Friday, September 12, 2014

Physiognomical Lightning (Klee), Sonnet #202

I met a man with lightning in his eyes,
A jagged scar on his nose and forehead,
Old acne pits on his fat cheeks the size
And color of old pennies, and he said,
"My name is Resentment; Sir God to you.
Do not speak or presume to ask questions.
I've something to say, though I'm no guru:
The time has come, the next second beckons."
He paused and a light split open his brow.
"Happens all the time," he said, "Do not bow.
I'm not that kind. A lesser deity,
I want neither piety or pity."
His face mended with a smile, then he left,
Leaving me with a forehead hot and cleft.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Untitled (Julia Guerin), Sonnet #201

Night, then thought-crushing life-bleaching lightbang
That burst your house before the thunder rang.
When it's right above you, it slaps your soul;
The sound turns the valves in your sacred heart,
And leaves your mind a maelstrom of a hole.
(The gods threw a lightning bolt like a dart,
At each other, playfully, or at men,
To prick forth their prayers again and again.)
Last night the city's lights withstood the storm,
But I, briefly, succumbed to its thunder.
A detonation ripped apart all form,
Idea or emotion, buried under
Avalanching nerves, reflected in skeins
Of lightning, and bare trees, stuttering veins.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Question, Sonnet #200

For Michael Antman

My daughter brought these stones from New Zealand.
At first we arranged them in a circle,
The white veins touching, mostly, band to band.
They seemed to me a kind of miracle,
Holding everything we know inside,
And all we don't brought in from far and wide.
But soon that seemed too pat an arrangement,
With a history, yes, and silent, but,
However Zen-like, it didn't hit my gut.
The circle must be cut open and bent,
As the thing it did not contain, allow,
Was questions (the world just is, here and now?).
The stones, like this 200th sonnet, speak,
And answer with a question what we seek.

To ask or not to ask, that is to be.
No answer has been satisfactory.
I can't know the secrets of my own soul,
Because, like Richard Wilbur's star-nosed mole,
I can only pass by the graves of men,
Whose own souls, if at last revealed to them,
May be whispering, like wind in the grass --
Language meant only for the dead en masse.
Instead, I'll ask for nothing but the sun
To answer with its rising tomorrow,
And listen to cicadas, one by one,
Respond with obliterated sorrow.
I love you all. That's an answer for now.
Someday I might learn more. I'll let you know.

Michael Antman has been the editor of this sonnet sequence
since I began it in February of 2011. His unerring ear, tact, 
and encouragement, are deeply appreciated, as is his friendship.
The stones were collected as a gift for me by my daughter Alice Bea Guerin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Portrait of Sonia (Henri Fantin-Latour), Sonnet #199

For Frank Wilson

We can't withstand a woman's eyes for long.
We will turn away from disinterest
Or hauteur, and a contemplative stare,
Which, like a physician's probe, would prolong
The moment of contact, will cruelly test
Our dissembling, to appear not to care.

"My Sonia," thinks Henri, "I have you now!
Your Tiger's Eye eyes and each petted brow,
Your smile, not lips, but your entire face,
Offering, accepting a smile's grace."

We meet Sonia and cannot turn away.
Her eyes accept our ardor without fear
Or love or pride or caring what we say
In her honor, which she will never hear.

I have dedicated this sonnet to Frank Wilson in 
gratitude for linking to Zealotry of Guerin
for the last three years from his fine literary
blog, Books Inq.
Also, to thank him for suggesting this 
beautiful Portrait of Sonia.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Three Witches from Macbeth (Daniel Gardner), Sonnet #198

Doyennes of the English aristocracy,
They posed as the three witches for a jape,
Not dressed as lurid hags, or Hecate,
But to see their Lords and lovers agape.
A Viscountess, a Duchess, and their friend,
(A sculptress who'd have arranged the tableaux),
They wielded charms and beauty to one end:
To forge history with a kiss's blow.
No adder's fork, witch's mummy, hemlock
Digg'd 'i th' dark (no hint of damnation),
For the pot, just a rose and carnation,
And a swatch from a Lady's prettiest frock.
Natheless, look at their eyes: come-hither, yes,
And alight with their men's powerlessness.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Sirens and Ulysses (William Etty), Sonnet #197

Ulysses doesn't tell us what he heard,
Just "ravishing voices," their "urgent call."
He commanded his deaf crew to ungird
Him from the mast and leave him to crawl
Overboard and die in the Siren's arms,
To music he couldn't hear as alarms.
I've wondered what sweetness made of the air
Could enrapture a man beyond all care
For death or danger (the Siren's island
Was nothing but corpses and skeletons),
Turn him into prey, defenseless, unmanned.
What woman can turn songs into weapons?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Swans Reflecting Elephants (Dali), Sonnet #196

My brain sees all it seems to need.
Tearing eyes stare, hungry to feed
It with bloody meat and crushed seed
It devours with delicate greed.
The iris, that maculate bead,
Expands the pupil as lights speed
Through neurons, never to be freed.

The elephants cannot be freed
From the lake; they have slow will, no speed.
From a swan's beak a single bead
Drops, ripples what my brain agreed
To see, bird become beast. We seed
Our lives with all we've seen, and feed
On illusions illusions need.