Thursday, February 4, 2016

Freight Train (Charles Burchfield), Sonnet #283

Our frozen January bends the rails the trains
Straighten as they go at one, three and four A.M.
I'm awake as I am each night at this hour
Anticipating the hot whistle blast refrains
At three crossing barriers, each warning the same,
To stop this beast for you is beyond my power . . .
We knew the day of the hobo would soon return,
Just as they once jumped off to camp on an island
Two miles upstream from the old house, to strip and burn
Whole trees each night to warm and cook for a thousand.
I can't imagine (believe in) the engineer,
A life devoted to go, to stop, and to fear.
He must have dozed just now because I cannot hear
A sound but the thump of freight cars rolling nearer.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Big Fish Eat Little Fish (Hieronymus de Cock), Sonnet #282

My daughters called him Sam, the four pound trout.
When they hooked a smaller fish, Sam followed,
(Unseen but anticipated), then swallowed.
They laughed and pulled until he spit it out.
Fish eat their own species. Bass in a pond
Will empty dark waters of their own kind
Until the largest is also the last.
It will slowly, stealthily, hunt beyond
What it can see until it becomes blind
With hunger, then start swimming very fast.
Some lures they call plugs look like little fish.
Does a pike with hooks in its jaw shimmy
In agony, or shiver in ecstasy,
The water gods having granted its wish?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Orion in Winter (Charles Burchfield), Sonnet #281

Tonight the stars sleep with their eyes open --
The only way they can see each other.
Orion hunts with eternal hoping
As he was taught by his Gorgon mother.
The stag was belly-shot miles back and stares,
The constellation swirling in his eyes.
No one stepped out beneath the winter skies
To follow his blood beneath its bright flares
To end his agony with guns. He dies,
Ascends to run with lions, wolves, and bears.
Furious Orion ropes nearby stars
And lashes up his celestial car.
He'll drive it hard to the home of his birth
And hunt to death every man on earth.

Note: In Greek mythologyOrion was a gigantic, supernaturally
strong hunter, born to Euryale, a Gorgonand Poseidon (Neptune).
It is said he once boasted that he would kill every animal in the

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chalk Cliffs on Rugen (Caspar David Friedrich), Sonnet #280

We're here in the blue night of a new year.
The moon ignites the chalk walls like brother
Scolding brother and slowly floats nearer.
The sycamore trees clutch at each other.
My hat falls off as I examine cracks
On the cliff edge not here a year ago.
I stuff broken bits into burlap sacks
To examine later in the chateau.
My cousin and his wife are now estranged.
She points at something below: "What is that?"
(She knows the secret night he has arranged.)
My cousin replies, "That's my cousin's hat."
I gauge this cliff will dissolve in the sea
Before the end of the century.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Tower of Babel (Bruegel), Sonnet #279

The young boy made sentences not drawings
With crayons and one day broke in half
Eighty-eight in the box (he had reason),
Leaving eight to suffice for the cawings
He scribbled so his friends might read and laugh.
His parents banished him for this treason.
Man built a tower to hold one language
Then blamed their god when hate caused them to spit
Out words no man spoke and rip up the page
They'd written, substituting bullshit.
The tower still stands, rotting and silent,
But for the boy, now a man, who scribbles
On a clapper-less bell senseless dribble,
While each man mumbles alone in his tent.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Black Brook (Sargent), Sonnet #278

No one knows where the brook begins.
The mountain is granite and gneiss,
Agate and quartz, covered in moss.
What does she think about? What sins
Or fears? The brook and melting ice?
Perhaps she sees there constant loss.
The drier stones are not as black,
Though her shadowed silk is darker.
No taint of evil could mark her,
At least before she must go back.
She listens to the black brook's song
Until it's all that she can think,
Until there is no right or wrong.
She tosses stones that cannot sink.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Great Horned Owl (Audubon), Sonnet #277

You were envious when two friends and I
Surprised one in woods just a mile from home.
He lit on a branch; his tufts against sky
At dusk were proof and reason for this poem.
As stirring as it was to see the bird
In the wild, my only thought was of you,
That you weren't there with me to see it too.
Well, my love, not the first time that the word
Has to substitute for experience.
You've been captured by the magnificence
Of great fierce eyes and the raptor's plight.
And when they're injured, rescued and healed
(I've shared your joy returning them to flight!)
By your caring, your lovely heart's revealed.