Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ruins Of The Oybin Monastery (Caspar David Friedrich), Sonnet #364

The monastery, a home of belief —
It doesn’t matter which — slowly decays.
The roof beams go first, nothing wooden stays.
Moss paints the stone arches in bas-relief, 
Images of dead and forgotten grief.
We live in roofless rooms with a sly thief,
Who steals, first our parents and eldest friends,
Then our useless youth, which he quickly spends.
Our music and books are replaced with fakes,
Our mirrors with odd faces, double takes.
Though I could not kill the thief if I would,
I defy him — plant flowers, kiss the wind.
I have children I hug; I’ve seldom sinned.
He can’t have my memories, bad or good.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lake Michigan Lightning (Julia Guerin), Sonnet #363

The mantle of the lake, the shield of the sky
Holding back the stars, and, on cloudless nights,
The sunset, button the lake and sky closed.
The first barely audible thunder sigh
Is preceded by a cloud-blurry light.
The sound grows orderly, almost composed.
It’s midnight and I stand at the window.
The lightning never flashes where I look
And blinds me from above and below,
The lake refracting every crooked hook.
When it’s upon me, I cover my ears
And close my eyes to resurrect old fears.
Then the rain comes and the violence flies
Up the hills behind me and quickly dies.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Death of Sophonisba (Pierre Guerin), Sonnet # 362

I don’t know if my intentions for this painting
Will be interpreted by my descendant who
Will write about my treatment of a suicide.
I hid her beauty in a semblance of fainting,
Head rested on crossed arms, slumped, seated, eyes blue,
A victim of her new husband’s weakness and pride.
I hope he’ll see into what I’ve tried to convey,
Not the tragedy, or the waste, but the decay
Of sense and feeling in a woman betrayed
By politics and a perversion of honor.
Yes, a woman used like a beast, a perfect maid
Who died still with the worst sin dishonoring her.
My heir, absolve both her and me of betrayal
In the sympathetic lies in my portrayal.

Note: Sophonisba drank poison in 203 B.C. to save her 

Carthaginian husband’s life and honor. Pierre Guerin, 
the painter, is speaking of me, his “descendant,” though 
it is unlikely that I am one.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Anguished Morning (de Chirico), Sonnet #361

Morning light steals darkness from its hiding places.
The unadorned plastered wall or triumphal arch
Outlines the visible by what it erases.
With each second the shadows go colder and parch.
After dawn the dark runs flat and dense from the square
Over vast lawns up the side of the cathedral.
A locomotive engine with its human bawl
Stops silently for a few hours, won’t be where
Decades ago before the wars the tracks were laid —
It wanders up the plaza like a drunken shade.
We don’t venture then into the shadows or sun.
A fool would let himself be caught by either one.
Morning light steals our souls from their hiding places,
Defining what we are by what it erases.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ship of Fools (Bosch), Sonnet #360

The ships of fools — hardly a pram —
A million in a small puddle
Full of people squealing, “I am!” —
A multitudinous muddle —
Even the largest has no rudder.
Beneath the overcrowded weight
The untarred bow plankings shudder —
When they burst there be men for bait.
Till then the riotous party,
Victorious, brave and hearty,
Gorges and drinks to their winning
Saint they love most when he’s sinning.
A busted lute leads them in song:
“Dam’ned they be, both right and wrong!”

Note: Click on the image to see a larger

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wood Interior (Emil Carlsen), Sonnet #359

I’ve no more memory for trees,
Can tell a maple from an oak
By the leaves, but the difference
Between others, only degrees
Of shape, height, branch, texture of bark,
I can’t think apart, only sense.
Even when I have learned the name,
I forget seeing similar,
All so alike, but not the same.
Trees are only familiar.
I walk in deep woods with my girls,
Marveling at mushrooms and burls
Growing from trunks (empty of words).
They know the names of trees and birds.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Satyr and the Traveler (Walter Crane), Sonnet #358

The goat man had always felt it unfair,
That he must clutch his bare chest in cold air.
The only thing worse was to look a fool
By wearing some dumb animal's wool.
He despised all humans, their sickly lust,
Their clothes and their suspicious trust of trust.
One winter's day he met a traveler,
Plump and well-clothed but for her sandled shins.
He decided to play the caviller,
And ridicule weakly man's meager sins.
The girl blew on her fingers in reply,
Then offered the satyr a steaming stew.
When she breathed on his bowl, he asked her, "Why?"
"To heat! To cool!" she cried, her lips the clue.