Thursday, September 24, 2009

Another sonnet I wrote, this one in a somewhat more serious vein.


A couple of hours before your mom phoned
to explain how your friend dozed and the car turned
over twice—glass in your arm, a head wound,
but the friend was fine—I dropped your potted fern,
black soil exploding across the kitchen floor.
It was like Fate sneered in advance: “You think that
was an accident? You think that will leave a scar?
Wait and see.” While I cursed my clumsy lot
a surgeon was stapling the tender skin of your scalp.
Could we have seen the fissures of these misfortunes—
the driver’s drooping eyes, the slackening grip—
and all those that came after? Made our decisions
stronger than the mistakes they were meant to contain?
Pots and windshields will break, and break again.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letter Appreciation

The other day's exercise apparently put me in a sonnet-writing mood, because I wrote another one this morning, though the composition took much longer than an hour this time. It's a silly, tongue-in-cheek sort of poem, a love sonnet addressed to the letter U. Truth be told, I have no deeper adoration for that letter than I do for any of the other twenty-five characters in the alphabet; it's just that I couldn't resist the (admittedly shameless) pun that the poem hinges on.

After writing it, I couldn't help but think of Smokey Robinson's appearance on Sesame Street back in the 80s, where he sang "You Really Got A Hold On Me" to a giant U-shaped puppet with feminine eyes and lips that was intent on permanently attaching itself, by way of a vise grip, to the Motown star's struggling person. I saw the segment many times as a kid, and remember feeling at once captivated, amused, and more than a little concerned for Smokey's welfare each time it came on. The picture I posted above is one artist's tribute to that strange and passionate man-letter union.

I Love U

Without you, nothing would be unctuous,
only oily. Urns would be simply pots.
Usage: a wise person. Utah: a no-fuss
goodbye. The umlaut, sadly, a pair of dots.
On the upside, we’d have no ulcers and urine,
no unmannerly urchins, no unease.
Yet, we could never uplift, unify, underpin.
Utopia? Unthinkable—even more of a tease.
O you, most guttural, uncommon, unsung
of all vowels—unless, that is, we count Y—
let us pronounce you, easy on the tongue,
and write you: curved underbelly, with sides
upright, top uncapped. Undoubtedly true:
our universe would be unnamable without you.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Poetic Time Trials

I've been working on a story lately that's been very slow going, and in a moment of sheer frustration today I decided to take a break and do something that goes entirely against the usual grain of my writing process: try to pen a Shakespearean sonnet in one hour. While I'd still have to worry about form, I knew the running clock would force me to accept the words as they came, more or less, and to let the poem suggest its own shape and direction.

I have a small coyote statue on my desk that my parents brought back from Arizona when I was around ten, so I decided to write about that. It's carved from a very hard, shiny wood, which I think might be lignum vitae, but I'm not sure. Here's a picture:

Surprisingly, I was able to meet the deadline, just barely (I think I finished off the couplet at the 56 minute mark). I mostly used off rhymes instead of full rhymes, and I admit, I did go back and change two words to avoid a descriptive redundancy. But on the whole, the poem below was composed in one hour, and while it's not a great piece of work I have to say the exercise was fulfilling and a lot of fun. This is something I could see myself doing from time to time, especially when things feel a bit stagnant.


Sleek-bodied, neck craned in a primal howl
of silence, you are darker than the wood
of my desk, and harder too. Some soul
in Scottsdale, where the rocks are red as blood
almost, carved your smooth totemic form
and hawked you to an upscale hotel gift shop
where my parents noticed you, my mom
saying, “He would like that.” The slope
of your back I have always liked, reflecting
sun or lamplight, and your eyes, mere holes,
two twists of the artist’s blade. So affecting,
these things we keep around us, our baubles
and trinkets. If they had a voice of their own
would they sing our small histories to the moon?

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