Friday, February 27, 2015

Ascending and Descending (Escher), Sonnet #231

I grew up in the old stone house of sleep.
I'd sit on the top step of the entrance
And dream mazes of stair, of room, and floor,
My youth's slumber oblivious and deep.
Growing older, seeking a deeper trance,
I entered the house through the basement door
Where myriad doorless, high ceilinged rooms,
All windowless, lead me onto the roof,
My mind alight like pyrotechnic blooms.
There 25 me's, robotic, aloof,
Marched up and down and up maniac stairs,
Marched pair by pair by pair by pair by pair,
Never, never arriving anywhere,
Unblinking, blind with insomniac stares.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Shell (Odilon Redon), Sonnet #230

Found empty on beaches, a snail's life's completion,
(But for the occasional hermit crab squatting),
The record of years of unconscious secretion,
Like an old oak tree's sawed rings, without rotting.
The exterior is rough and pointed, lining
As smooth as fired glaze, lucent, roseate, shining.
Pick one up and look deeper inside than you can.
All forgotten dreams fit snugly in living shell.
Ear-worms of time sing from the conch's well
And whisper secrets of the universe's plan.
(It's only the echo of the blood in your brain,
They say, or the pounding of the bounding main.)
The conch is -- we can reach inside, attempt to seize
Its mind. We can also try to swallow the seas.

Friday, February 13, 2015

War (Rousseau), Sonnet #229

Nations fight War because they have no choice.
Men silence with bomb, rifle, and the sword,
Trying to bury Death's insistent voice
(Though a command is just War's godlike word).
By killing each other men will kill War,
At least that's what they're told by king and czar,
Emperor, minister, and president.
A doctor, my dad had to shoot a man,
A "Jap" who burst into his patients' tent.
War keened, "First, do harm!" as the man's blood ran.
We are all divided into two camps,
Those who fight a war and those who do not.
War offers the latter up to his champs,
Then rallies them all toward riot and rot.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Portrait of Mademoiselle Alice Guerin, 1884 (Paul Cesar Helleu), and Photograph of Alice Guerin, 2008, Sonnet #228

Here's my Alice, and le mademoiselle,
One hundred and twenty-two years apart.
Perhaps reincarnation is an art,
Time dipping its paintbrush into a well,
Its empty well, and drawing forth nothing,
Which, touching dimension again, it plies
Itself (whatever that is) -- thus a thing
Of beauty, in a smile, red hair, bright eyes,
And spirit that seems familiar to men,
Is recovered and rendered new again.
The melancholia, faint with kindness,
Of the first girl, is joy on my child's face.
As it mixes new colors, time's blindness
Paints over all that it cannot erase.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Along Schnebly Hill Road, Sedona (D'Arcy Guerin Gue), Sonnet #227

Sometimes beauty is the eye of the beholder.
My sister took this photo in January.
(We're two of seven and she's seven years older.)
It is what she sees, so it means something to me.
As a small boy I was crippled and wore a brace,
Thirteen pounds of leather, rubber, laces, and steel.
It fell to her to help me put it on -- she'd kneel
And manipulate the thing with patience and grace.
It seemed there were always problems; sometimes the parts
Wouldn't mesh, or no longer fit me, or leather
Pinched muscles or skin. We'd work at it together,
And the pain of it for us wrung my sister's heart.
I see in this sunset her soul, joyful, clear-eyed,
And as compassionate as this warm sky is wide.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

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.