Sonnet Study

August 2015. The rules are simple, and the poetry does not have to be sublime. The purpose is practice and discipline, not profundity. One sonnet per day for a month: 14 lines, Italian or English form. Let’s do it!

Gerard Manley Hopkins, give me courage:

Shakespeare, give me nerve:

Internet, give me grace.

If you’d like to join me in this crazy endeavor, leave a comment linking to your blog.

—————– All poems (c) 2015 ———-

Sonnet #10

The line drags on as though it drew the fish
from Hemingway’s old man; the distance burns
the flesh that stretches red and taut: I wish
a stitch in time saved nine–the old man learns,
and so do I, that courage can’t be bought,
that healing’s slow, that pride is abstract thread
to sew a wound that’s physically wrought.
The line drags, miles from sleep and couch and bed.
I draw my leg another step and wait,
the process steady as incoming tide:
another purchase made, the standard rate,
another wave of pain; I breathe and ride.
But Hemingway would laugh to see my pain:
commercial goals yield scant heroic gain.

Sonnet #9

Moth and spider locked in death’s embrace
share screens with me, and I am eye to eye
with dying. I can feel it shade my face,
like pencils that a morbid artist plies.
The best that I can do is look away
from struggling wings and cruel, envenomed sting.
Thus fare all those who seek the light of day
in artificial places, there they cling
and meet their end like Icarus, in flame
(if he endured until our modern age)
of voltage blue, electric, savage, tame,
we spiders built: from vision, spark, and rage.
Or yet, not spiders, merely those who spy
and laugh at death as he is passing by.

Sonnet #8

Summer stands in the cool of evening’s glow,
a silent, dark, and heavy-hearted man:
he gazes west to trail the sun below,
but turns as quick as watered light demands.
All through the darkening night he paces, thinks
of all that he has built–he counts the banes–
he strokes the grass, bids morning glories blink,
his empire stands upon a solstice, wanes.
The morning finds his heart still ill at ease.
Obsessed by cold, he’s blind to warming light.
His songbirds coax a whistle from the breeze,
but he, once basking patron, fears their flight.
Though Summer might have waited, lingered on,
his fear turns August to October’s dawn.

Sonnet #7

The ones I love are gathered far away,
and I must languish here in solitude.
The valley where their joyed reunion plays
is staged while I, at distance, lick my wounds.
No more than Juliet can I refrain
from discontent that I am sheltered, lame.
These railings scoff, untouched by my disdain,
a balcony my prison and my shame.
The highway bends my thoughts unto my goal–
up hill, down vale, deep breath across state line:
there, wandering the mountains, my old role.
Though others play it, harsh the truth that’s mine.
We parted long before my flesh was rent,
our lives diverged past memory’s lament.

Sonnet #6

A dose of medicine will cure routine
in rooms with neither windows nor a view;
they want to know my dates of last vaccine,
not what I think, or why I love, or who.
No color on the walls, fluorescent light,
a curtain standing in for privacy,
they enter every hour of day and night.
The scanner knows my armband; they, not me.
A “breathing” bed shifts blood (but cannot hold),
preventing ills that drain their legal fund.
Incented breath is engineered and sold–
I ache for those whose love is this way plumbed.
No label tells what hospitals bequeath:
new gratitude for life, for breath, for breeze.

Sonnet #5

How do I love books? Let me count the ways:
they line the ev’ry surface of my house,
a closet meant for linens stores my plays,
my desk now stands on pages, falls with Strauss.
The covers color-coordinated here,
by author, here, by subject matter there,
the sorting is an act that I hold dear
an honored task for rainy day or fair.
My Shakespeare takes a shelf all to his own,
and Rowling needs a stair to hide beneath.
My poems never find themselves alone,
and Jane can find no solitary heath.
There is a stranger in this world of page and pen:
though Kindle hides, he always starts again.

Sonnet #4

Curve and line are part and parcel here:
the outside-in, the inside-out, the flick
of wrist, like artist’s paintbrush, lays the veer
from left to right, defines how slow or quick
the colors run. Each cut precise and sharp
like palette knife on thick-daubed canvas–grass
beneath our feat, all wings, no harp,
just clear, clean sweat to christen every pass.
Where art retains its sacred reverie,
here, rules are simple, constant, same.
There is no underlying mystery–
or is there, yet? The spirit of the game
is courage, honest fight, and standing tall:
thought muscles yield, we falter, do not fall.

Sonnet #3

A swoosh escapes the darkening scarlet ground,
the spin of fiddlehead fern beneath its end,
an outward bulge, a gulp, a swelling mound,
beribboned flag with tail triumphant bends.
“K-k-” crack of metal sheared
from metal, “tsk” of upward liquid steam,
then cool-edged, waveform ripples much endeared
of generations’ past and future dreams.
As though to drip and puddle at its base,
clear, sun-drenched bubbles from the red emerge.
They draw curvaceous forms that tempt to taste
and water fairies at their call converge.
These four short syllables, with power immense,
called Coca Cola beckons swimmers hence.

Sonnet #2

Can you imagine roses washed by light?–
not bright beatified, but aged, instead,
with lemon water, bleach, or summer blight,
as camera’s steady, caustic voice has said.
The rose by any other name, still sweet,
by any other light than kind, demurs.
I glance and find it withers in the heat;
I misremember as the film endures.
That saturation of the blood-red hue
or fuchsia tone on summer’s afternoon
is lost to memory, now lost to morning dew,
lost to ev’ry unrecorded tune
yet also free from rot at summer’s end
when roses fall, but photos still contend.

Sonnet #1

I don’t remember when I learned what Beauty was:
a matching floral dress, a satin bow,
the glitter at my throat, my cheeks, because
a girl of twelve had told me it was so,
so attractive with the color of my eyes.
I don’t remember when I understood
that Beauty was an “if-then” statement: lies,
all lies, that beauties grasp for ill or good.
When Beauty grew my bangs out, I was gone.
I looked the other way when Beauty cried,
so then I paid my dues to be her pawn.
What little doubts, my Beauty tucked inside.
I don’t remember Beauty’s first debut,
but I remember when she ran me through.


2 Responses to Sonnet Study

  1. Jen says:

    Check out my friend Matt’s sonnets here:

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