Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Laughing Fool (painter unknown), Sonnet #524























A man isn’t a man without being a fool,
At least that’s what the Fool learned in idiot school.
He began a money-infatuated ghoul
Chomping on the corpse of another greedy mule.
He soon grew morbidly obese on such fuel,
Then capered on to Fame’s self-deluding gruel
(Which turned half his tiny brains to stiffened stool).
All that power, women, and riches made him cruel
And he began to see all of life as a duel.
“Never lose, say ‘sorry,’ or forgive, and you’ll rule,”
He said, “Remember, your world is my private jewel.”
Then smiling men of stratagems made him their tool
And wiped his chin when he’d rather frequently drool.
Their hots for him have only just begun to cool.


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Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Garden in Hot Weather (Paul Klee), Sonnet #523


















The incinerate sun scorches
The grass, now dormant, and chases
The shadows past moveless spaces.
The chipmunks dart beneath porches
To nibble at the last winged seeds. 
Each of us has incessant needs.

I wait for the redemptive rain. 
The garden wilts, its petals drop.
The leopard slugs’ single feet flop. 
Though I have caused a little pain,
We’re all culpable as we grasp,
Dance to the cicada’s mad rasp,
The cricket’s rip, katydid’s grind.
We envy their having no mind.


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Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Night Cafe (Van Gogh), Sonnets #521 and #522


















#521

Philosophers say you can’t prove
That two balls in a game of pool,
One struck by the other, will move —
That there’s no reliable rule.
There’s no assurance that today
What happened every time before
Will be repeated any more,
Just because it’s always that way.
I have to ask, how could they know?
Birds in flight could drop like rocks.
In a heat wave we could have snow.
Mountains could fall like building blocks.
My left ankle could turn to wood.
I’ll take my “will” over their “could.”

#522

Not pool, a game of billiards:
A ball struck a ball, two rails, 
And another ball kissed —
Then money changed hands. 
The fool stares at the chalky bed
Where his future sleeps.
Two men rub their ears, 
Hunched beneath vague hats;
Elbows banging the table,
They want their cold beers.
A thief with a glass weeps,
Overhearing old lovers;
When he has downed his gin
The murdering will begin.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Surf On Rocks (William Trost Richards), Sonnet #520













I know the articulation of waves
As I know the flexing of my hand.
(The big northwestern wind is a muscle
That bashed ten thousand sailors to their graves,
But on the beach can only roil sand,
Turning the inert fleck to corpuscle.)
I used to grow dizzy diving at them,
When my spine rippled and began to twist,
The pain a sweet knotting from calf to wrist —
To wet eyes the sun an exploded gem.
I’d grow nauseous and stumble to the shore,
But the waves, I knew, just wanted me more.
Sucking it into its fat belly’s sway,
The surf last winter stole the beach away.


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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Dragon (Hokusai), Sonnet #519


























The first dragons were fireflies,
Flickering motes of breath made light —
And then a moment of insight:
Great creatures of death must arise
(Like half-seen floating seeds of sun
Grown winged, clawed, fanged, and enormous,
Lungs furnace hot and vaporous),
Monsters from which most men run.

Not all. The dragon was lazy,
And slept for decades in hazy
Caves, dreaming of nothing men dreamed.
Its scales and half-lidded eyes gleamed.
The wisest men approached and stroked
Its face with love. It never woke.


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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Phoenix (Hokusai), Sonnet #518






















The Phoenix bursts from its egg of ashes
Every five hundred and eighteen ages.
It will spend years unfurling its plumage
Like crimson, emerald, and golden sashes,
Before it flies. The setting sun rages
In jealousy, cries “You presumptuous midge!”

The Phoenix’s bloodless heart doesn’t beat.
Only its wings that mercilessly blast
The air, and never fold, keep it alive.
Its pearl beak never opens to eat.
Just one exhalation would be its last.
Its fate is to seek and never arrive.

The Phoenix explodes and plunges to earth.
Once, ages ago, there was no rebirth.


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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Man Proposes, God Disposes (Edwin Henry Landseer), Sonnet #517










The Provisioner, under a deadline,
Drip-sealed three years worth of tinned goods with lead.
The ships left with 129
Men who would, in less than two years, be dead.
The mythical northwest passage, if found,
Would make Sir Captain Franklin the greatest
Explorer of his age. He was ice bound
For a year and died, laid to frozen rest.
100 men, Erebus and Terror,
Walked to find the Canadian mainland,
Tracked down by the relentless polar bear.
How long before death was each man unmanned,
Turning his eyes toward some other’s food
Or flesh, in a world no less bad than good?

My book of the first 200 of these sonnets is now available for purchase. Click here: