November 16th, 2007

Ferry Wake

Poetry Friday -- The Seventh Sonnet

Remember a month or so ago when I talked about A Crown of Sonnets

For those of you who don't, a Crown of Sonnets is a series of seven complete sonnets, linked thematically and through the repetition of certain lines. 

That's 98 lines of poetry for you math majors... in rhyme... and iambic pentameter. 

It's like an extreme sport -- snowboarding in the half-pipe when everyone else is cross-country skiing.

Anyway, because I have this diagnosable condition called "flattered to be asked," I agreed to write the seventh of seven sonnets in a beautiful crown some poet-friends of mine were putting together. 

All well and good until they gave me the first six and I had to start. 


Sonnets are hard to write. But also sort of puzzley fun, and since I don't play Suduko I thought this exercise might keep my mind nimble. Plus, it just so happens that this past week was the one week in the entire semester that I require my students to write a poem in form. They went off with the look of startled bush babies in their eyes, terrified to face the rigors of sonnet or sestina, vilanelle or pantoum. And I went skulking toward my own. Is that poetic justice, or what?

The upshot is, I did it. And I thought I'd share it with you. I don't have permission to share the previous 92 lines but suffice it to say that they were about water and butterfly migration and luck and risk and hope and jazz and Amelia Earhart, and they were really, really good. 

Here's my contribution. And may I suggest giving this a whirl? Maybe not even a whole crown. Just a plain old garden variety sonnet. They are fun. And pretty...


Your last indigenous gods will gather,                                         

burning wood and salt-weed in your name.                     

The rite of rising water’s just a game                             

you make a habit of; today’s another                             

chance for us to wax and reach together –                                                                     

the tide goes out and now the chances wane.                 

Oh, sirens on the half shell, who’s to blame                    

for hopes that dash against the rocks or rather                

crack the husks that we have all outgrown?                   

What if it’s luck that pulled us up from crawling,             

luck like treasure pulled us from the seas?                                  

You say that you’d be different if you’d known              

fortune falters (just like darkness falling) –                     

sometimes you feel it lapping round your knees.