Category Archives: Sonnets

Still no road

Since we declared the road betwen us closed
And let the gates be covered by the vine
That grows between the trees, and seems to twine
Around the very sunbeams, I supposed
You went on very well without me here.
I’d come through once before, and found the place
So little changed, the well-remembered space
As painful as before, and still as dear.
Today, the vines are withered in the frost,
The wall-stones slick and chilly on my hands
As, pausing at the top, I see it stands
Unchanged outside, but all its comfort lost.
And then I slide back down, for now I know
The road remains, but there’s nowhere to go.

(An answer to “No Road” by Philip Larkin. Originally posted on Making Light)

On being told to “have a ducky day”

I woke this morning, and I found a duck
Asleep beside me in the tousled bed.
I sat up, feeling something on my head,
And reached to touch it, shouting, “What on earth?”*
My toothpaste was all feathers, and my soap
Left slimy pond-weed trailing from my hands.
I got no toast – the quacking bread demands
Were just too much. I simply couldn’t cope.
My trip to work was very much a trip –
I stumbled over drakes and stepped on hens.
They shat on papers, shed on all my pens,
While ducklings drank my coffee, every sip.
And worse – it’s nine more days till they’re away:
The tenfold curse of “Have a ducky day!”

Originally posted on Making Light

Making, an undragonish pursuit (also, clean your room)

The elder dragon stirs atop his hoard
And wakens, stretching out his scaly wings,
Rejoicing in the state of having things:
Possessions are, for him, their own reward.
He tallies up his silver and his gold,
Recalls the provenance of every gem,
But never feels the need to alter them:
He wasn’t born to make, but just to hold.
But we are not the same: we crave the new.
We strive to tell, to write, to sing, to build
Until the space around us is all filled
And still we carry on. It’s what we do.
But even we, when overwhelmed with stuff,
Must tidy up at times. Enough’s enough!

Originally posted on Making Light.

On choosing risks

Prefer all vague and incoherent threats
To real harm today, and here, and now.
(And those who pose such problems, disavow:
For lives are unfit subjects for such bets.)
When faced with lesser evils, don’t forget
That evils they are still, and any good
Is dearly bought. When choosing evils, should
Inaction be an option, choose not yet.
The future keeps its counsel closely veiled.
Until then, all we have are guesses, made
For reasons good or ill, and blindly weighed
To fathom who’ll be right, and who has failed.
Until the ends are known, the means are all
On which to judge; with them we stand or fall.

Originally posted on Making Light

Dragons to the left of me, dragons to the right

Teresa guards a treasure-trove of prose
From trolls who come to ruin and despoil.
Her comrades and her commentaries foil
All but a few; she disemvowels those.
We watch Macdonald’s ghostly tales unfold,
While Patrick burns with periodic fire
(Then phoenix-like, recovers from his ire!)
And Avram delves the web for links like gold.
Then tiger Bruce trades puns with Serge the Muse,
Heresiarch the Centaur, Greg the Ent.
And then come bards whose verses each invent
Another story: wealth that we can’t lose.
The older archetypes their places cede:
You guys are all the dragons that I need.

Originally posted on Making Light.

The dragons vanished first

The dragons vanished first, one day at dawn,
A close-packed mass of wings and teeth and tails
That voicelessly, just rustling its scales,
Crouched, launched itself, and in a flash, was gone.
The gryphons, barren since the hatchling blight
Around the eggless phoenix gathered near.
So when it flamed, they too began to sear,
Then sprang aloft and burned to ash midflight.
The dryads withered, and their trees fell down;
The unicorns their pearly horns all shed;
Beneath the autumn leaves curled pixies, dead;
And undines taught the naiads how to drown.
You humans mapped the world, despite the cost:
That you be found, the rest of us are lost.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Here be dragons?

The map said “Here be dragons” on the edge,
Beyond the farthest land, in open sea.
It seemed a little strange, at least to me:
Where did they build their nests? I like a ledge,
Some rocky outcrop on which I can sleep,
And hoard my gold, and dream up riddling quips
For jewel-thieves. I don’t need much: just tips
Of stone between me and the chilly deep.
But I need dragons, too. I’ve been alone
For centuries. I want to rut, to breed,
To see my hatchlings on the wing. I need
A dragoness more than I need warm stone.
I searched for days, but all I found was sea.
Yet still the map is right, for here be me.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Cleopatra’s oarsmen testify

The oarsmen on our quinqueremes were ill,
Malarial, and not inclined to row.
The grub was short, and that makes soldiers slow,
Lethargic when they should be keen to kill.
To make it worse, the enemy was fit
Well-armed, prepared, supplied with every need.
While we could barely reach our ramming speed,
Their far-shot arrows slaughtered all they hit.
If we could bring some order to our fleet,
Regroup, attack the weakest of their ships!
But then she breaks the line. His right hand grips
The railing as he watches her retreat.
At Actium, we thought our cause was strong
As love and life could make it. We were wrong.

Originally posted on Making Light

Serge’s Birthday Poem

The first September week was barely past
When he was born. The way the seasons change
Is catching, so perhaps it is not strange
That his first tongue and nation weren’t his last.
But though a tree may shed its autumn leaves
And be reclad in spring, the trunk remains.
And so it is with Serge, who still retains
The core of whom he loves, what he believes.
Beneath the puns, behind the clever prose,
Between the lines of sly pastiche, I see
The way he cares for this community
And value all the warmth his manner shows.
So happy birthday, Serge, although I’m late
(I knew the month, but just mislaid the date!)

A belated birthday sonnet for my friend Serge, originally posted on Making Light.

Hindenberg Zombies

Above the thunder-clouds it hovers high,
Its skeletal ribs lit by lightning storms,
While rags of fabric trail in ghostly forms:
A revenant adrift in endless sky.
Below, the well-lit modern planes pass by,
And unaware, they brush its tentacles,
Old mooring-cables, trailing manacles
With which it trawls for aircraft as they fly.
And when it catches something in its snare,
It feasts on wires and microchips inside
While humans, just detritus flung aside,
Plunge screaming downward through the icy air.
Beware the king of airships; fear his chains.
The Hindenberg is feeding on jet planes.

Originally posted on Making Light, based on an image from Diatryma.