Tag Archives: significant dates

First Easter in the Netherlands, an act in Three Parts

  1. Alex is fevered for the second day today, and has added barfing to his repertoire. I know he’ll be better soon, but it’s hard watching him suffer.
  2. My first thoughts on waking this morning and looking out at the snow:

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    Staring out at falling snow
    The church bell’s ringing
    Under thick clouds bringing
    More flakes to fall on us below.

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    Where every egg we dyed so bright
    Will not stay hidden
    But will show, unbidden
    We should just have left them white.

    I’m waking to a white Easter
    And feel that something isn’t right
    The leaves that shrivel with blight
    Put all my dreams of sun to flight.

  3. A dialogue between Martin and me:

    A: So what are we going to do with that bacon in the fridge?
    M: Ummmm…eat it?
    A: That sounds like a good idea.
    M: So should go downstairs and put the bacon on?
    A: (looks him up and down) Do you think it’ll cover enough? I don’t want you to be cold.

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.

TNH birthday sonnet

We stand between the darkness and the light:
The balance-point, when coming day reveals
Details that the darker time conceals,
And watch the sunlight overtake the night.
This equinox marks more than balance struck
Between the darkness, velvet cloak swept back,
And gold-robed daytime, mirroring the black.
This is the coming of the light. What luck
This luminiferous date also brought
Our hostess forth, whose writing more than glows:
Her fractal grasp of language yields prose
That’s filigreed with sunlight, finely wrought.
So happy birthday. May your day be bright.
From me, and all of us on Making Light.

Written in honor of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s birthday, and originally posted on Making Light.

How to Make Your Husband Cry

A week or two ago, one of the commenters on a weblog I frequent quoted a line from one of her dreams: “Sometimes the petal is as effective as the flower.”

And I felt the tug I feel sometimes, when there’s a sonnet somewhere inside me, waiting to come out. It took about half an hour from tug to completion, but when I read it to M, he thought it was so sweet he cried.

So, for Valentine’s day, a love sonnet.

He knows me well, and so his slightest glance
Conveys a sonnet’s worth of loving thought.
He speaks my mind so often it’s not chance
And I say what he’s thinking, like as not.
I brush his shoulder as I pass his chair,
Or as he drives, reach out and tap his knee.
He leans his head back as I stroke his hair
Then turns back to his work, away from me.
We could say more, but other things intrude,
And evenings are too short to get things done.
Our common terseness might be seen as rude
But one word’s wealth, when there is need for none.
A word, a touch, our deepest feeling shows:
The petal is effective as the rose.


The Monkey Kings

This is a dark one. It came out of a conversation in mid-December, which strayed into a conflation between the three wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) and the three Wise Men. Everyone else was very lighthearted, but I have never found the monkeys joyous. That kind of denial of the world around them always saddens me.

O Melchior, you brought me gifts of gold
To make a crown that you refuse to see:
You hide your eyes lest kingship make me bold,
Seduce me on the heights, corrupting me.
And Balthasar, who gave me frankincense,
Is deaf to my pronouncements. Are your fears
That I’d usurp my Father so intense
That cowering, you cover up your ears?
My Caspar, bringing myrrh, forsees such loss
And closes fast his mouth, unreconciled
To thoughts of death, the shadow of the cross:
A monstrous gift to bring a newborn child.
Dear kings, this all was planned, and you might trust
I’ll do not what I choose, but what I must.

Technically, I am not very satisfied with this poem. The language is strained – I should have rewritten it a few times before posting it, but I doubt I will ever go back and do so. It’s a rare example of a sonnet where I haven’t used an octave and sestet structure, but rather three balanced quatrains summarised by a couplet. It fits the three-part structures of both of the stories that converge in this sonnet.

In content terms, I found it very easy to map the three kings to the three monkeys. Caspar, in particular, works well as the wise man foreshadowing the death of the infant receiving his gift, struck mute by the horror of what he has to convey. The others hide out of fear, but he does so out of pity. The point of the poem, of course, is that none of them have the full picture, which is deeper and more frightening than they can possibly imagine.

I do think, before I start doing these in my Christmas cards, that I will have to choose more cheery themes.

What to Name the War?

I wrote this in November, on a thread about what to call the war. It’s actually the second — the first was silly, and I am not minded to post silliness today.

Before I’d name the war, I’d ask to know
What I was calling “in” and calling “out”,
And how this situation’s like to grow.
It’s clarity we’ve been too long without.
New York, Afghanistan, Madrid, Iraq,
Guantanamo and London, Bali too;
Iran and North Korea, from the talk,
And then Peoria? and me? and you?
We move in darkness, as it seems to me
Not of fear only, but the shades of lie
That hide the places we become less free
And trumpet out the ways that we could die.
Until we get so used to constant strife
That we don’t call it war, but normal life.

This sonnet quotes quite extensively from one of my favourite poems, Mending Wall, by Robert Frost. It was one of my attempts to recast another poem into sonnet meter and rhyme. Both the octave and the sestet start off with Frost quotes, like a touchstone:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.


He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

I have always used Frost’s poem as a metaphor for the intellectual distinctions we make to parse the world, and the need to make those distinctions intelligently and thoughtfully. It is only now, writing this entry, that I realise that he wrote it in 1915, when the First World War was already underway. Though that conflict is far from his verse, I find this interesting.

September 11, a sonnet

This was written on Bonfire Night, 2006. I watched the fireworks with the children, then came inside to warm up and read some of the history of Guy Fawkes and his plot.

History can be as comforting as it is unsettling.

In time, September the eleventh night,
The kids will watch the rockets fill the air.
They’ll OOH and AAH in multicoloured light
With bioluminescents in their hair.
Our tragedies will be reduced to rhyme:
Some half-remembered, mistranslated song
And jumping dance, its meaning lost to time,
Details missing, names and places wrong.
Though self-renewing terror haunts our lives,
Our children, staring upward at the sky,
Remind us that their innocence survives
While we, and they, and generations die.
Resist with decency when terror stalks
It’s stronger than Bin Laden, Marx or Fawkes.

In technical terms, this is an okay sonnet. There is very little “turn” in this one, between the octave and the sestet. The only real transition is from the scene at the start to the message in the conclusion. The couplet does sum things up nicely. But the language is never clever, or particularly powerful.

In terms of content, this is a sonnet I believe in very deeply indeed. I think we exist in a historical context, and that it is important for us to remember that in the choices we make. I think (looking backward) civilisation has faced worse challenges than we face now, and (looking forward) that we owe it to the future not to overreact, or sell out our principles.

PNH birthday sonnet

Today the Fluorosphere will mark his birth
Whose gravity, when he has cause to write,
Can draw us all together, while his mirth
And musicality yet make us light.
His passion and his politics infuse
Discussions with his sense of what is right:
When someone challenges his deep-held views
He argues with uncompromising might.
And yet that passion is the lesser part
Of what I find that I admire the most.
I’ve seen, in quiet moments, a great heart,
And looking, find it somewhere in each post.
So happy birthday, Patrick. All the best.
Eat well, drink lots, and well, you know the rest.

Originally posted on Making Light, in honor of Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s birthday.

Ironic perihelion

Since, I live in the Northern Hemisphere,
The planet, in its orbit round the sun
Is at ironic perihelion:
I have no comfort, though the sun is near.
Instead, half-starved for any natural light,
I take what refuge in the sunlit days
I can, before the angled and anemic rays
Are smothered by another heavy night.
Rejoice! Rejoice! The turning of the year
That heralds a return to warmth and cheer –
And most of all, the light – the day is here!.
Rejoice, they say, for better times are near!
I know the light will come, and do me good.
But I’m too tired to care. I wish I could.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Remembrances Expanded

A single one of us has passed away
Affecting every thread on Making Light.
We stagger at the impact. All we say
Is dimmer in his absence. He shone bright.
Imagine, if you can, a million lost
Or more: the good and better, bad and worse.
Each death its own immeasurable cost
Each grief deserving vivid, timeless verse.
We lost a friend. It’s cost us all so much
In future joy and present pain alike.
That price is paid by all that death can touch
They all were missed the way that we miss Mike.
The mind cannot encompass so much grief:
They lost a forest, we mourn a single leaf.

Originally posted on Making Light, in honor of Remembrance Sunday and John M Ford.