,
__he knelt upon the floor.

His answer came within a dream
__that helped him find his way;
to place his trust within the Lord,
__and cast his sins away.

And so, he wrote upon a note,
__and threw it in a stream,
inside a bottle made of glass,
__tied with a leather string.

His life was changed upon that day,
__some twenty years ago.
—Not easier. But better off,
__and this he ought to know!

Blessed with a family of his own,
__once turned from evil’s door.
His path towards prison—left behind.
__His course—changed evermore!

And on that beachhead in the froth,
__just above the water,
he found his note made long ago.
__A promise he did honor!




Right to Left

a poem of political viewpoint

While passing through the town-hall square,
__I came across a stump.
I thought ‘twas perfect for debate,
__so on it, I did jump.

While calling to my friends and peers,
__I feared that I was dead!
A stone the size of half my fist
__came flying at my head.

I dodged the rock and found myself
__still standing on the stump.
Then felt a pain upside my head,
__and fell with a loud thump!

The opposition claimed that I
__was not a passive man.
He swore I was not tolerant;
__a blight upon the land!

He twisted words said in my past;
__spoke of worthless people.
He fanned the flames of discontent,
__and claimed that I was evil.

He vowed that he would win this race,
__and make a better world.
And stood there with another rock
__ready to be hurled!


Tony L Damigo ©



Tony Damingo is contributing poet and participant at local ‘Open Mic’ readings in the Crestview, Florida area. He is also a poet of the Society of Creative Anachronism; a Renaissance reenactment organization.


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16 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    In stanza 3, line 1, do you not mean “desperate” rather than “disparate?” There are plenty of other weak lines to criticize, but it’s really not worth the trouble.

    As for the second poem, all I can say is, “Grow Up,” and let some subtlety inhabit your verse. If you are still in high school, then everything can be forgiven. If you’re not, then you have got some catching up to do.

    • Tony L Damigo

      Thank you, Mr. Anderson, for pointing out the overlooked word-error found in the first poem. I will ask to have it corrected.

      As for the second poem, I do appreciate your criticism. However, I would not presume to tell you to “Grow Up” over your political viewpoint.
      Nor do I seek your forgiveness for mine!

      That said, I will consider your advice and hopefully earn better reviews in the future.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Tony, I apologize for my snide tone. It might or might not surprise you, but my political position, on most issues, is very conservative. What I was objecting to was the almost silly usage of “stump” not as a metaphor, but as a literal object. And many of the other lines just did not seem as good as they might have been.

        There is ample documentation to show that leftists are much more prone to violence than conservatives, though the left loves to call us fascists, despite the fact that we tend to espouse libertarian, rather than statist, ideas. After all is said and done, I would like to think that we can become and remain friends.

        At the end of the day, I would just like to recommend that you employ more subtle tropes when constructing the lines of your poems. You will be happier for it. And watch out for far-fetched rhymes, such as people/evil.

  2. Conner Gavin

    Never thought I would see a conservative poetry site. Bravo my good men and ladies. That Whatfinger News brought me here. Thank you for a great site…

    • C.B. Anderson

      Conner, all of us, both writers and readers, are fortunate to have a venue which hasn’t sunk into the mire of mainstream liberalism.

  3. Stephen Hagerman

    While Mr. Anderson makes a valid point, and this Ballad, “Message in a Bottle” is simple and perhaps a bit contrived. I see this as the nature of the form used and not so much as a failing of the author. Indeed! A Ballad is a narration that tells a story and “tells” is at the heart of any contrivance. Any poem can be improved upon and I don’t consider any of my poems to be completed works. This is the one thing I hate about publishing a poem. It sets it in stone. Have I seen better, more poignant Ballads? sure! Have I seen worse? this is also true. Is this poem lacking in more sophisticated verbiage (tropes if you will) To a degree perhaps, but it is not devoid of literary devices either.

    There are some questions I have on the stresses in some of the feet. Forcing the reader to stress a preposition over a verb, in a foot, is awkward, and this could use some editing. That, however, is a minor issue. If I where to make a recommendation, I would say that I knew what the conclusion would be by about halfway through the poem, and an Allegory, such as this, could be more ambiguous. As far as being simple to understand I am a long time believer in telling a simple story on the surface, that also has the ambiguity, personification, and metaphor of expression to give the poem layers of meaning. Poetry, ALL poetry, is about communicating with the reader. and simplicity gives the lay reader something to grasp, without miring them in sophisticated tropes too difficult to understand. Sorry, Mr. Anderson, but being up to date on modern expression is obtuse in the expression of poetry. Who are you writing for? yourself?

    Now Mr. Damingo’s second offering, “Right to Left,” I liked a little better, and I’m perplexed at the suggestion that anyone has “some catching up to do.” I suggest the commenter familiarize himself with the term stumping, or stump speeches, in the political sense. This poem is a realistic commentary on the state of discord in today’s politics. Speaking from a stump, and throwing rocks are ambiguous terms that meet the requirement of being subtle tropes.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Stephen, at least you were paying attention. But I don’t get your idea about “the nature of the form.” In your second paragraph you came closer to the truth: indeed, the metrical feet are tripping over one another. And simple expression is never simply done, whence the expression, “He made it look easy.” Later, you ramble on about “telling a simple story on the surface,” but I maintain that it was a puerile account unworthy of the author. And I get the thing about stump speeches, which I thought I’d made amply clear in a previous comment. Nobody actually stands on a stump these days, though I’d like to see that. It’s been a metaphor since whenever.

      Sorry, Mr. Hagerman, but if the goal is to communicate with contemporary readers, then of course the expression must conform to modern understanding. What else would you have a poem do? Perplex the reader?

      Regarding the second poem, I thought the expression of the ideas was a bit heavy-handed. I went over this in a previous comment, I think. And your last paragraph contains ideas that make little sense. I’m getting tired of this, and I won’t elaborate unless I get a response to what I’ve already written.

      • Stephen Hagerman

        Mr. Anderson,

        The Ballad form is an old English tradition. Its lyrical rhythm and simple dearth make it as much or more a musical experience as it is a literary one. It has never been a high browed form of poetry. There is nothing contemporary about it, nor should there be. It is, and always has been, a simple way of telling a simple story intended to be understood by any reader. ​

        In your reference to using layers of meaning in one’s poetry, I was referring to ambiguity, personification, and metaphor. I’m surprised that point missed you. “simple expression is never simply done,” is an oxymoron and a good writer should be able to make it look easy. If you’re having problems, perhaps Mr. Damingo could give you some pointers. Mr. Anderson, “if the goal is to communicate with contemporary readers,” is a fair question. My answer to that is: the goal of any poet should be to communicate with all readers. If I’m writing a poem to communicate with disadvantaged kids which do you think they would connect with? Something written in contemporary terminologies, or something written in simple words and thoughts they can understand? You ask, “What else would you have a poem do? Perplex the reader?” Hahaha! Mr. Anderson, I’m not going to be your straw man.​

  4. Lew Icarus Bede

    1. One can find Mr. Anderson’s critiques distasteful at times, and it is true he is learning his way into literary criticism; but I appreciate his occasional attention to detail. And he has staying power; he critiques very ordinary poems fairly seriously. In this regard only, he reminds me of one of my favourite American literary critics—Edgar Allan Poe.

    2. I personally am fighting Mr. Hagerman’s contention that it is the nature of the ballad form to be “simple and a bit contrived”. I do think that 99% of the poetry of our generation is that; but I would not attribute it to any form or formlessness, particularly the ballad. Nor do I think poignancy is vital to a ballad. It is a nice addition, but I personally want a lot out of the ballad form. I want hard hitting intellect; I want mathematical clarity; I want newsworthiness; in short, I want reality—all aspects of it, including that obsession of Romantics—emotion.

    3. As to a published poem being set in stone—that is not necessary. I have written several poems which after having been published, I have changed, published again, changed, and then republished. Whitman is my go-to on this particular habit.

    4. I did like Mr. Hagerman’s comment about accenting a preposition over a verb. I wish he made more of it. I do like the idea of simplicity; but more in the hard-earned simplicity of a composer, like Mozart, or in the chiseled simplicity of a poet like Horace.

    5. I agree with Mr. Anderson on being up-to-date, but also embracing as much of the totality of human knowledge as one can attain—that includes Herodotus, Ovid, Augustine, Michelangelo, Newton, Lavoisier, Riemann, etc.

    6. I did not find Mr. Damigo’s verse as metrically awkward as either Mr. Anderson or Mr. Hagerman. If they have “corrections to make” be specific. In fact, because it was attempting things, I am attempting, and for that reason alone, I liked it rather more than most of the entries @SCP. I liked, for example, his rhyme of stream and string, which many @SCP would find distasteful, including, I imagine, Mr. Anderson.

    7. I do agree with Mr. Salemi, however, that an artist should be writing for himself or herself, or as I would put it, for our inner souls; so I would answer Mr. Hagerman’s “Who are you writing for? yourself?” with a resounding “Yes.” However, I would also Mr. Anderson’s “What else would you have a poem do? Perplex the reader?” again “Yes,” if the subject is perplexing. Poetry doesn’t have to be written by a bunch of half-wit idiots. I cannot imagine Aeschylus, Vergil, or Shakespeare writing primarily for disadvantaged children; they wrote for intelligent adults.

    8. I do agree with Mr. Hagerman’s point about the musicality of the ballad; but disagree that it cannot be contemporary. I would have him check out the very ordinary poem by Lu “Reed ABCs” Wei on the Hong Kong protests.

    9. As for strawmen, Eliot’s “Hollow Men” comes to mind.

    • Stephen Hagerman

      While it is true that critiques should address the mechanics of a poem, they should never address, or criticize the artist directly. I found Mr Anderson’s comment, “grow up” offensive and unnecessary. I did suggest that Mr. Damingo’s poem was simple, but I only suggested that it could be taken as being contrived. It is also true that I did not expand on some of my claims, but I felt I was writing a simple comment and not an essay. You are clearly informed enough about this genre that I don’t feel I need to explain to you that “Contemporay Poetry” and structured verse are two completly different animals. The ballad has long been a simple form, and though you are welcome to your opinion, I will stick with my own. As to what you want from a poem, I agree, but fail to see an elaboration touching on the literary devices, and methods one uses to achieve this intellect in poetry. Thus I see this portion of your comment as having little value. While I agree that Whitman was fickled, at my age, I don’t count on what I might have time to do in the future.

      Unfortunately I did not expand on what I meant by writing for the reader and not one’s self. Of course any artist writes from compulsion, it is in our nature to do so. You took that in a way I didn’t intend. However, I see so many writers today that never take the reader into consideration, when they write, especially when they edit. I find, in today’s world, many “writers” will slam something onto the page and throw it up on Facebook. Calling themselves “poets”. One of the emerging new poets I read… errr tried to read, claimed he writes three poems a day and was on this third book this year. I’m hard pressed to write a poem in a week, but then, I edit for meaning and content. and consider the audience. If you are not writing to communicate with the reader, I seriously doubt I would be interested in any of your offerings. In case you haven’t heard, poetry, in the past twenty years, has fallen off a cliff, and I attribute that fact to both the Facebook slammers, and the elitist highbrows who only write for the elitist highbrows.​

      In quoting Elliot’s “The Hollow Men”​

      “Shape without form, shade without colour, ​
      Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”​

      He eludes to the vacant vagaries of men who would try to “Shape without form” As I see Mr. Anderson’s attempt to suggest something I clearly did not mean, or say. Such is the nature of a straw man Fallacy. Regards, SDH

  5. C.B. Anderson

    Ho-hum. All I want to do is read a poem that is well composed, follows some sort of prosodic plan, and has a coherent narrative. And by the way, Stephen, you typed “eludes” when you meant “alludes.” If I don’t like something, I will say so, and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me. If I seem disagreeable at times, then by all means feel free to disagree, as you have already done at length.

    • Stephen Hagerman

      Thank you Mr. Anderson. C.B., I don’t wish to be confrontational with you, or anyone else. I think you might even find I can be most agreeable. Just being here probably makes us all like minded, if not in opinion, at least in understanding. As long as we intend to concentrate. on the poetry, and not pick at a person’s ego, I think we can all find something to contribute.

      Now! allude! Hahaha! This computer intelligence can be not so intelligent after all. This new auto-correct function can make changes, as we type… unbeknownst to us. If I mistype a word like “allude”, for instance, it doesn’t underline the word, but changes it to a word it thinks I want. What I get is “elude” instead of “allude” Maybe in a decade, or so, computer intelligence will become more intuitive. I hope so! We could probably, at some time in the future, avoid this entire tedious conversation, and just sic our computers on one another.

  6. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    1. Mr. Domingo seems to be part of that vibrant poetic scene that thrives in communities across America and the World. Poems well-wrought, like Mr. Domingo’s, have a wealth of verbal tissue, for example, the assonance of “Message in a Bottle”. What is so nice about Mr. Mantyk’s editorship is that he keeps publishing poems from around the Globe, where we can daily note what other writers are doing.

    2. Having just come back from a stay at the Emerald Coast, very near to Mr. Domingo’s Crestville (Destin, and Miramar Beach), perhaps I was more receptive to the slight local colour of “Message in a Bottle”. I think we are lucky to have his ballads. At the end of this comment, I place a poem inspired by his area.

    3. I also appreciated Mr. Domingo’s “message” in “Right to Left”, which, of course, is how most of the Bible is written (in Hebrew). I do hope Mr. Domingo will appreciate Mr. Anderson’s “ho-hum” criticism; for that is where a poet can learn most about his artistry; though I wonder if Mr. Domingo may be more grown up than Mr. Anderson.

    4. We are also very lucky to have Mr. Hagerman’s comments, who disagrees with me on many issues. This, I contend, is good; for it is in disagreement (theses and antitheses achieving new syntheses. This is where G-Mafia has it all wrong in their banning of conservative voices.

    5. First off, I would not expect an “essay” from Mr. Hagerman. I get a great deal of satisfaction in a single paragraph of T. S. Eliot (or for that matter, Aristotle, our first great literary critic). I was happy Mr. Hagerman went straight to “The Hollow Men”.

    6. “Contemporary poetry”, which I call New Millennial poetry, and “structured verse”, are not as different as some might suppose. If I understand what Mr. Hagerman is suggesting, I would simply suggest that the latter is the superior part of the former, just as the work of mathematicians, like Hedetniemi and Shitov, is superior to most high school and undergraduate mathematics.

    7. Where Mr. Hagerman and I truly disagree, however, “is that portion of your [B. S. Eliud Acrewe’s] comment as having little value”, i. e., in reference to the simplicity of the ballad. I think its depth is remarkable. Now I could be going off on a completely wrong tangent, giving myself largely (if not entirely) to the ballad, especially since I despise rhyme and the iamb as much as I do—having come from the enormous power of free verse—but we all have to make our choices, even when they seem narrow to others. After all, what Shakespeare did with the combination of blank verse, rhymes and iambs, and prose, still impresses me to this day, despite his many flaws and his limitations.

    8. As to writing three poems a day. On creative days that is, for me, an easy “task”. In fact, I try to achieve a minimum of a poem a day. But as we know, even many of the best of poets only have one or two poems for which they are remembered, even as many of the best of mathematicians only a few insights. Again, it is Shakespeare, who is my literary guiding light, for amongst all the trash he wrote, there is enormous wealth.

    9. As for poetry having fallen “off a cliff” recently, I would note that the best literature is written in the best of times, and those times may include the harshest of events, as, for example, wars. I am fascinated by this topic, although I have neither the stamina nor the insight for it. Ah, Nietzsche.

    10. I thought Mr. Domingo wrote a poem which was “well composed, follows some sort of prosodic plan and has a coherent narrative”. Here follows, mainly for Mr. Domingo’s perusal, that recent poem I referred to above. (note the Metrical violation of “City”), and which is paired with a poem of many years ago (where one will find three-syllabled “granules” and a four-syllable “idealist”).

    The Realist at the Redneck Riviera
    by Clubir Seaweed
    “…silvers and greens spread over the sea”
    —Wallace Stevens

    He stood upon the bright, white sandy beach, the realist,
    by the Majestic Sun at Destin, ah, no nihilist.
    His trunks were blue with turtles, with green seaweed in between,
    like as the Coast of Emerald, the Florida beach scene.
    From Pensacola eastward off to Panama City,
    along the Gulf of Mexico, this was his destiny.
    He made his statement, this clear-headed visionary mole;
    the seaweed clung to everything, his body and his soul.
    He hung out in the shade away from th’ unrelenting Sun,
    for he was looking out and did not want to be undone.

    Above, a dozen floors rose up above one-hundred feet,
    from aquamarine rooftop to the gray and burning street.
    The windows, large, rectangular, beside each balcony,
    above the palm trees far below the hotel’s chalced’ny.
    The frail realist squints in the flitting glittering,
    here in America far from the heart of Italy.
    He turns his head off to the right and left, his look austere;
    his hands hold nothing but the air, there’s little that he hears.
    The boats and planes string advertisements through the azure air.
    Occasionally one descries a seabird in the air.

    He strained to hear the messages that passed about his head.
    His lips were closed, his chest was loose, the bodies turning red.
    He tried to see all who around him lay upon that beach;
    but it was all too much for him, too much and out of reach.
    Clipped fingernails with half-moons, relaxed beside the time;
    he held not but the burning heat, and vacant stares to clime.
    O, he would vanish in the light, unlike a passing eel,
    a lobster cooking in the daylight, reddened, raw and real.
    He held to life’s firm law as long as he was able to,
    but how long could he stand up there, and hold that point of view?

    Clubir Seaweed is a poet of the beach and intimate of W. S. “Eel” Bericuda.

    The Idealist at Cannes
    by U. Carew Delibes

    He stood upon the sandy granules, the dreaming man,
    near by the Intercontinental Carlton at Cannes.
    His trunks were light-blue, like the sky, but brighter in the sun,
    against th’ imposing deep blue o’ th’ Mediterranean.
    He stood akimbo, brown of skin, legs spread apart, secure.
    He made his statement, this idealist of the azure.
    But one could see, below his short, neat, dark-brown, close-cut hair,
    a touch of dirt upon the padded, curving, lounging chair.
    The sun reflecting off his back, the gazing of his eyes,
    suggested he was looking down, instead of at the skies.

    Above, the seven floors rose up seventy-seven feet,
    reflecting brilliant white in the insufferable heat.
    The windows dark, rectangular, in beaux-arts masonry,
    gazed on the straining palms below the hotel’s vacancy.
    The rough idealist squints in the glinting glittering,
    the wrinkles vertical in the glabella’s knitted wring.
    He turned his head off to the right, his look was sinister.
    His hands held to a cylinder, that keen-eared listener.
    Lined shadows crossed his black eye-brows and lashes nearly closed.
    He held his muscles taut and tight, as if in air he posed.

    He strained to hear the messages that passed about his head.
    His lips were shut, his chest was tense, life’s meaning left him dread.
    He tried to see what was behind him on that sandy beach;
    but somehow it was too close to his end, and out of reach.
    Clipped fingernails with half-moons gripped hard around the time;
    he held with all his might brief moments of the earth’s sublime.
    O, he would vanish in the dark, as quick as passing eel,
    a filmy residue of image on the dharma wheel.
    He held to its firm law as long as he was able to;
    but how long could he stay up in the air, and hold that view?

    • Tony L Damigo

      Thank you B. S. Eliud Acrewe, for your comments and the efforts invested in your bulleted response. It is all very much appreciated.

      • B. S. Eliud Acrewe

        The “bullets” come from Wittgenstein.

  7. Tony L Damigo

    First off, I would like to thank EVERYONE for their comments and concerns. I am grateful, and I regret being absent from the bulk of the conversation thus far. Life happens! That said, all of you have given me much to consider, pro and con; both of which are equally important to me.

    The society houses very talented poets from all walks of life, and it enjoys a highly diverse readership. It has also offered me a great venue to introduce some of my work, and the opportunity to further hone my craft were others with varied experience and talent can provide valuable input. So, I count myself fortunate to be availed of your wit, wisdom, and critique. And, in response to C.B. Anderson’s olive branch (which was unnecessary but appreciated), I too would like to think that he and I can, and will, become good friends.


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