Monday, January 19, 2015

Moon Sonnets, Sonnets #225 and #226

Gibbous Moon at Sunrise, Sonnet #226

Change speeds. No scales, no balances remain even;
They tip, totter, weighing innumerable me's.
A morning so cold I wonder if pupils freeze.
The waning moon runs from the invisible sun.
A bare tree passes on its light from limb to limb,
Chipping away the orb's disintegrating rim.
I stop to take this picture (though I'm late for work)
Of a moment when, through clutter of trees and murk,
The exhausted, retiring moon beckons and winks,
Before, like reversed syntax, into earth it sinks.
Two days later, at precisely the same hour,
I returned -- the sky empty, the air ancient cold.
You must, I thought, do everything in your power
To stop the need to see clearly from growing old.

Fall Night (David Mikautadze), Sonnet #225

The moon says to the maple tree,
"You owe your existence to me."
Silent, the tree decides to be.
(Its leaves ruffle the wind's smooth voice.)
The moon and tree suggest a choice.
I can wish or I can rejoice.
I can happily know the night
Or yearn for knowledge of the light.
Do pages of a closed book read
Each other? Do dimensions bleed,
With time becoming space at times?
The moon and the maple tree rhyme.
Because I am given the chance,
I choose joy, even ignorance.

Click on the images to see larger versions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Yellow Sail (Odilon Redon), Sonnet #224

The passage of the soul -- a mess of gold,
No longer treasure or currency,
Plus cut and uncut baubles, glistening
Or dull, stored away in a sailboat's hold --
Is the crossing of a perilous sea.
Two spirits, one seeing, one listening,
Neither speaking, steer the shallow craft past
Receding shore until it's gone at last.
A stiff, cold wind fills the tall yellow sail.
The blood red bow parts each threatening wave
To another dead sailor's muffled wail,
Begging to leave his expiatory grave.
With grace, the boat might reach the farther shore,
Or leave all to rot on the ocean floor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Three Deadly Sonnets, #221, #222, #223

Train Trestle (Julia Guerin), Sonnet #223

People still talk about Tarzan* diving
Off the south end (the north much too shallow),
Swimming upriver to the public beach.
Few recall cars and engine arriving
On either side, or a whistle's bellow,
Yet nothing's diminished its iron reach.
I once saw a man killed near the trestle.
A speedboat hit a sunken pier and flew
Up, tossing the driver backward; the screw
Bit him as the boat came down. I wrestled
A pram into the water, but he swam
To the other shore screaming, where a man
Pulled him out; as he died, the speedboat ran
On in a spiral toward the city dam.

*Johnny Weissmuller

The Snake Charmer (Henri Rousseau), Sonnet #222

The cobra hid beneath the house as we returned from church.
My father pinned him with a stick as my sister came near.
The serpent reared and flared his hood. We saw him vainly lurch
At my sister, who only leaned closer, quite without fear.

The snake charmer fingers his flute, his breath
Enchanted, a simulacrum of death
The snakes approach from curiosity.
To strike the man would end the mystery,
And leave an eternal ear-worm, a tune
Like the moaning of the coming monsoon.

Dad dispatched it with a thrust, but not right away,
Instead conducting a lesson for his children.
As he spoke of the farms where they collect venom,
The cobra danced a diminishing bob and sway.

Duel Between Onegin and Lenski (Ilya Repin), Sonnet #221

Thus in a duel the man who’s in the wrong
(In honor, good shots can be weak or strong)
Might find himself puking, stagger away
From his challenger swearing and bleeding
Out his life, supine in a dewy field.
Those who later hear of the fight will say
Of the killer, “But he’s of good breeding,
And the dead man was a fool not to yield.
After all, winning is vindication!”
Onegin killed his friend Levski over
His own jealous, vindictive flirtation
With Olga, Levski’s inconstant lover.
For both men, “honor" was nothing to trust,
Just a word for anger, ego, and lust.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Swinging Bridge, Belvidere, IL (Bill Eklund), Sonnet #220

There's just this moment, this perfect moment.
The past is there for us, but almost nil,
A deep and half-lit cave we mine each night
For silver only we can melt or mint,
Or capture in a photographic print.
The future is not even something still,
But a river of invisible light,
Empty of anything the light might strike.
Today, the swinging bridge has a locked gate,
At the other end of the span, its mate.
Years past, I crossed it whenever I'd like.
At its bellied center I'd fish for pike,
Or throw my weight and make it slowly swing.
Without me here, I'd think, there is nothing.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Siesta (Van Gogh), Sonnet #219

Most nights I wake up for an hour.
The scythes of sleep are out of reach
And there's nothing left of my dream.
That day past is a bright flower
In my head the darkness can't bleach
Or wilt, or dim its spectral beam.
I force myself to think of hay,
Of endless fields of solid gold
I must cut down by end of day.
If I just had two scythes to hold,
I'd swing away and never tire.
Each stroke would sharpen each blade,
The hay stack higher and higher,
Until I dream beneath its shade.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Triamphibiangle (David Birkey), Sonnet #218

The leopard, the tiger, and the lion frog
Have been the silent, devoted sentries
Of the last point-balanced triangle log
Longer than the countable centuries.
We might prefer to call the log a tree
As there is certainly a symmetry
To the branches, which do leaf out each spring;
Like faded memories, they quickly fall,
The last shudders of a nearly dead thing.
The frogs believe the balancing is all.
They live, first small, in the perilous gap
Beneath shorn bark that drips a mist of sap,
Then, grown, they form a protective cordon,
To wait and watch for any threat from men.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Scream (Munch), Sonnet #217

Let's clap our hands for Mr. Scream,
Who can't awaken from his dream,
Who can't tell things that are from seem.
He's lost his former self-esteem
And stops his ears from blowing steam.
Perhaps the consultative team
He works with has begun to scheme
To discredit, tarnish the beam
Of his reputation's buffed gleam.
Maybe a woman of extreme
Cruelty and beauty poured a stream
Of contempt on him like soured cream.
Who once in his world reigned supreme,
Has now become a risible meme.