Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Daydream (Dante Gabriel Rossetti), Sonnet #405

Why is it we never talk of daymares?
Her lily gray eyes only seldom blink.
To close them would open the mind to cares
So desperate she is afraid to think.
The daydream often takes us by surprise,
(Unlike fugue states we dive into for sleep);
We relinquish vision to congeries
Of the self, either stupefied or wise,
Or images that float up from some deep,
More beautiful than our best memories.
In dreams we find little to remember
Or control — there’s no order or meaning
And nothing left, an extinguished ember.
If we could trade our dreams for daydreaming . . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Buddha Riding a Dragon (Utagawa Kunisada), Sonnet #404

The question of responsibility
Is confronted where the wind meets the waves,
That filament of cause where the one laves
The other in strict reciprocity. 
Buddha and dragon each the other saves:
If the serpent throws him, the man will drown.
(He can walk on scales, but not on water.)
But, the mythic dragon cannot falter.
Faith in a faith will never let him down.
The mind of the monk may change, not alter.
Without the Buddha the dragon will die,
As a vacuum would kill the dragonfly.
I walk each day and watch the red-tail fly.
When I turn away, he holds up the sky.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Horseman Attacked by a Giant Snake (Henry Fuseli), Sonnet #403

The marauding giant snake isn’t there
In spirit, his eye askance, as if bored,
Though it tries to swallow the horse head first.
The man, trotting by without a kid’s care
(He seems to be a knight or princely lord),
Will soon have his vitals torn out or burst
By his horse’s hind hooves or the snake’s tail,
With no one to heed his nearly choked wail. 
If I came on this scene what would I do?
There seems to be no spear, arrow or blade
On the ground, and I’m no David who slew
His giant with a stone. An enfilade
Of rocks pelted by my two-armed army
Would just turn the snake’s other eye on me.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Musical FĂȘte (Giovanni Paolo Pannini), Sonnet #402

Angels with trumpets adorn the valance
Above the apex of the proscenium,
That imaginary portal of distance
Between us and singing delirium
So intense the response is often tears.
I lived in this world for twenty-six years.
At times, I watched and listened from the wings
Urging them on like a ghostly maestro
Not always quite happy with the tempo.
Sometimes I sat in the chorus singing
From memory — I could not read a score.
I left because the patrons hadn’t stayed
No matter how well the orchestra played.
I do not go to concerts anymore.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Nothing, Sonnet #401

It’s my favorite word and the most frightening.
A self-negating word, not even a ghostly
Idea, or an empty round, a noose tightening
Around itself, and a stern critic of “mostly.”
We use it mostly in a soft, relative sense,
As if it were a verb in more than the past tense,
Existing by not, to describe what isn’t there.
I had a cupboard, but the cupboard was bare.
We think we know variable interstices —
Between Andromeda and the Milky Way,
And between different but similar species —
Such nothings are nothing but what’s lost in decay.
Real nothing, if it exists, should freeze the soul.
In death we’ll dive into light or a rimless hole.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Actor’s Mask (Klee), Sonnet #400

Hiieee! Hiieeea! Hi! Hiiee! Hi! Hi!
Look closely, now. I am cellophane thin,
Imbued by hand with the hues of a sigh
And the pentimento of ancient sin.
I hide my eyes with a mendacious squint
And my thoughts with an enigmatic grin.
My hair and skin share a fiery tint.
I am both angelic and indecent.
Gently I cling to any actor’s face,
But the visages I never erase.
On stage, our thespians deliver speech
After speech and reveal what?, you will ask.
All actors pour out their souls, each to each,
But all for nothing. I can’t mask a mask.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Old Farm Implement, Sonnet #399

Few men remember their names any more,
Or could say what job they were meant to do.
The farmers who could own them weren’t poor,
And sat on them with pride when they were new.
For years these implements, burnished with rust,
Could be seen abandoned everywhere,
Behind old barns or at the edge of fields.
What did they once do? Harrow, raise and thrust
Soil aside, thresh, reap, seed, or flay land bare?
What were these dead contraptions richest yields?
Today they’re posed on front lawns like sculpture,
Humbler remnants of Ozymandias,
The disintegration of ideas
In an unrecognizable future.