Thursday, June 14, 2018

Angel, Sonnet #409

Light is invisible until it hits
An object or penetrates the pupil.
No effort of intelligence or will
Can else know illumination’s spirits.
Real angels, it seems, are almost the same.
She can’t exist at all until I name
Her, with sounds I can’t think, and she appears,
The breeze from her wings allaying my fears.
She carries a small bouquet of flowers
And her raised right hand is empty, no sword
Or torch — hers are the powerless powers
I dare not test with even a whispered word.
Her wings buffet me — she rises to go.
I finally speak: “Stay.” Her smile says “no.”

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Olen Pond WWI Memorial (Frederick Hibbard), Sonnet #408

She was created in nineteen thirty.
Six decades later someone took her head.
The artist made it hard to take her arms.
The flowers she holds are “Uncertainty.”
She’s called “Memory” for the Great War dead,
Whom she salutes with her physical charms.
She stands in a park by a middle school,
The bad dream of each child — poet or fool.
My dear, I do not need to see your face,
Or know the name of who modeled for you,
To describe yours as intelligent grace —
You know all war dead are less right than true.
When new your limestone breasts were pure and bold —
Unlike you, stone flower, death won’t grow old.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Koi And Turtles (Hokusai), Sonnet #407

The Kishwaukee River was polluted
When he wandered its mud banks as a boy.
A gray iron foundry’s whistle tooted.
An ice cream company poured colored waste
On Thursdays to the carp and suckers’ joy,
Though peppermint didn’t seem to their taste.
In Japan they breed ornamental koi,
But here carp are held a pesty junk fish
And though his Dad smoked them — a tasteless dish.
He fished them because an eight pounder fought
With fury, gasping on the grass when caught.
He dragged in snapping turtles with stout line,
Chunks of bass. Dad axed their necks and made fine
Soup — until his fingers went from ten to nine.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Morning after the Deluge (Joseph Turner), Sonnet #406

A fool I knew said the world was broken,
That paradise no longer existed,
As if the field mouse’s neck wasn’t twisted
By the owl before the snake dropped his token
Of love into the hand of fearless Eve.
It’s spring. The screech owls nest and redbuds glow.
That’s all the paradise we need to know,
Though tragedies occur and the good grieve.
It took forty days and nights of deluge
To wash away paradise, leaving mud —
Just mud — not even bone and hair and blood.
All dissolved in a maelstrom centrifuge.
We live post re-genesis. Each life dies.
Each day I tell myself, “Open your eyes.”

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.