Chrysanthemum (Piet Mondrian), Sonnet #433

For Ruth

The flower has a purpose beyond beauty,
A regenerative function we don’t see.
Its power, in being, is touched, and gives,
And by this mutual exchange, it lives.
Its perfect kind grows on just to be seen.
Its petals glow, even at dusk, a sheen
That’s inner lit, only darkness can dim.
In sunlight it fills the eye to the brim.
My love, the chrysanthemum is you,
As columbines and tiger lilies are too.
Every summer our garden expands,
Pouring, into the cupping of our hands,
Perfumes, petals, color and energy,
Filling a single life with you and me.

Posted on our 41st wedding anniversary, 11/27/18.

Euphorbia (African Milk Stripe Plant), Sonnet #380

For Ruth on Our 40th Wedding Anniversary, 11/27/77

I bought this for your 21st birthday
In September 1975.
It was just one slender emerald stem —
Our wedding still two years, two months away.
Not only did your care keep it alive,
There are now more than a dozen of them
Inside our home, grown as big as the first,
And yet more — all cut from the mother tree —
We’ve given to our friends and family.
They need little water and do not thirst
For much but light — yours and that of the sun.
The plant has spines more hurtful than a rose,
But I’ve never been pierced by one of those.
So much life, love. You are the only one.


Bond of Union (Escher), Sonnet #314

They say that only gravity can make an orb,
That when two pliable objects come together,
An attracting force at their centers will absorb
All imbalance, all turbulence, wind and weather,
And even out the distance from center to rim
To form a satisfying equilibrium.
The loves of men and women are beribboned air,
Much that's empty and much almost decorated.
It's up to each to seek the beautiful and fair,
To smile, to look past the moment, sad or sated
(Though we'd wrestle the sun if it would hold the day!),
When the moment is over and has rolled away.
My love, our ribbons tighten and, like gravity,
Have made a single perfectly round you and me.

Tiger Lilies, Sonnet #304

They lined the country roads in Illinois.
Great banks of red-orange blossoms, green stems,
And pale pink tubes waiting to splay open --
Our courting flower, this remembered joy.
I drove those roads to see you most weekends
In the battered Mustang I had back then.
Fifty miles of lily-lined road before
I reached the highway, with fifty miles more,
Until I kissed your lips and took your hands,
And walked with you on Lake Michigan sands.
Now the lilies open every July
In our back yard, and up and down the street.
They are one answer to our loving's "why."
Their scent is faint, but unearthily sweet.

Note: The spelling of "unearthily" is not
strictly speaking correct; I'm combining
"earthy" with "unearthly."

Great Horned Owl (Audubon), Sonnet #277

You were envious when two friends and I
Surprised one in woods just a mile from home.
He lit on a branch; his tufts against sky
At dusk were proof and reason for this poem.
As stirring as it was to see the bird
In the wild, my only thought was of you,
That you weren't there with me to see it too.
Well, my love, not the first time that the word
Has to substitute for experience.
You've been captured by the magnificence
Of great fierce eyes and the raptor's plight.
And when they're injured, rescued and healed
(I've shared your joy returning them to flight!)
By your caring, your lovely heart's revealed.

Couple Walking in the Forest (Van Gogh), Sonnet #272

We call them our "woods walks," as though the trees
Walk with us; one follows, one leads -- each sees
Us, seldom hand in hand because the light,
Leaf-filtered, tinted, already binds us,
And should we ever become lost, finds us.
We're tall oaks branching each other's delight.
You say you always find here perfect calm.
I feel it too, my love, I feel through you.
In a leaf, I see tracings of your palm,
Read our future, not real, perhaps, but true.
Sometimes you walk ahead and look for birds,
The screech owl (unicorn!) in its knothole,
Never yet seen, though you search every bole,
Your face a lovely sonnet without words.

Sundial (Escher), Sonnet #246

The motionless gnomon slowly persists,
Pointing the hour in pinching the sun's rays,
While hands of a clock clench their tiny fists,
And sheets of squared paper reckon the days.
A clock can't tick in space, though comets pass,
Light doesn't exist until it falls upon
A planet, your eyes, or a cloud of gas.
Thus, a love is engendered by the sun.
Ruth, our days number some 15,000,
And more than 400,000 the hours.
Let's not waste a moment counting the sand.
What's left us is unknowable, but ours.
I will stand still, watch you encircle me --
No shadows, just the light of your beauty.

Spring (Jean-Fran├žois Millet), Sonnet #238

The winters harden these years, and the snow,
Feet of it even in March, melting slow
In tepid, foggy air, washes our dregs
Into the broken river. The aging
Magnolia in the yard, stung by frost,
Still blossoms, only a few petals lost.
Now begins the long-deferred uncaging
Of sun and sex and bud and leaf and eggs.
My Ruthie and I walk the park most days
And notice, after thirty years, it says
What it always has, that it's merely ours
To wander and watch and never to touch.
Inside a log a young kit fox cowers;
Above, the barred owl's talons shift and clutch.

Ruth and Christopher Guerin (November 27, 1977), Sonnet #214

Still my love, of 41 years, still mine,
You are both a truth and beauty of time.
A blizzard, as this picture was taken,
Danced up the town, as if to awaken
With skeins and wild cascades of wind and white
A lazy prematurely sleeping night,
As you, in our marrying, ignited
A new soul in me, the old one blighted.
After we kissed and I stepped on the glass,
Our eyes met and said our own private mass.
The beauty in this picture speaks to me
Every day, with word, gesture, mystery
Unspoken, not unheard. I answer, so:
We still love. That is all we need to know.

Shawl (Ruth Diamond-Guerin), Sonnet #98

Though there's no such thing, a perfected fate
Would lie in details, not some pinnacle.
Our occluded sun irradiates
Each imagined fleck and bright circle
Scarcely noticed in the mounting moments
Among our numberless joys and torments.
If we fail to see the thread in the weave,
The speck of blue gold in a lover's eye,
Look closer and ignore all reasons why.
It's more important to see than believe.
Don't wait, for in the accumulation
And remembrance of every colors' rhyme,
Each patterned and cascading emotion,
There is a pyramid worthy to climb.

Cafe Terrace at Night (Van Gogh), Sonnet #48

Is there just one universe?
There the stars and here the cafe.
Hidden lights illuminate the tables.
The various darknesses immerse
Men and stars in dissolving clay.
Are both god and science fables?
The universes are infinite,
They say, and time does not exist.
But here we are and there the stars.
The air is full of perfume and wit,
And a wine too ancient to resist.
All else is beyond, late and far.
Let's nibble galaxies and swallow suns.
I'll count my hours with you by ones.


In a motionless thicket, a single leaf
twists, as if two fingers roll its stem,
then stops. It twists again and drops.

In a tree, broken branches held aloft
by stubborn bark sway on a pendulum
wider than the solid branches swing.

Most things blaze before they die.
Stars nova and sunlight is an
incandescent exhalation.

What after? What, after my last
shiver through, do I want there to be?
Leaf, branch, star, sun, and you.

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