Thursday, September 21, 2017

Cicada (Ruth Diamond-Guerin), Sonnet #370

The cicada shifts the air like a loom.
Its sizzling klaxon rises in repeats,
Insisting on filling the summer’s room
Even as it winds down in lazy beats.
A pause. The shuttle shifts, then starts anew,
Reaching a pitch of pure intensity,
As if sound is the proof immensity
Of seething essence from which all life grew.
In September we see them fly around
Aimlessly, as if they want to be found
And later we do find them, on the ground,
While yet back and forth a few weakly sound.
The patterns in the late October leaves
Are what the now silenced cicada weaves.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Carpet of Memory (Klee), Sonnet #369

No one has a first memory, not one.
We can so designate any we choose,
The dimmest, the least associative,
A parent’s kiss or a promise undone,
The smell of mother’s milk, a game we lose,
But not that first moment we know we live.
For then they propagate like dry grasses
In a desert, patches of green, some sweet,
Some blown, or desiccated cactuses —
All ungraspable, too desired, too fleet.
I choose my first — not a moment, a dream:
“Wendy” and I are threatened by an ape.
She wears a witch’s hat and I a cape.
Then all fades away in a moon’s blank beam. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Second Day of the Creation (Escher), Sonnet #368

Today’s the second day of creation.
I’m sitting, sipping my coffee, and read
About the idea of ideation—
Interesting piece, though more of a screed.
The author is angry about something
He can’t express, but determines to try.
Over the ocean the cataracts sing,
The clouds dive dark and bright, and the waves fly.
The thunder, a clangor worthy of hell,
Fell silent an hour before the rain fell.
My reading’s become a hopeless muddle,
Some stones plopped into a muddy puddle.
I sigh and drop the book, disrobe, and leap
For the now pacific, still surging deep.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stone Formation, Sonnet #367

The experience of enlightenment
Is the arrangement of a few beach stones
On an old wooden deck, not an event,
Not a vision, not a handful of koans.
Ikkyu had this moment of insight
On hearing the song of a soldier's slight
That drove two girls into a nunnery,
Leaving their general his gunnery:
“Sixty blows from my master’s stick would serve
As well to achieve what I don’t deserve.”
These four stones have been carelessly arranged,
Each chosen for its one flat edge to rest
And have in wind and rain remained unchanged.
In their presence I’m an unwanted guest.

Note: Much of Ikkyu’s life is apocryphal, though
the story of his enlightenment upon hearing the
blind man’s song about two women ill-treated
by a general is a central part of his legend. The
quote I attribute to him is consistent with the
legend, though partly my invention.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Three Spheres II (Escher), Sonnet #366

The past is images faded into patterns,
A dim, smudged diary of pleasures and concerns
We see through a crystal sphere of water and oil,
A second universe of calm and bitter moil.
The future yet to appear is already here,
Like the moon in clouds or a mask, a faceless sphere.
We can’t be sure, but we’re almost convinced it’s there,
As we take on faith there’ll be a next breath of air.
The present is our own distorted reflection
To be, added to the past’s fading collection
At the instant we see the next experience
With a curious and innocent prurience.
No; present is our eyes, myriad blinking spheres
That see through reflections to find that we are seers.  

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Cricket Eclipse, Sonnet #365

He chirps beneath our crabapple tree all night long.
The cricket’s krrrr is a two, three and four beat song,
Random and loud. He stops when a voice from afar
Seems to answer, rasping the same note bar for bar.
(The cicada’s bright buzzing in the August sun
Is lovelier, but isn’t meant for anyone.)
I do not understand the cricket’s existence,
His urgency, or his athletic persistence.
He fills the humid summer night with his griping,
Yet stops at the first pre-dawn robin’s sweet piping.
I’ve never heard him make a sound during the day,
Until today, when the air went from light to gray.
As the sun’s eclipse spread its mockery of doom,
I heard all the crickets in the neighborhood boom.

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.