The M. C. Escher Suite

The works of M. C. Escher, being composed of rhyming images, are particularly rich material for the sonnet.

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. 

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 we can be seers.

Mobius Birds (Escher), Sonnet #337

With a wing-beat the cormorant
Is airborne, static, and distant.
As I am the threat he glides
To a dead limb and settles down,
And memory of me elides
In a croaking flock of his own.
Their migration looks like a race,
Ragged but with erratic grace;
The leaders constantly change place,
Not to draft others, but to chase.
They'll burst from their path to make way
For an Arctic tern or osprey,
Wheeling around until they find
The Mobius they've been assigned.

Snakes (Escher), Sonnet #324

The serpent has a god within his mind,
Implanted there, symmetrically timed,
An eternal One that thought cannot find,
Like the only word that cannot be rhymed.
He can't chase down his prey beneath the wood
Without enough heat running through his blood
Firing his muscles, the tip of his tongue,
Engorging the once cold sac of his lung.
The fire in his eyes has another source,
A being without hate, fear or remorse,
An idea burning borealic cold,
An essence, call it endlessness or will
That even the death of the snake can't kill.
The fabled Big Bang's not nearly so old.

Three Worlds (Escher), Sonnet #291

The Koi sees, as we do, what's there,
Not the water, nor we, the air.
He hates the acid stink of leaves,
And how they choke his house's eaves.
Someday they will all disappear;
With one world gone, two seem clearer.
I count five kinds of leaves, or six,
But the trees have similar sticks.
I blame the wind for having blown,
Adding the errant to the known.
I see four worlds, though, not three;
Yes, the leaf, the pond, and the tree --
And the wakefulness of the Koi.
When he looks up here, he'll see me.

Moebius Strip with Ants (Escher), Sonnet #255

Now is now, but then isn't then.
It was then, then it looms again,
Then. A conundrum, very Zen.
Ants follow only the given
Road, arriving where they begin,
Unaware of the moment when
What seemed a simple and open
Path becomes blind beyond reason.
The page is the time of all men,
Where the word released by the pen
Can grace the past with an amen,
Or trace loops of evil omen.
It's the same word, this very "then!" --
Old oxen and a lighting wren.

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.

Ascending and Descending (Escher), Sonnet #231

I grew up in the old stone house of sleep.
I'd sit on the top step of the entrance
And dream mazes of stair, of room, and floor,
My youth's slumber oblivious and deep.
Growing older, seeking a deeper trance,
I entered the house through the basement door
Where myriad doorless, high ceilinged rooms,
All windowless, lead me onto the roof,
My mind alight like pyrotechnic blooms.
There 25 me's, robotic, aloof,
Marched up and down and up maniac stairs,
Marched pair by pair by pair by pair by pair,
Never, never arriving anywhere,
Unblinking, blind with insomniac stares.

Convex and Concave, Sonnet #167

Geckos stick out forked tongues at each other
In their race to the top of rounded stairs,
Where they'll disappear because nothing's there.
Men climb ladders to trumpeters. Mother
Seeks to fill her empty basket with air.
Banners state the geometry of the day.
The man near the dry fountain sleeps his life away;
Because he can't understand a thing, he can't care.
Each window, pillar, arch, and capital,
Each wall, riser and tread, each finial,
Was hauled into place by now frozen block
And tackle, which the builder left behind
(Should he someday return). Here there's no clock,
Few shadows, no lights, only double bind
Architecture, mind alleys of the blind.

Mosaic II, Sonnet #151

The mosaic of time isn't patterned moments.
The snail, men, and the flounder share the sand,
Fitted together like ten lovers holding hands.
Camel neck, elephant trunk -- each is bent
To fit into interstices, the empty space
The other leaves so that each with each may embrace.
The lobster pinches the mule's ears and tongue.
The walrus tusk teases the rooster's comb.
A winged demon harries the frightened young
Chased by a sea serpent and silent guitar drone.
At the center the naked young god intones
That all is illusion, all is now, all is ones.
But the tortoise will never catch the hare with wings;
Time isn't duration, but living things.

Metamorphosis, Sonnet #129

Birds, insects, and lizards live in cages
Whose bars and locks melt over the ages.
Their forms meld in imperceptible stages.
Their names disappear from taxonomic pages.
We know that nothing without time changes,
That duration inexorably deranges
Our genes, ideas, stars, and mountain ranges,
That metamorphoses aren't equal exchanges.
And then there's growing old, which nothing assuages.
We spend a life making babies and wages,
Then nothings such as mirrors enrage us,
And no comfort comes from priests or sages,
But this: not all is rust. Yes, everything ages,
A puissance that releases us from our cages.

Magic Mirror,  Sonnet #118

this moment this moment this moment this moment

Dragons on graph paper and images of beasts
March to assembly, an army at war within.
A propped mirror is the instant when time is rent,
What's done from what's about to be released,
That instant we neither recall nor contemplate a sin,
(The mirror internally, eternally lit),
Since we're in the act of committing it.
We are those silver, faceless, and unmoving orbs,
Who, before and after, our reflection absorbs,
While the dragons, a danger, but oblivious,
Circle us endlessly, meshing, silent terrors,
The jailers of the placid, dim, and unconscious.

the mirror mirrors the moment this moment mirrors

Reptiles, Sonnet #103

"I do not sense that I have lived this life before."
"Don't you ever wonder if there's something more
Than crawling endlessly from book to cup to floor?"

"Our lives are an endless and parabolic bore."
"I'm happy to sacrifice to enlightenment,
Would our creator boast of being heaven lent."

"I'd know what it all means if I knew what I meant,
Allowing myself to vanish into parchment."
"I'm damn tired of looking at your tail, that I know,
And can't wait to reach the polyhedron to blow!"

"Yes, we all feel it's an extravagant show."
"I can't not climb the set square set there long ago."
"Speak for yourselves!" exclaims the reptile in the cup,
"I'll climb down now. I will never again climb up!" 

Day and Night, Sonnet #95

Geese land in the pond like hours in time,
Unconsciously tuck wings under and glide
In sequential and unwavering lines.
After flying day and night they've arrived,
With a few turning back along the way,
Only to reach the same pond the same day.
Each bird starts a ripple in the water
((They're not quite aware of at that moment))
That wind nor rain but only shore can stop,
Though each ripple will each ripple alter.
Each perturbation of the pond is spent
In the moment one goose flaps wing and hops
Toward the sky, frantically seconded
By the flock, as though all futures beckoned.

Relativity, Sonnet #78

I once stood staring down a long staircase,
Then stood up having fallen all the way down.
The time between appeared to have erased
Both itself and the memory of what I'd done.
Unhurt, staring up at the staircase, terrified
Of forms and forces I now understood, I cried.
There are many steps, floors, and bannisters
In this ant people world, but only one sun.
Yet all depends on the attitude of the stairs,
Which share the simultaneity of the boson.
Every direction ends in a shift of perspective,
Hinting that the fifth dimension may be us,
Each riser a mere extension of consciousness,
Until, falling down the stairs, we no longer live. 

Drawing Hands, Sonnet #66

...and again how all there is is image.
There's immense detail in blank paper,
Diminishing as the writer fills the page
With lines and spots of merest vapor.
We do not exist even in outline until . . .
Until the drawing of our lives is complete.
This sketch (or sonnet), sad, not subtle,
Depicts endeavor as circular defeat.
Look closely. Escher has the right hand
Drawing the left hand drawing the right.
Had he shown both as left, he might
Have broken life's monotonous band.
Yet, he knows how each one holds a pen,
How it is again and again and again

Another World, Sonnet #7

At the cold core of a molecule
Something sentient ratiocinates
In mathematical ridicule
Of everything that loves or hates.
It has one goal, one idea,
Which is for the molecule to be a
Functioning integer in a sum
For articulation of a vacuum.
I have seen molecules with faces
Posed in momentary stasis.
How they smile. Knowing, simply,
But in fact, that they are in control,
They smile and stare unblinkingly
Beyond the nucleus of my soul.

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