Thursday, January 12, 2017

Plow and Harrow (Van Gogh), Sonnet #332

The plow said to the harrow, "I am not like you.
I turn up and soften the soil and make it new."
The harrow said, "I teach the soil what to do.
It may be a hard lesson, but the soil must learn.
You signify nothing. You only churn and churn."
The plow replied, "It's not the soil, but the seed
That must concern us most, its future and its need."
The reply was furious, "You fluff its pillow,
While I obliterate its enemy, the weed!
The seed would sprout and choke if I didn't harrow
The earth, if I didn't do everything I must
To slash and bite and crush the filthy dirt to dust."
The plow and the harrow lie rusting in the field
And for decades there hasn't been a harvest yield.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Supernova, Galaxy M82, Sonnet #331

A mind goes supernova when it dies.
I have seen it with a telescope --
A vast expansion of light as it flies
Into space still empty of endless hope.
Consider: even when the Milky Way
Collides with Andromeda someday,
Very few stars are likely to embrace.
We are all surrounded by too much space.
Beware failure of imagination,
That sad waste and premature demise.
We must keep looking beyond our own eyes,
Past apathy's deadening radiation.
I lost a friend today and must console
His brother, and search the skies for his soul.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bare Trees (Van Gogh), Sonnet #330

I came upon an old woman in black,
Holding in her gloved hands an ocre oud.
The leafless trees seemed a mind-twisted wrack
As she passed underneath them with a word
Not a word, which I could still understand.
A branch scratched me with an arthritic hand.
I walked beneath soft shrieking of the elms,
The ancient ruins of defeated realms.
Some trees seemed older, but with memories,
Synaptic limbs full of ageless stories.
(The language of trees muffles in summer --
All leaf, bud and blossom, they turn mummer.)
I listened to rachitic damns and praise
Of those with many, not unnumbered days.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Ornament, Sonnet #329

For Julia Rose and Alice Bea Guerin

Tomorrow is Christmas, the heart’s havoc
With delight. Downstairs, the unnatural tree,
Will, like it does every year, evoke
With molded glass and light, such memories.
Will my daughters quite see this ornament?
Will they see, as I once watched, what seemed
For hours, the orb darkened by tinseled boughs,
Radiating needles, laden and bent,
The improbable crystal spark moonbeam,
Still, silent as time itself? I think how
They might even see the heart that moved hands
To place it there, in the long vanished lands
Of youth and time they now fill, sweetening
The earth and holding back beauty’s fleeting.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Las Meninas (Diego Velázquez), Sonnet #328

We all had nothing but art on our walls.
Tapestries, paintings, were consolation
Against the cold air's infiltration.
We wore overcoats and our women shawls.
The richest of us had painters employed
To make idols of our wives and children,
And to depict us as the handsome men
We weren't before our youth could be destroyed.
We were lords! Little ladies in waiting
Were equally fit subjects for the oils,
The poor things, our little princesses' foils.
The fools felt loved asked to pose for painting.
I myself died, mistaken for a hart,
An arrow in my neck -- a work of art.

Note: Las Meninas translates as "The Ladies in Waiting."

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Narmer Palette (3,000 B.C.), Sonnet #327

It's said Pharaoh spoke in twittering rhyme
Due to his lacking a crucial enzyme,
Because he ate off of a golden plate
What he'd repeatedly regurgitate.
His crown was golden too, a heavy weight
He wore a rug beneath to soothe his pate.
He smote his enemies with a scepter,
A wand of lead he called his "preemptor."
He had a single rigid policy:
"I'll destroy you before you can hurt me."
That was more than five thousand years ago.
This palette is all that's left of Pharaoh.
They say he ruled a united Egypt,
Leaving nothing not ravaged, empty, or ripped.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fallen Tree Cluster, Sonnet #326

The five ash trees wove themselves a tight bole
And the borer stripped them from the top limb.
They toppled in last summer's derecho,
Roots all root hair, leaving a shallow hole,
Some dirt and gravel with hardly a rim --
A shout into it would yield no echo.
The Emerald Borer will soon be gone
When the number of ash trees left is none,
The pests all starved out, their only work done.
The fault lies with the ashes as well,
Their clumps of tiny roots why they fell
When they might have had a few years to thrive
(The borer's slow to eat its prey alive),
If they'd grown up alone, not one of five.