I fell in love with the sonnet for many years (while I was still writing poetry; I am afraid that is one aspect of composition that has not revived with retirement, at least not yet). The form was good for me, teaching me much more discipline than I had exercised in high school or college, forcing me to be frugal with my words, and letting me explore the auditory aspects of verse by utilizing rhyme. I canʼt recall these days what first drew my attention to sonneteering; perhaps it was the many sonnets the Romantics (my favorite poets as I went through college and for along time afterward; I was first led into poetry by encountering T.S. Eliot after preteen reading in a collected poetry book of my motherʼs, edited by Louis Untermeyer — all that history needs to be its own post someday). But it was a fortunate interest for my writing.
The two parallel sonnets below are among the first I ever bothered to preserve (and in looking them over to become a post on the blog, I wonder that I felt even that much admiration for them once). I do enjoy the contrast in the pairing, which I did intend all along, once the second poem got written. The first sonnet fits easily into the Directions to Myself to Change category (a name I just invented) of which I have plenty of extant poems. The second tries to follow that pattern but drifts into its own easier and more graceful reality.
The first is darker, thus the title, I guess — with a bleaker, nastier tone and attitude (and it is about change and the necessity for changing). It was originally composed by itself, but within a day the second one also got written, and itʼs a whole ʼnother story — thus its title, I suppose. Of the two, I like the second more just now (with spring breathing life into everything; Janet and I just bought five new bushes to plant around our yard — once the forecast frost for tonight is over). It also tries to resurrect a wonderful warmth and splendor I used to milk out of sunny summer afternoons (and which I felt in a more mature way in a previous poem) and which I still deeply enjoy recalling and sometimes even feeling in the present reality. I need to write on “catbasking post meridian sunrhyme” sometime…
The night-and-day contrast is actually pretty good.
spew them back (bile, blood, acid, ooze)
into the botched and brutal maw,
the hideous night you cannot use,
dry with retching, burning, raw.
Ill-begotten, begin anew,
while stars drop moisture, angry dew
whipped by storms she never knew.
Let the wind blow cleanly through,
charging dust from your warm bones,
breathing blood from uncracked marrow,
sucking flesh from cement stones.
Let the rain reshape your brain, and go
in this strange winter without snow.
Let the morning, let the afternoon
smear yellow magic through your fingertips
and fill that fleshy cavern, mouth. Tune
your toes to join the light that slips
as photon rivers in rectangular eyeless windows.
Stir with wet tongue the dust which time
settles evenly on eyes and face and lips;
and leap, a fish, where all light goes,
into warm pools of catbasking winter sunrhyme.
Let the light spill in your eyes, unsubstantial whips
which flog out former faded speculations (too soon
undone, too long remembered and reworked). Nose
and nostrils inhale winter warmth, and light
fills lungs, exhaled blind, kisses, fuses sight.
14 December 1975
Before launching into what I know I have to say below (I am adding this preface to the remainder after I have already written the rest), I want to note that I really enjoyed creating this post on Saturday afternoon — a brightly sunny one — while listening to Pink Floyd radio via iTunes, a perfect match to the second sonnet! Now back to the darkness…
Ironically, on Saturday, while I was downloading Richard Dawkinsʼs book The Greatest Show on Earth to iTunes, I also took the time to download a new program from SmithMicro — QuickVerse, a not-very-liberated Bible program (you should see their choice of available Bible translations, defaulting of course to the very faulty, misleading and aged King James Version). Ironic, you wonder — how? Ironic in that Dawkins has become a notorious atheist (originally just for being a good scientist, latterly of course for his accepting the mantle and publishing The God Delusion, which I own but havenʼt read yet in two years), and I paired his newest book with the pretty traditional QuickVerse (thatʼs the obvious one). Ironic also in that I was about to work on this post, and the overall title presumes the actuality of evolution (as, of course, it should).
Janet bought me my first Dawkins book for my birthday a while back. It was The Ancestorʼs Tale, and she was lured by the Chaucerian parallels, but I loved it, getting further into biology than I had for years, reminding me of one adorable summer in college when I took genetics and basic biology at the same time to fulfill my education requirements at the last minute, almost. I had heard about, looked at, but not purchased The Selfish Gene and some of the other books earlier, but I hadnʼt read Dawkins until this century.
In the mid-Nineties, Janet also bought me some Darwin Fish symbols for my truck (and computers). Mac Addict, sometime about 1996 included the Darwin Fish among items that were passé — the battle had been won. I wish. Then came Creationism (or should I say, Desperately Fearful Wishing-ism) and its bastard child (un)Intelligent Design. And then came Shrub… Now I just wish that all the old stick-in-the-muds could grow up and live in the real world instead of inanely pretending falsities that lead to, well, Foxi-nonsense. As the London buses advertised for a while (thanks to Dawkins and some others): “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy your Life.”
—Apologies again, all over the place, but nonsensical pronouncements from the dimwit Right in the news lately have fired me up again. Maybe I should take my own title (of this post) to heart…
My more conservatively religious friends may beware that QuickVerse should simplify my use of bible quotes to quickly debunk foolish religious views (like those who believe God wants us to be wealthy: Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” [Matthew 19:24. Similar verses are in Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25] — clearly the Theology of Wealth is nonsense in at least the Saviorʼs eyes).
I guess the commentary reverses the tones of the two poems…