Thursday, May 26, 2016

Blind Pew (N. C. Wyeth), Sonnet #299

A knife's as good as a drink to a corpse,
Or so Blind Pew might have said, but he's dead.
How does a blind bastard commit murder?
At night, when everyone is blind, of course.
His senses like an owl's swiveling head,
He'd think, my prey's eyes? Nothing absurder!
A barred owl once perched on my shepherd's hook
Bird feeder -- I watched him for an hour.
He'd scan the ivy by the house, then look
At me, then back where some creature cowered.
His black lusterless eyes looked blind, like holes
Of night in a graying sky, unblinking.
He dropped and flew off with a mouse or vole,
Like Blind Pew, satiated, unthinking.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Sibyl (Edward Burne-Jones), Sonnet #298

The youngest sibyl reads from blank parchment.
What the gods once wrote about tomorrow,
She speaks, not understanding what they meant.
Her voice knows just one key -- that of sorrow.
She says, "You see today, but only dream
Of a next day; between them there's no seam."
When she predicts, her words are all esses,
Sibilant sweet. She names no day or year
(While she beckons you to step nearer)
For the coming of man's final excesses.
She doesn't speak of one man or woman.
She'll say, "There's no individual fate.
You seek from me some personal omen?
Then, for you, Dear, it's already too late."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Siegfried Tastes the Dragon's Blood (Arthur Rackham), Sonnet #297

Long ago, each dragon had his slayer.
The hoarding of gold was always a crime.
Armed with only a sword and a prayer,
The young knight tracked the serpent by its slime.
Some thought the worm slept on his rug of gold,
Never wakening, but like all creatures,
He must eat -- a lady perhaps, not old,
With pleasing form and nice facial features.
Surprised by the knight while guarding his lair,
The dragon, too sated to run, plunges
Forward as the terrified knight lunges.
His last thought glimmers: "This is not unfair."
The bloody sword drips on the knight's fingers.
He licks them. Only the gold smell lingers.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Odysseus Between Scylla and Charybdis (Henry Fuseli), Sonnet #296

The most treacherous, the fortuitous
Murderers, the spiders -- a whirlpool,
A hanging cliff -- who cannot even hunt,
Must wait the bait, fixed and anonymous,
The passing by of the delicious fool,
Some Odysseus in his pathetic punt.
Homebound, risking the Straits of Messina,
The sailor thought long on stoney Scylla --
Better handsful of mates torn asunder
Than let a rudderless vessel founder.
He straddled the prow with a silver shield
Upraised to fend off raking teeth and claws.
The monsters ignored him and scythed their yield,
Leaving the leader to his selfish cause.

Note: In Greek mythology, Scylla was described as a rock shoal, like a six-headed sea monster, on the Italian side of the Straits of Messina, and Charybdis was a whirlpool off the coast of Sicily. They were regarded as sea hazards so close to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors; avoiding Charybdis meant passing too close to Scylla and vice versa.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Birth of Comedy (Max Ernst), Sonnet #295

All are dropped, but do all have a mother?
What wicked womb, illicit phantasm,
Bore forth the stick of laughter's orgasm,
Only to be deliriously smothered
(Unless the comedic had no parent,
Is thoroughly a bastardo, arrant,
A prancer in sexless harlequin pants).
The world's worst gag, he offers as a gift:
A statue of a man biting off a hen's head
Has a crack. Put your hand in there, fall dead.
The moral? "Beware of geeks bearing rifts."
The Eden apple was the world's first joke.
The last will be "water and fire make smoke."
Oh, Comedy, you old world-burdened moke.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Bathers (Picasso), Sonnet #294

The Bathers are seekers, not believers.
(Old Possum and Pound are as dry as rust,
While Frost and Stevens compromise with trust,
And Berryman is a soul deceiver.)
Though the Bathers are not sculpted from sand,
By some moist, cool Heisenbergian hand,
They're happiest on a floating island,
Where they can sit or swim or float or stand.
The Bathers build boats with uneven keels
They steer through sand in concentric circles;
It's easy to make progress when they kneel,
And the boats sometimes produce miracles.
At sandy palimpsests, they dare to peek,
Because (not often) they glimpse what they seek.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

River Bend (photographer unknown), Sonnet #293

I've had this image in my head for years.
Not exactly this place or century,
Or the season (no, that was never clear;
Late summer, early fall, most probably):
The hills smoother, the water cascading
From sand pools to shelves of smooth black granite,
Huge trout leaping at the sunlight's fading,
In time with the spinning of the planet.
I stand on the edge of the sandy spit,
Landing big brown, my Coachman in his jaw.
For one moment a cold and useless law
Flashes in his eye and dims his spirit.
I never know what happens in the end,
And won't until I find that river bend.