Thursday, January 18, 2018

Might Not The Pupil Know More? (Goya), Sonnet #388

The young donkey, at his prayers,
Ignores his brothers, those brayers.
His missal is the alphabet,
Which he hasn’t quite mastered yet.
His master wields a paddle of wood
That stings him like a donkey fly
When he don’t learn his lessons good,
Like mistaking his “U” for “Y.”
“Might not the Pupil know more?”
Nickers Master, “Just his ‘as’s?’”
The brothers honk a mocking snore
And let a mephitic cloud pass.
The pupil thinks, They will be damned,
But first I need my cranium crammed.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Langlois Bridge at Arles (Van Gogh), Sonnet #387

In mourning, the pretty woman lifts her parasol.
Having once crossed the bridge each day with her dear one,
She thinks it a bitter joke on death and healing,
The bridge’s shuddering raise and trembling fall.
The river shivers to a walk — then starts to run,
Sends the boats bow up and down and keeling.
She has always hurried over the steel-shod planks
And never once stepped where the two halves meet.
She saw no beauty there, neither ancient or fleet,
Though for passage she would always whisper her thanks.
No more. She wishes the bridge would quickly unclose
And without looking down she’d step onto nothing,
The parasol filling with thick air and ripping,
Her dress a bloom around her face like a black rose.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

An Old Oak Tree Saved, Sonnet #386

For Sister Elise Kriss

When I saw the fence around the old oak,
I thanked the Sister for saving the tree.
“Yes,”she said, “we intend to make a park
Next to the college’s new library.
Someday the two of us will sit under
Its branches and have a nice little talk.”
But on my street city workers sunder
An entire elm grove to make a sidewalk.
I asked the foreman, was it necessary?
He wiped the sawdust from his balding head
And said, “Why the heck are you asking me?”
He had a point — by then the trees were dead.
I told Sister I wouldn’t forget us
Getting together. There’s much to discuss.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

End of the Trojan War (Tiepolo), Sonnet #385

The painter doesn’t clearly show a single face
In the starving, struggling, victory-mad crowd.
The men inside the horse could be laughing out loud
Without fear of being heard above the fracas.
The Trickster proclaimed that the genius of his scheme 
Was revealed to him in a post-debauchery dream
By a god who refused to say its name or sex,
But who had addressed the Trickster as Regent Rex.
(An error in speaking T never repeated.)
“Do this,” said the god, “and All will be defeated.”
In later years, faced with sirens and a cyclops,
He’d beg that faceless god for more brilliant guidance,
Since his own soldiers, as fighters, proved hopeless flops.
He returned to his wife with a bow and split pants.

Friday, December 22, 2017


And tomorrow is Christmas,
the heart's havoc with delight.
Downstairs, the unnatural tree
dressed in glass and light,
pulses with memories.
Will my daughters see the ornament?
Will they see, as I saw,
watching for hours once,
the orb darkened by green-tinseled boughs
radiating needles,
crystal spark moon beam
still and silent as time itself?
Will they see the heart
that moved the hands to place it there?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Pulcinella's Departure (Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo), Sonnet #384

“The voice of the people” can’t leave too soon.
The fun was almost all he could endure,
Especially making game of the poor,
Though he didn’t like being called a goon.
Oh, how he’d made the great all look the same,
Throwing merda on every “leader’s” name.
They laughed at his japes without knowing why,
And threw gold at his head with insane glee.
He’d peeked up their wives’ dresses for a fee.
He’d danced on toes defying all to cry.
The best was the gun he pulled from his hump
(Not a deformity — a holster’s bump),
And waved around the world with bulging eyes.
“See this?” he crooned, “No one who likes me dies.”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Arctic Owl and Winter Moon (Burchfield), Sonnet #383

Having rehabbed injured owls for years,
She thought they only mimicked being smart —
Deaf to no distant sound, acute seers,
Intelligent of senses, dead of heart.
Having fed, flown and loved her birds of prey,
She released them only as night took day.
They always flew strong and straight to a tree,
Perched in plain sight as if they weren’t yet free.
She thought of each one later that evening.
Would it be starving or hot ravening?
A full moon is almost a handicap
When you can hunt in total darkness.
You hover and glide, drop without a flap
Of sound: the prey dies knowing no distress.