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Formal Verse - Sonnets:

Note: You will find several other sonnets under light verse (especially in the section with poems about poetry, which contains parodies of famous sonnets).

Form and Duty

There's freedom in beginnings: I set sail
Across the ocean of an empty page,
Scudding before what wind of love or rage
I choose--toward realms of gold, in wake of whale...,
But my supply of rhymes begins to fail;
The ocean shrinks, and all the world's a stage.
Tense, leonine thoughts pace the metric cage
With barely room to turn. UNUSED RAGE FOR SALE.
Competing metaphors clamor for decisions:
Scalpel!--my muse, let's see what we can save:
It's grave--time for incisions and revisions.
You'll be precision's artist or his slave.
I chose this perilous dance out of the dust
And earned the freedom to do what I must.


Believe a Better Lie

"Death, thou shalt die"--then what? I always think;
Nothing to do and timelessness to boot
Begat the hell that we have built to suit
Ourselves. Our doll-houses too tight, we shrink.
In our descent to man, the missing link
Is us. We are the worm in the withered fruit
We grew. We dream of growth while we pollute
A tiny planet rife with our dying stink--
Nor will we let ourselves out-grow the game
We can create. He cannot love another
Who fears himself. In death after death our shame
Is buried. Reader, my worm-eaten brother,
The life that's in a sonnet is a lie:
Believe a better lie and death will die.


The Mirror Thing

I have no woman and my hair is thinning
In front. I'm thirty-six today. Hello,
My mirror--smile for me, there's a good fellow.
Through a smudged glass darkly, something's grinning.
What's so funny? All the stars are spinning
My days to high-pitched gibber. I'll not mellow:
Build dreams or rot. Still, I am well...O
Hell!--the race is on! The mirror thing's winning!
But the mirror world is not the world it seams:
From fading nightmare gibber I wake to you.
This paper mirror freshly reflects my dreams,
For you are what I am and make me new.
On quick iambic feet I'll stride past death,
Leaving the mirror thing grinning, out of breath.


Self-Discipline

Self-discipline -- Ah, YES, self cracks the whip!
Self whimpers as self strips self, softly humming.
"You know, you naughty boy, what you've got coming!"
"Oh please! It's tight!" Self squirms against the grip
Of self-restraint -- "It hurts!" Curling his lip,
Self strokes till every string of self is thrumming --
"Don't! Stop!" "Take THAT!" "DON'T STOP!" Look! Self is coming
To realize that self-control's a trip
To parts of self unsettled, unexplored,
To depths of sin so desperately sweet...
Self shivers, panting: What would Mommy think?
Self sneers -- it's DADDY's smile, the true reward
For self-control! Self frees self and they meet
Face to face, naked, over a sink.


Insomnia

This is my bed: I'm supposed to fall asleep.
Maybe I have--the eyes are snugly shut,
The rise and fall of breath is even, but
When do I lose the shore, slip off that steep
Into silver swirls of seaweed? Why do I keep
My footing? Knobbly, pebbly reasonings cut
My soles. I want to be swept up in a glut
Of dreams. Now miles out, still the ocean creeps
In endless repetition 'round my ankles.
"There is one world," the ocean chants, "and you
Are in it: Things are only what they seem."
Is it lying still on on a padded shelf that rankles?
Or that night's other world, on too-close view,
Proves but a trick of mirrors?--the worst dream.


Tidings of Inside-Out

I lie still in grass spun by the wind
Into senseless mime of sense. Wave-crackle laves
Over the crackle of meanings called my mind.
Meaning dissolves to static; static craves--
Long locked in meaning by my jealous brain--
And joins with a leap the electric waves of air,
Sweeping me away: I'm scattered like rain
Upon a million blades that little care
About my meaning--frolic it about
From stem to stem as schoolboys with a shout
Toss a cap to tease a friend. We share
Me. Nerves far-webbed in grass, in stars, nowhere,
I, void, feel birds fly through my--someone's--sight
Like thoughts, and thoughts, like birds, take flight.


First Anniversary Sonnet

Today's a special day because we say so.
A year ago we dressed up for a wedding--
Handshakes, smiles, tears, sweet cake and sweeter bedding.
Can ritual make a special time and place? Oh,
All the album photos testify
That that was a special day. They catch our hands
Curled nervously in each other's, and the strands
Of hair I brushed aside for an awkward try
At removing with a kiss what was between us.
Since then, each day, each broken bit of time
Has been made whole, given its reason and rhyme
By word, by touch, by smile--no camera's seen us;
Love makes time new, like a friend's "Come out and play!"
Because we say so, today's a special day.


Have You Seen the Scene of the Rhyme?

(For Don Schudel, a neighbor)

A tree fell in a forest -- well, a branch
Fell in our yard -- and someone heard! A neighbor,
Who, seeing us, with frail blades, boggle, blanch
At thigh-thick limbs, brought us, to ease our labor,

Two strong bow saws. All day they served us well.
We cut and stacked, white petals in our hair;
From one branch all these sticks! I could foretell
My dreams that night: Snapped bones of Bradford Pear.

"Thanks for the saws," I said. You wanted back
A poem. Some quaint old saw would seem to fit
The case, but I'm no hack, nor had to hack,
Thanks to sharp teeth, and sharpness calls for wit...

What can poetry portray? Poor tree, you fell;
And so I saw the saws of Don Schudel.


Daylight, What Grace

I cannot sleep, so I get up to write.
I cannot write, so I go back to bed,
Lie on my back, hold still, pretend I'm dead,
Think maybe I'll just lie like this all night,

Lie here forever -- is it getting light?
No, it's been only minutes. Why's my head
A beehive? Window, please! -- a hint of red?
I'll make my light -- just squinch my eyes shut tight...

THERE'S light, then patterns, vivid as op art,
Red, yellow, purple -- what's this! Lots of faces --
And more and more! So much significance!
This picture-spewing mind's at least as smart
As a child's kaleidoscope...
Daylight, what grace is
In your touch! Ah, wall, old chair, my pants!


Special

I used to think that I was someone special,
Because I saw what others didn't see,
Thought thoughts that no one ever thought but me
(Or so I thought), felt pangs beneath the threshold

Of banal and, soaring in steep arpeggio,
Alp beyond Alp of lonely ecstasy,
Rising to match my peaking puberty;
And at the highest hormone pitch, on schedule,

I met that special one who knew that I
Was special. So we were, because we knew we
Were, and then she left, and it was gone;
My seeing, thinking, feeling -- all a lie:
I stared at mirrors. I could see right through me.
Nights: Try not to think or feel till dawn.


Mere Words

Where are these words so lightly labeled "mere"?
You, sirs, "of", "the" and all your common sort --
Are you mere words, no action but light sport
For idle tongues? (They stammer, for I fear

They need some whatness words.) Then "Love", I hear
That you make nothing happen. You cavort
In paper sheets -- no sweat! -- with your cohort,
Grim "Death", cry out (sans voice) to "God"...Oh dear!

Could all of you be merely mere -- I'll not
Believe a word of it, because one day
I said "I love you" and I did, and I
And love and you were joined -- mere words besot
Us so! Yet now in silent interplay
Of merely mirrored eyes, we, wordless, lie.


Autumn's Onset

Reeds, reflected, bunch into a sheaf:
It's harvest time, and soon we'll garner red,
Green, blue and gold enough to last through dead
Gray months. Old gold against deep blue, each leaf

As sweet to the eye -- plump, sticky-fingered thief,
Giddy with brightness -- as candy. But who has bled
These drops? If ever my blood must be shed,
May I thus blossom. Is all brightness brief?

No matter -- cram the soul's fat cheeks to bursting!
The pond reweaves the trees -- double your pleasure!
The air a blue-gold clarity that's thirsting
To be you. Long white night comes, a cold leisure,

When this stored warmth will salve the storm's worst sting.
O spirit-squirrel, each instant is a treasure.


By Other Means

"War is diplomacy by other means" --
And peace is war by other means, I think:
Each pours his foe -- himself -- another drink;
And all our sullen silences, our scenes

Are only peace by other means. We tease
and beg and stroke our sadness into lust;
Our throbbing bodies do what bodies must,
Subsiding into separate sleep. Disease

Is lust by other means, and health is but
Disease by other means, and when health fails
To please, masking the inner void entails
politeness, which -- no, let ME, please! -- is what

Excuses filling up with words each breath:
Diplomacy, by other means, is death.


An Ordinary Room

It's quite an ordinary room, but no
One's there. The chairs hold air. There are no coats
Upon the hangers by the door. No throats
Resist the tickle of a cough. The glow
Of EXIT blushes unadmired. No speaker
Upon the podium leans, so neatly flanked
By chairs that blankly face chairs blankly ranked
And filed. Quite clean. So is it any bleaker
This way? Who's here to say? In all this hush,
With none to hear, is the air conditioner's rush
A savage din? What difference does it make
If in ten minutes, after an hour's break,
People stroll in, or if, forever, they're gone,
But no one's told the room or tomorrow's vacant dawn?


Sonnet With Added Lines at NO EXRA CHARGE!

I took a walk and noticed trees and houses.
Now here's the page, and scribble scribble scribble.
"Hello," I say, and "You" – good bait...no nibble.
The magnetism's gone. Glibness degausses

the pull of pronouns, presidents and spouses.
Say something bold; puncture a hoary shibbol-
-eth. Make something POP and fizzle – any squib'll.
Build huge and pregnant chords, like Richard Strauss's

in "Thus Spake Zarathustra"; make smart talk,
like cocktail chatter, urbane, arch and arty –
fake knowing why you're here, and NEVER gawk
at the parade of tinseled words, bared breasts – let's PARTY!
[I don't know – whadda YOU wanna do, Marty?]

I think it's time to take a longer walk,
touch toads and mossy trees, grow gnarled and warty.

(It's so...official! Words decked out in sonnets,
All my thoughts in fancy Easter bonnets:
"Today's a special day!" Some talk is poetry –
And does it take a special spot to grow a tree?)

[I think that I shall never never
Find on a page a God worth rever-
-ing, yet forever I'll endeavor,
In the faith that I end never.

Quoth I, raving, "Ain't I clever!"
Never! More? But never the less,
In verse I'll strive to effer-the-vesce.]


Last updated: January 7, 2006