The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Poetry” as a “literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm.” According to Literary Terms, a Sonnet is “a fourteen line poem with a fixed rhyme scheme. Often, sonnets use iambic pentameter: five sets of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables for a ten-syllable line. Sonnets were invented by the Italian poet Giacomo da Lentini during the 1200s. The word sonnet is derived from the Old Occitan phrase sonnet meaning “little song.”
The Sonnet is, to me, an explicit poetic art form, a “painting” of sorts. And though it’s composed of written words on paper rather than oil paints or water colors on canvas, the finished product is similarly enclosed within a sturdy “frame,” i.e. a strict limit on its physical size. Its structure, as defined in ‘Literary Terms’ noted above, makes the sonnet sound as though it must be horribly confining and possessed with none of the fluidity of other poetic styles, but that’s definitely not the case.
A typical Sonnet in, e.g., Shakespearean format, expresses a “theme” — a premise or an idea, plus analysis — in its three rhyming- and syllable-defined quatrains, then typically ends with summary or conclusion in the terminating pair of lines, the rhyming couplet. The Shakespearean rhyming scheme is always the same: abab-cdcd-efef-gg. Other Sonnet formats can have different and varied rhyming patterns, but each and every form still contains, with one exception (the so-called Fourteener), a total of 140 syllables in its fourteen iambic lines.
Below are 32 Sonnets that I’ve written over the last 2 – 3 decades. Topics include “impressions” (and blends) of subjects such as war, death, life, friendship, love, beauty, nature, prehistory, the surreal, plus even recent and current politics. All but one (Of Man; Of Wolf) use the Shakespearean rhyming sequence; the odd-man-out’s rhyme scheme is abba-cddc-effe-gg, sometimes called the “Bowlesian” or “Australian” rhyming pattern.
Here they are, uninterrupted by further description or comment:
One wearies of incessant Voice of war.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this – War’s burdens hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death – in silent, wretched, loss.
of those who died before their time
One wonders if they ever heard the cry.
The sound, the summons, which to faithful says:
Your God has called, your time is come to die
And travel on – conclusion of your days
On earth, the end of all familiar things –
Your Lives, your Loves, interred now, sans the pain
Inflicted by ungodly bands of kings
Who find their purpose in despotic shame.
So now all living walk upon a cache –
Abysmal graveyards – globally extant,
Concealing flesh and bone returned to ash
From which it came. Tears want to flow, but can’t
As souls of murdered dead now roam – set free –
And living close their eyes: Afraid to see.
The Vietnam Memorial
Embedded in the ground, a blackened stone
Pays tribute to the fallen – those described
As hallowed dead – their souls departed, gone,
Now ashes in the wind. Their names – inscribed
Precisely – carved as if by hand of God
To ornament the rock, still whisper words
Of love to friends who seem to find it odd
That stone can weep, and too, the songs of birds.
There is no glory buried here beneath
This blackened stone, nor flesh, nor bones. But still,
One feels that sculpted names did each bequeath
A challenge only living can fulfill –
Exist in peace with all upon your Earth,
Since you won’t know, till death, what Life was worth.
The Vietnam Memorial II
a whisper from the wall
The flowers in the vase allay my fears.
She placed them, quite precisely, near my name
Here etched in stone. Her eyes are filled with tears,
Full knowing that it’s I who’ve lost the game
Of life, my place on Earth reduced to this.
I pray she knows our Spirits still are one,
That touch, and tears, and even winsome kiss
Remain forever locked, though breath is gone.
It’s peaceful here despite the constant pain
Of losing her. How easier for birds
To sing, for blackened clouds to spill their rain,
Than through this stone it is to speak these words:
I love you still, you’re always part of me –
And that can’t change – in this Eternity.
Requiescat In Pace
All Living wonder how it feels to die,
To cross the bar, to bid farewell to things
Of Life and Love, to gasp that final sigh
Appropriate to Commoners – and Kings.
Your journey – ended now – opines that life
Be filled with warmth, not chill, that Destiny
Embraces Soul in passage, free of strife,
To final resting place: Eternity.
What worth remains for those whose scant reward
Is Death? You’ve offered us your Psalm, and taught
That breath refines the mind, and damn the sword
That slays it! Life, you’ve shown, is not for naught
When Love of others fills their hearts with glee.
May Peace embark – with you – from Heaven’s Quay.
Hidden deep within the veiled dusts of time,
Halcyon memories lie – gathered by
Ghosts of those who once enjoyed life’s sublime
Realities, where love seemed but a sigh.
And now the sighs have turned to muffled tears –
Shed – in sparse, soft, moments – in faint recall
Of dreams and happiness – those vanished years –
Now ever masked behind life’s dusty pall.
Time has no mandate but to fly on wings
Of passage, aiming always at the vast
Darkness which lies beyond the end of things –
Where light glows but through loves known in the past.
Lament the dusty pall, the fears it bared,
But not the life and love that once you shared.
Admittedly, I grasp for words when I
Attempt to speak of Love and things akin —
It seems my feelings often run awry.
And though emotion from my heart within
Still clings to thought of you, I’m unaware
Of how to say those things I see and know.
My love, you’ve given me this cross to bear,
Its feathered weight – relentlessly – I tow.
Still, often do I thank the Gods above
For wordlessness. I can’t foresee a fate
More kind than offers burden born of love –
So light – compared with burden born of hate.
I break my silence now, and say to You
Your Soul is bright – and Wondrous be the hue.
Wild flowers bloom on hillsides in the Spring.
They savor warmth, and life, and gentle breeze,
And filled their hearts are, blessed by buzzing wing.
Thus essence bridles forth – though never sees
Dark clouds which loom beyond the summered hill.
With patience, winter frost awaits his prize –
Stealthily, as the tiger seeks to kill
The lamb, he holds his breath – in cold surprise.
Who can rescind the fate to end all fates?
We live, and love, and glory in the bloom
Of life. No soul alive e’er hesitates
Upon life’s road, in journey toward the tomb.
Like flow’r, we disavow – as petals fall –
That final death which lives within us all.
Dark and Life
When darkness slips inside the end of day
And waning light extinguishes the sky,
There lives, in Dark, a light which deems to play
With shadows, speaking forth with passioned sigh.
For some, the dark of night insists a fear
That soul’s at risk, though others sense the dawn
Scant hours away. For most, when light appears
Again, both sadnesses and fears are gone.
The love of life and land is catalyst
Which alters lives of all who dare believe
That dark is naught but shadowed light. Insist
That brilliance be a wondrous gift – receive
Its breath and give in measure, so to learn,
That life shines bright through darkness – in return.
In Springtime, Manzanita calms one’s sense
With flaunt of color, shape, and form’s repose –
Conveyed with vivid flash of sentience
To all who see that every breeze which blows
Instructs each dancing bloom: “Communicate
Life’s earnest quests, its ever-wondrous goals.”
Ethereal concepts, thus revealed, create –
Upon each flow’r – reflections of our Souls.
And Muses too, embedded there within
Each tiny bit of beauty, dare imbue,
Along with Truth and Love, those once again
Delights which shift one’s thoughts to sense anew;
Each bloom becomes a poem which lends, to me,
Divined sweet light – and images of thee.
A Paradise of Paradox
Paradise is Paradox: When silence
Affords the wistful mind a sense of soft
Rapture born of sand and rock, when intense
And windblown multi-colored clouds aloft
Drop scant rains on arid lands, life begins.
O’er deserts vast, beyond the winter’s edge,
Xanadus of xeric floral xanthins —
Profusive sprawls of hue-struck landscape — pledge
Another season rich of life, a year
Reduced in size and scope, till moment when
Aridity and heat-waves reappear.
Determined though it is to thrive again,
On withered wing, on waves of blist’ring heat,
Xanadu joins Paradise – in retreat.
Of Flower and Mist
Drowned within the shroud of eternal sky
Essence lives, dressed in softest shimmering white.
Beauty is the flow’r which, in garden, lies
Beside the rippling stream where mists are light.
Infinity collects in droplets. Dew,
Ensconced in winsome grasp breathes soft fragrance
And sweet scent of life to all who dare view
Nature’s gift of love, in her wind-kissed dance.
Defilers are not welcome, for Beauty
Pursues naught but Truth and Love – her message:
Enter not unless you share this with me!
Render unto me your heart-sought passage;
Receive me as the soul of life and Love,
Yet gentle be – approach with velvet glove.
Of Man; Of Wolf
The mountain throws a livid purple haze
As waning sunlight strays across the skies
And skims a craggy ridge. Man’s towers rise
From valley’s darkened floor as if ablaze
In ego – soaring – bluster unconstrained
By reason – or by feigned humilities.
Beyond the morrow’s sunrise where the trees
Stand tall, the lone wolf’s paw print, water-stained,
Confirms his passage o’er a sandy trail.
Instinctive stealth, the weapon of his choice,
And fearsome howl – the bête noire of voice –
Explain to men why man, himself, must fail:
“My birthright is to live! Run wild! Run free
Of shackled chains! . . . No wonder You fear Me!
Paradox of Humankind:
Brash vanity ordains that Mankind be
Superior to all other life on Earth;
The curious source of this Mythology
Is Biblical – man’s fount of wisdom’s dearth.
Thus bold is he who advocates the case
Of Genesis errant, where metaphor,
As whimsical devise, cannot replace
Realities which each confirm the Core
Of Life: that every living form appeals
To substance greater than itself alone.
A single flash of intellect reveals
One Truth, as if inscribed in tempered stone:
Each bird and beast, each flowered weed, each tree
Expounds on Man’s Inferiority!
To A Friend
a simple wish
Emotion seems to drive the human soul
Through darkness born within, or light above.
Yet light, not dark, remains the fairest goal
Of those who understand the worth of love
And what it means for self to freely give
That smallest touch of joy. To love, to feel
Each moment of the days one has to live
Are life’s rewards, and psalm of light is real.
And so, I hold my glowing lamp for you
Upright, that darkness leave on wing of prayer,
That troubles cease. Forever may the hue
Of Happiness assuage your every care
And fear in mind of those you love, all part
Of me – Illuminations – in my Heart.
I see your words on written page, then view
The stars in darkened sky as points of light –
Outpourings of your heart in cosmic queue.
As thoughts of love illuminate my night,
My soul is drawn to yours and begs to be
Like river, mountain borne, in constant flow,
In search of the embrace of azure sea
Where life renews in steadfast mystic glow.
Sweet be the passage of this life, for I’ve
Come to know my soul is outward bound toward
Waiting arms of thee, that when I arrive,
The glow within your heart is my reward.
My prayer is this: may journey never cease
Till we are one, our souls embraced – in peace.
Deserted though by gods we often feel,
Eden beckons, still, through sea’s quiet mist.
Born we are to sail life’s frigate, sans keel,
Before the Mother Wind – our ship at list.
Internal light is all we have as guide,
Except for things already taught and learned.
And so it is, through instinct and with pride,
No single voyage in this life we’ve spurned.
Now Love has grown within us, and we see
So many Truths unveiled, not known before;
Mists part, and grant rebirthed reality
In Eden’s sea – soft waves upon her shore.
There, distant rainbows hold but one surprise:
How beautiful is Eden through our eyes.
The Mother Wind
The Mother Wind is birthed on open sea,
And then begins her transit toward the shore
Which waits her winsome breath. Eternity
Is hers alone. Her face reflects the door
Through which both past and future might be viewed
By those who dare to brave her chill. Her voice,
As Wisdom, whispers soft to minds thus queued,
And only empty souls cannot rejoice
Her message: “Serenity deep within
Each self returns the glow of life like kiss
Of wave upon eternal shore. Begin
Each morn in my embrace, forget not this:
Revere the softness in the love of two
Become conjoined – to that one heart be true!”
The breaking dawn makes scarce a sound, and yet
Awakens Earth below while noiseless dew
Shares selflessly its essence, to beget
Moist softness in the grass. In distant view
The mountaintop is cloaked in snow, with not
An echo audible as lands each flake
To form a shroud of white. Each star, each dot
Of light In nighttime’s sky, dares not forsake
The feelings manifest in souls below,
Yet silently, each echoes Love to cleave
The grip of loneliness. I sense the glow
Reflective in your eyes, and then retrieve
Those joys you freely give – and I rejoice
In all the Love which echoes in your voice.
Dust and Snow
Delight in life and love so often seems
Elusive to those hearts which dwell within
Bodies born of Dust. Endlessly, such dreams
Become a veiled reality, a din
Inside the soul which bares the inner light.
Exactly as the winter Snows enclose
All grey, returning world to brilliant white,
No darkness falls in dreamland’s soft repose.
No thing in life means more than touch of love,
So as the Snow collects like Dust on trees
My spirit soars on summer’s feathered dove
In search of thee, in quest of subtleties
That only we have shared – my heartsought prize,
How warm the love – reflected in your eyes.
Alone, I watch as dawn’s illumined finger
Spreads crystal dance of light on wave and sand
Where impressions of our love still linger,
And breeze recalls the softness of your hand –
Your touch – which deep within my soul awoke
The ancient kiss of mist upon the sea.
Your essence brushed me, softly, to evoke
Eternal sense of peace – and mystery.
How beautiful, as glist’ning of your hair
Became starlight, to know your soul and heart
Were one with mine. No bounty is so fair
As that. Yet now we find ourselves apart –
For I awakened, realized anon,
‘Twas but a dream. And you, my love, were gone.
How often does the human spirit cry
In search of comfort, peace, or warmth for heart,
Or feelings which bring tears to stolid eye?
Such Truths and Beauties constitute a part
Of Life itself, and souls have much to gain
In sharing kindred dreams which they possess;
For any life can build on either pain
And dark, or otherwise on Happiness.
So, enter thee, dear love, into my life,
Pray, let your glow illuminate my door –
Enlighten me! Dispel the darkness, rife
Within my heart. And may, forevermore,
The presence of your warmth define the role
Of Love as an Oasis – for our Soul.
Luz: The Light
A thread of light persists as darkness falls;
Luz, life’s subtle flame, shines forth as beam cast
Sharp through reality’s ere darkened pall,
Revealing hints of living soul’s repast.
In darkness, too, the whispers of the muse –
Silent intonations, though heard before –
Evoke reflections of lives lived; a ruse?
Fires sensed by those who live become as cores,
Pure shafts of light. Collections of past times
Not readily dispelled arouse the Source –
The Souls of those long gone returned as mimes,
Intoning memories of Luz, a force
No darkness can conceal, nor dare it try
Extinguish light with shadow – or with cry.
Written on the Wind
To feel each season’s breath upon one’s face
Is manifest delight when gentle rains –
With fragrances intact – recall embrace
Of absent love. The breaking dawn explains
With vivid hue the mysteries of the heart,
And stirs those passions deep within the soul
Which harbor love, though lovers be apart.
The nighttime sky displays eternal goal
Of life – soft points of light – illumined glow
Of reunited kindred hearts which cry
No more in loneliness, yet somehow know
Eternity embodies passioned sighs.
If death be final, dare it not rescind
These messages, as written on the wind.
Elegy on America
The Legacy of George W. Bush:
Gone, Wasted, Broken
Gone now, America’s halcyon days
Where Reason stood tall and grand in the sun;
Brilliance defined Her equanimous ways –
Gone now, expunged, all Her triumphs hard won.
E. Pluribus Unum: Her goal was clear.
One chosen from many, She alone rose
Reflecting the grandeur of cause sincere –
Gone now, forever corrupted by woes:
Environments: Poisoned with gas and fume;
Waters: Mercurial, deadly as wars;
Broken: A people, too cold to exhume;
Uberty: Ceded to desolate shores.
Still, some see not what others are mourning:
Haste become greed become waste – sans warning.
The Odyssey of Nemo
Of Willard M. Romney
With Much Regret
When greed defines a nominee’s malaise,
Implicitly, the nation’s fortunes loom
Like mountains visible through brownish haze,
Like oceans’ breakers crashing in the gloom
And doom of icy or cyclonic storm.
Republics and Democracies succumb;
Death assumes a barbarous pose, its form
Most certainly the product of those numb
Regurgitations from dead minds, unsheathed.
‘Oh death, where is thy sting?’ the poet asked.
‘My sword’s malaise of greed to you bequeathed,’
Nemo responds, his vapid soul unmasked.
Eternal passage thus abruptly halts,
Yet Nemo cannot lead – he’s crazed with faults.
Donald J. Trump and His Egomaniacal Presidency, Defined
[via an Acrostic Fourteener Quatorzain]
Democracy allows a boundless breadth of mindless thought.
One brief glance today unmasks a President who deems to
Never claim to own the vicious speech he hopes will be bought
And sold as Truth. Whilst he himself wears masks of learned view,
Lengthy rhetoric from speaker thus afflicted reveals
Dismal platitudes, each expressed as if nonsensical
Judgment of those who are more sane, of those whose thought appeals
To wisdom, not to ignorance of issues topical.
Racial bigots find curious relief in hate and fear
Until they find themselves dismissed by soft impassioned dreams;
Misogyny as well appeals to minds that aim to smear
Perspectives based on common goals of life – with bogus schemes.
Deliv’rance of this nation’s soul and heart is thus on hold
Till egomania’s greed and sloth are disappeared – or sold.
A Trump-Inspired National Elegy
Greed and Sloth have once again prevailed, their
Onerous goals retained by vulgar vote;
Once again America’s soul stands bare,
Delib’rately exposed as addled moat
Beneath her people, once defined as great.
Yet there remains a choice; to quote Voltaire,
“Écrasez l’infame” (Crush the furtive State)
And grant Relief to all from hate’s despair
Made manifest by sophistic fear. Still,
Exercise of faux imperiousness
Results in cultural demise of will
In all but those possessed by mindlessness.
Calumny (Trump, our President-Elect)
Assigns ALL Truth to Perfidy-Select.
Requiem, as dirge of sophistic love,
Exposes destinies which nations earn.
Quoth Hamlet: “conscience doth make cowards of
Us all” – that is, till We the People learn,
Implicitly, that human Cowardice
Exudes contempt for Rationalities.
Meanwhile, mankind’s destiny – Avarice –
Appears in service to those Vanities
Most shallowed minds presume to be their right,
Enabling failure thus of Self, of State.
Repression blooms and quickly dims all light
Intrinsic to the heart of Freedom’s Fate –
Consumed – whilst words of Truth, now specious, Moan . . .
And stand as lifeless slogans . . . etched in stone.
The Vanished Ones
The voices of the Vanished Ones still speak
Through missives born of dust and scribed in stone,
Available to all who dare to seek
Their enigmatic wisdom – practiced – gone.
They understood the message in the winds,
In waters issued forth by rain and creek;
And too, in governance of thinking minds
Which found, in night-time sky, the means to seek
And so to know the times to glean, to sow.
They learned the paradox, the consequence
Of bounty’s waste; with Nature thus a foe,
Their cities turned to dust. There’s no defense
Of aftermath which overuse portends:
Diminishment of resource – Means – the Ends.
Voices in the Wind
Though modern ears seem deaf to primal song,
Ideas seek – and probe – subconscious minds.
Where spirits walk, old muted voices long
To search – as dust now gathered by the winds –
To speak in silence, whispering to souls
Their sacred manifests of unsung dreams.
Then Suffrage of the land – through Gray Wolf’s howls
And breath of noiseless Deer – expresses themes
As surely as the murmur of the trees
Announces wind and wingéd life, in kind.
And silently as Eagle rides the breeze,
These messages – the Sum of Life – remind:
Man’s aimless, modern Din shall ne’er transcend
The Wild – and Ancient – Voices – in the Wind.
Elegy on Elysium
Remembering Emily Dickinson
Embedded in the chambers of the Soul
Must lurk one tear to salve that Final Fate.
Immortality – sham – pretends the goal:
Life! Everlasting! Granted at the Gate!
Yet moments slowly slip away as life
Declines in worth. Sagacity must wane
In stark proportion to the weight of strife –
Collective triumph? Victory? Or gain?
Knowledge of finality is crossroad
Incarnate souls can only try perceive.
No salvage is available for load
So heavy, which Circumference dares reprieve
On buzzing Wing as Soul takes Final Flight –
Not closure, just a sense of Dark – or Light?
I closed with my ‘Elegy on Elysium’ (acrostic) sonnet in order to ‘Remember’ Emily Dickinson, the nineteenth century American poet who was then — and remains — the pinnacle of America’s greatest poets. And even though she never, in her nearly 1800 poems, wrote a sonnet, she consistently demonstrated both the magic and power of poetry as the art form she could most effectively use to explore her own “inner vision” and those perceived “irrefutable aspects of reality” [“Circumference”], i.e. the details of “existence” itself — its myriad moments, its aftermath — all in context with the “uncertain certainty” “Of Paradise’ existence”.
Here’s Ms Dickinson’s poetic “definition” of poets and poetry and the potential impact thereof. Note that she used a total of only 27 words and 40 syllables, proof that she was NOT a politician!
The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate —
If vital Light
Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens