Tuesday, April 30, 2013

V. 2, #34: April 30, 2013

The Muse might not take sick days when she's ill,
but her poor servants are not born of Zeus.
We cannot of ambrosia drink our fill
and feel all better. When the phlegm cuts loose,

And poets bark like Cerberus in  Hell
to clear their mucous-riddled Pipes of Pan,
it will take more than verse to make them well--
Asclepius cannot, but Tussin can.

So put a warm compress upon your head,
you versifier. Sip some lemon tea.
Set by your quill; take two of these instead.
Get lots of rest--just read or watch TV.

A day or two and you'll be right as rain,
and maybe fit for poetry again.


Monday, April 29, 2013

V. 2, #33: April 29, 2013

Not every day will make a feller glad
He put his big clodhoppers to the floor;
There's plenty sad-dog days he'll wisht he had
Not cast his pear-shaped shadow on the door.

Sometime too hot the Eye of Heaven shines,
And gives a man a sunburn on his head;
Some days are only swerves with no straight lines,
Such as rewards the ones what stood in bed.

And yet we keep on rising with the sun
To pass our hours in turmoil, sweat, and strife,
In hopes this day will be a better one
Than that which come before it. Such is life.

A blind hog roots an acorn now and then;
Take heart from his example: try again.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

V. 2, #32: April 28, 2013

With one month down, eleven more to go,
I'm feeling pretty good about it all.
They haven't all been great, they haven't all
been gems, but then they can't all be, you know.

But for all that, a couple have been fine
if I say so myself. No masterpiece,
perhaps, but halfway decent ones at least,
and all of them, for good or ill, are mine.

Sometimes I stumble over clumsy feet
(like dactyls or trochees), and sometimes rhymes
are near, or not so near. But there are times
when magically, my sense and rhythms meet.

Still, sometimes there's just nothing much to say,
and you get something like you got today.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

V. 2, #31: April 27, 2013 ("Dizzy Spell")

Before the spinning world had settled down
to something like the staid solidity
I'm used to, and my consciousness more noun
than verb, under my feet the earth turned free

and liquid for a moment. Suddenly
the tilt of polar axis could be seen;
the house pitched sideways like a ship at sea.
I gasped and clutched the doorjamb, turning green,

when, just as quickly, everything grew still:
angles were thrown back perpendicular,
and Gravity asserted his one skill.
Less time than thought, and things were as they were.

Except that afterward it seemed to me
Prudent to view things more suspiciously.


Friday, April 26, 2013

V. 2, #30: April 26, 2013

I used to be a simple plumber, see?
Clogged toilets, leaky faucets, sluggish drains.
I never showed my crack. Not once. Took pains
for modesty (the overalls are key).

So when the weird stuff started, I just shrugged.
Sure, cleaning flytraps out of pipes was strange,
and turtles, mushrooms...still, it made a change--
I stomped 'em down to pulp, and wasn't bugged.

But then they had to go kidnap the dame,
and that was something I could not abide.
Maybe it's just that old Italian pride,
but I was steamed--my brother felt the same.

So off we went. The rest you prob'ly know.
Now, where's that tub you said was draining slow?


Thursday, April 25, 2013

V. 2, #29: April 25, 2013

She knew we'd all been taught the same hard rule:
you never hit a girl, no matter what;
and with that fact came power--if she caught
a classmate jawing at her like a fool,

Her wrath was swift and ruthless: scratches, slaps,
and punches beat down on his head like hail.
Impotent and humbled, he'd turn tail
and run away, beg mercy--cry, perhaps.

We were just kids. I couldn't even dream
that someday I would have to bite my tongue,
sit on my hands while those I could not fight
stepped over my bruised head. Now, it would seem,
I owe her thanks. She taught me, while still young,
how to stay low, and keep my mouth shut tight.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

V. 2, #28: April 24, 2013

Don't be in such a hurry to get older--
it's nowhere near what it's cracked up to be.
More rain in Spring, the Winter just gets colder,
and things begin to cost that once were free;

Adulthood seems a party never-ending
to kids who're forced to go to bed at eight,
but all those bills to pay, collections pending,
are what we fret about, and stay up late.

If you knew what I know, you wouldn't hurry--
You'd swing and hopscotch every single day,
jump rope and watch cartoons, and never worry
'bout anything but how much you can play.

You'll get to where I am before you know it.
So have some ice cream, kid; try not to blow it.


Happy Anniversary to The Sonnet Project

I just realized that yesterday was the 7-year anniversary of the first sonnet of The Sonnet Project, and thus the 6-year anniversary of the original project's completion. I'm still very proud of that year of sonnets, and am kind of amazed it's been so long ago since it all began. Here's hoping Volume 2 will give me the same occasion for pride, once it's done.

Oh, and also yesterday: the birthday of William Shakespeare--definitely one of the greatest inspirations for anybody still writing sonnets in English. Happy birthday, Will.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

V. 2, #27: April 23, 2013

I'd know you even if God took my eyes:
my fingertips would trace your forehead's peak,
your eyebrows' line, your nose, your lips, your cheek--
such contours I would surely recognize;

In darkness I could reconstruct your face
from memory, a likeness true and sure
as any sculptor's skill. I could endure,
almost, the long blind years, with this one grace.

There yet may come a time you turn away
from me, my love, and never more bestow
your sparkling glance on me, your smile, your kiss.
Abandoned in the pall of that black day,
I'll build your shadow in my sightlessness,
And thank my vanished stars I studied so.


Monday, April 22, 2013

V. 2, #26: April 22, 2013 ("I Can't Get No")

If Mick grew discontent with girlie action
Back when he was as hot as ice is cold,
What hope have we for any satisfaction
When we are half as hot and twice as old?

It matters not what cigarettes you smoke when
Your hair's gone gray and wrinkles scar your cheek;
No girl will make a man who's tired and broken,
Whether he will or won't come back next week.

The chords of Time go strumming ever forward,
Much faster than Keith ever played guitar;
And we, like ships the wind is driving shoreward,
Break on the reefs before we cross the Bar.

Youth's music fades too fast; we mourn the loss,
Sit in our rocking chairs, and gather moss.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

V. 2, #25: April 21, 2013

The world has never seen their like before--
abominations from a distant star;
They make Death, Famine, Pestilence and War
look tame--and they go by the name of GWAR.

Monstrosities bred only to destroy,
Balsac, Beefcake, and Oderus the Vile,
Jizmak and Pustulus--their only joy
derived from smoking crack and spewing bile.

They roam the earth, annihilating towns
with metal, figur'tive and literal,
rejoicing in the gurgling, dying sounds
of fans, the very Earth their urinal.

"What are you?" Mankind asks. "Demons or Gods?"
Cthulhu's Cuttlefish just smiles, and nods.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

V. 2, #24: April 20, 2013

Someone is reading poetry tonight,
and folks are listening most attentively;
he's got a podium, a reading light,
a glass of water near at hand. To see

him standing in his spot, reciting lines
he birthed as painfully as any child,
the crowd has traveled miles, dressed to the nines.
They've ordered drinks, in homage to this wild

young worshiper of Euterpe, this odd
interpreter of universal themes,
this tireless troubadour, picked out by God
to shape the world through fevered songs and dreams--

While I count syllables and sip my tea,
in hopes that next year, maybe, he'll be me.


Friday, April 19, 2013

V. 2, #23: April 19, 2013

He was encouraged from an early age
to see himself as greater than the rest,
and took the training well--at every stage
of life, grew more assured he was the best.

No matter how his friends tried to convince
him otherwise, he knew that he was blessed,
especially approved by Providence
and marked for glory--till (you might have guessed)

One day another managed to upstage
him on the field; his world stopped making sense;
he crumbled inward, choked with fear and rage.
He wept, tore at his hair and beat his chest
and died. His simple lesson must be stressed:
Parents, don't teach your kids self-confidence.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

V. 2, #22: April 18, 2013

Let's clean this filthy room--no arguments!
It looks like a tornado hit this place.
There's never been disorder this intense--
I bet this mess could be observed from space!

There, underneath the bed--what is that thing?
A sculpture made of dirt, or year-old fudge?
How long have these used plates been festering?
A scientist might test the mold, and judge.

There's laundry strewn around like autumn leaves
after a hurricane. Is that a sock
stuck on the mirror? I might get the heaves!
Except by now I'm steeled against the shock.

No groans! The time has come--lace up your boots.
I'll get some Lysol, and the Haz-Mat suits.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

V. 2, #21: April 17, 2013

The honeysuckle waves its sinuous strands
at me, so near it almost seems to mock
my separation--like it understands
the glass between us, solid as a lock.

The branches of the oak tree softly sway
just inches from my face, bedeviling me;
and on its arms the squirrels bark and play
oblivious to all my jealousy.

It's cruel, almost, to let the sunshine flow
through windows that don't open, by design;
to torture office denizens who know
how near fresh air and Spring are, and how fine;

A few more hours to go till our release;
till then, you Lords of Nature, give us peace.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

V. 2, #20: April 16, 2013

Today I want to think of pleasant things:
of flowers jeweled with dew and ringed with light;
hundred thousand butterflies in flight,
the shimmering perfection of their wings--

Let me have kittens tangled up in string,
and puppies gnawing on their masters' shoes;
Lt's play a game where no one has to lose,
nd nothing is at stake. Let's dance and sing.

Tomorrow there'll be time enough for hate,
for blackened bodies lying in the street;
or worlds where nothing can survive that's sweet
and innocent. For now though, let it wait.

Let me have one last day where life seems kind
Before the Truth forever strikes me blind.


Monday, April 15, 2013

V. 2, #19: April 15, 2013

Like Hamlet said, the readiness is all:
so rub the sleep out, friend, and be alert.
You never know when Chance will make the call,
so sitting by the phone's not going to hurt.

Clear everything between you and the door;
Lace up your shoes, stretch out your legs and calves,
hydrate, and wait, fingers pressed to the floor,
eyes up and open--don't do things by halves.

Stay tense, notched like an arrow in a bow,
and when you hear it, take off like a jet!
Maybe you'll miss it still, but not for lack
of heart. Life takes some things you don't get back,
and hesitation only breeds regret,
which is the worst. Believe me, kid--I know.


V. 2, #18: April 14, 2013

The color of the sky was odd that night--
a yellow glow sat on the eastern cloud
that covered Pliney Mountain like a shroud.
It wasn't natural. It wasn't right.

Jim Thompson's dog would not step foot outside.
It cowered in its corner, whined, and shook.
Melinda read a page from her Good Book;
Her sleeping newborn, Blake, woke up and cried.

Then suddenly, a preternatural gloom
flooded the sky, and everything went dark
Jim ran to get his gun, Melinda screamed
I, driven perhaps by some internal spark,
ran almost in slow-motion, like a dream,
and found the horror waiting in Blake's room.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

V. 2, #17: April 13, 2013

This afternoon, it's just the two of us:
kids are away with grandparents or friends,
and we're alone to reap the dividends
we're due on our account of pent-up lust;

Let's rip each other's clothes off, feel the sun
on our unmentionables! Let's christen each
and every room, make such love as would teach
Eros a thing or two 'bout how it's done!

What's that you say? Come on, housework can wait!
No need to do the dishes now. Oh please!
I'll scrub the toilets later. Let's just--jeez.
No, never mind. It's fine. In fact, it's great.

You take a nap. I'll tidy things down here.
No, I'm not mad. Why would I be, my dear?


Friday, April 12, 2013

V. 2, #16: April 12, 2013

If things don't change, they're going to stay the same.
Inertia's more than simple gravity--
it weighs down thought and possibility
and causes cherished dreams to pull up lame;

Resolves to ash the brightest burning flame
and drowns ambition in humility;
turns fervent hymns to sleepy homily
in which things never change, but stay the same.

Kept fed, denied the hunt and liberty,
even the wildest beast can be made tame.
And after years of toothless lethargy,
he may not even mourn what he became.
Sit still, you'll find it's true, eventually:
If things don't change, they're going to stay the same.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

V. 2, #15: April 11, 2013

With thoughts all dandelion down, my brain
flung to the four winds like a sailor's song
I sit to wring the ink out once again,
from wrinkled sheets of poetry. All wrong,

But like the sacrifice of Isaac, asked
to test his father's heart and check his pride.
I offer to the Muse this daily task
In hopes that when She pleases, She'll provide.

So let the wretched ink flow from my pen,
in Voynich, beautiful and meaningless;
If I keep at it, maybe now and then
a little treasure will my crimes redress.

Tonight I might have nothing fine to say;
but I will live to write another day.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

V. 2, #14: April 10, 2013

This place should not be able to contain
your loveliness within its drab, gray walls;
as soon hold back the sea or stop the rain,
catch each blue diamond drop before it falls

and weave them all together in a veil
to frame the golden glory of your face
as, if I could, I would--and for your trail
I'd knit the silver moonbeams into lace.

But here fluorescent bulbs emit a glare
devoid of warmth, and rain can't penetrate,
nor moonlight shine. And so you must stay bare
of all these ornaments I contemplate.

A shameful lack, and one I can't correct;
it's probably just as well you don't suspect.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

V. 2, #13: April 9, 2013

Decisions made without a second thought
Change you--a million possibilities
Are born and die with "Yes" and "I Will Not,"
Provide and rob you of such liberties

As you might never dream were yours to take:
That woman from Accounting you've admired
For years, had you delayed your coffee break
A moment, might have snapped and had you fired

For making eyes--a moment earlier,
She might have noticed your designer pants,
Said so, you'd pay a compliment to her,
And soon become her lover. Wicked Chance!

To show the paths we missed while unprepared,
And kingdoms we'd have won, had we but dared.


Monday, April 08, 2013

V. 2, #12: April 8, 2013

Don't think about it--just look straight ahead
and jump. Anticipate the upward thrust
of air against pure gravity, and trust
the panicked voices screaming in your head

Are wrong this time. If you believe your wings
can bear your weight, are more than clumps of wax,
some feathers, and a balsa frame--relax,
and put away such fearful reasonings.

You cannot think how Death perhaps awaits
below, his claws outstretched to clasp your soul.
Think only of the glorious azure sky.
For he is surely lost who hesitates,
and should you fall, at least you'll perish whole,
not piecemeal over years. Go on now. Fly.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

V. 2, #11: April 7, 2013

So once upon a time there was this fish
(called Glubblubdub--but friends just called him Mike)
who had the power to grant a single wish
to any fisherman come down the pike;

One day a young girl caught him, using worms
(you prolly figured such would be the case)
and Mike, to save his tail, laid out the terms
to his amazed captor (whose name was Grace).

After a moment's pause, she shook her head.
"If you could grant a wish, why would you stay
like this? Why not become a king instead,
and rule creation till your dying day?"

"By George, you're right!" Mike said. "I'll do that thing!"
And this is how a catfish became king.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

V. 2, #10: April 6, 2013

The girl, suddenly radiant, as though
in some god's ecstasy, began to sing
with no real melody. She started low,
the soft notes disconnected, wandering,

A young child's tuneless song. And yet we all
stood still and listened. She struggled to climb
to higher notes, a strange, hypnotic call.
The way her body swayed to keep the time,

Not metronomic--rather like a blade
of grass cuaght dancing in the gentle wind
before a storm. Then her crescendo, loud
and keening--and whatever spirit played
through her brought its weird music to an end,
while she stood mute, just smiling at the crowd.


Friday, April 05, 2013

V. 2, #9: April 5, 2013

Look busy--someone told me our new boss
is coming round to visit. Clack those keys!
He's said to be the kind who might get cross
to find his faithful code monkeys at ease.

Pull up a spreadsheet! Maximize it fast!
The more arcane the better--that's the stuff.
With any luck he'll nod and amble past,
convinced our current workload is enough.

Let's print him out a stack of fat reports
that would make Archimedes shake his head;
then we can surf the web, talk about sports,
and catch up on our Words with Friends instead.

I mean, it's not as though we're lazy slobs--
it's damned hard work pretending we have jobs!


Thursday, April 04, 2013

V. 2, #8: April 4, 2013

Sometimes the storm clouds roll in like a train,
with thunder like steel wheels on iron rails
that throw off lightning sparks. Sometimes the rain
falls like a judgment. Other times it hails.

Sometimes the wind feels like it wants to tear
the clothes right off your back; the dry leaves hiss
and rattle like a snake. Sometimes it's fair,
the breeze as gentle as a lover's kiss.

Sometimes the sun beats down like it's perturbed
at all us crawling creatures here below.
Sometimes it leaves us cool and undisturbed.
(Don't even get me started on the snow.)

If you don't like the weather, wait a minute.
That's how it is in Arkansas, now innit?


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

V. 2, #7: April 3, 2013

The smell of motor oil still makes me think
of fish. My uncles pulling up the drive
with river water pouring out the back
of that flat, dented boat they always took
to check their trot lines; then they'd lug the chest
of bluegill bream and channel cat on ice
into the dingy, cinder-block garage

Where old petroleum mixed with the stink
of doomed aquatic creatures, still alive,
mouths gaping as in shock. The men would smack
the catfish with a mallet. Wrenches shook
on pegboard, vicious pliers bit down to wrest
the skin from flesh. The bream they'd scale and slice,
while I crouched down beside the bench to watch.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

V. 2, #6: April 2, 2013

A few things I can do: brew my own beer,
change out the oil and filter in my car,
cook macaroni, keep the sink drain clear
of hairballs, and play mini-golf near par;

Strum half a dozen tunes on my guitar,
hold down a barre chord, sing almost in tune,
and belt it when I can't; find the North star,
identify the phases of the moon;

Define "frugivorous" and "picayune,"
recite Macbeth's "Tomorrow" speech by heart,
refrain from drinking whiskey before noon,
and finish almost everything I start.

Which may not seem like much, but that's okay
by me. It's more than some folks, anyway.


Monday, April 01, 2013

V. 2, #5: April 1, 2013

We never use the back room anymore,
not since the night Dave spent there, years ago.
Just what he saw I guess we'll never know,
but I'm no longer curious. That door

will stay boarded and shut. The keening wail,
the growling thing that scratches at the jamb
on winter nights--I do not give a damn,
just so it never learns to bend a nail.

I let Dave out that morning, afterward--
his hair streaked white, the blood all down his face,
those empty eyes. That was enough for me.
There's no one in this world who needs to see
what that poor bastard saw, hear what he heard.
Whatever haunts that room can have the place.