I focused on these sonnets, part of Sonnets 1 – 60, this late winter and spring prior to a reading I was going to do in Philly and managed to change most of the things that bothered me about them.
It’s nice to have a reading coming up, one that’s a bit of a big deal, and this one in Philly was (I was reading with Elaine Equi!). Anticipation and a deadline always help me focus on work at hand. Right now I am working on Sonnets 60 – 120, trying to get everything I don’t like about them likable. It would be nice to have a reading in the near future. I am so out of the loop no one ever asks me to read anymore. Give me a reading, somebody!
After 60 – 120 are polished enough, I want to go on to Sonnets 121 – 180, and polish them enough too, then they’ll be ready for publication, a book. I want to have 360 eventually written like degrees in a circle. About 240 are written as we speak but many in sketches. I have to look at them with x-ray eyes and careful ears to get them real inside and out.
Looking at the springs, sitting in the sun
Something at my nape begins to tickle
Like the wind’s moving a hair there, fickle
On my bare neck between the scalp and trunk.
I’m reading the poet Bill Kushner—Ah!
His April Poems are wonderful to hold.
It’s April and I’m here with Bill—But no
Something’s crawling on my skin. Is it? What?
I scratch, and it vanishes like a thought
Forgotten, but it’s not. It walks. I pick
From my neck a beautiful round red tick
With many tiny moving legs, enough
To turn my thoughts from Bill to blood and death.
It knows I’m here, where I wanted to rest.
Every time I come it is the same
Running without end down the mountain stairs
Rocks, giant eggs and heads of dinosaurs.
Elegant woods, soft, expanding gently
Over everything, a promised dream
Of health, happiness, not bombed little kids
Without limbs, politicians getting rich
Off suffering—Away! I want to be
Among unfolding ferns and skunk cabbage
Where the warm bright sun thaws the ground still cold
Like Christ raising Lazarus. As I grow
Old it seems possible to really love
Even the startled snake scared in the leaves
But man—Who threw this bottle in the stream?
Curtis, when we cleaned out your room I took
Some of your books and the Mexican scarf
I bought you. Now it’s mine. You could say ours.
It’s stained in spots. Should I clean it? I look
See some of your blood, a cigarette burn.
I think I’ll wear it like it is, mindful
Of how you engaged the world in thoughtful
Conversation. There’s always more to learn.
I know with your scarf wrapped around my neck
It’s curiosity keeps me going.
I’ll never be afraid of death wanting
To know what’s going to happen next. Curtis
Even when you went crazy I enjoyed
Answering the phone and hearing your voice.
The butterflies of spring are small and dark
Not colorful and bright like butterflies
Of summer hovering from flower to flower
In beauty’s camouflage. Two butterflies
On the asphalt road laid with silver stone
Though small stand out. Because they’re dark I see
Wings lined with white flutter and rise up, gone
In blurry jagged flight through the bare trees
Whose branches, rusty buds blow in the wind.
There I lose sight of them like a prayer
Vanishes when other thoughts intrude. In
The woods a bird whistles and I’m aware
Of the three notes, a path I do not know
Although I’ve walked here many times before.
You do not tell a snake which way to twist
Its limb nor cats where they can or can’t walk.
And the same holds true for the sonnet, its
Thoughts are its own. Through me you hear it talk
Say what it wants. I’m the dumb man who shows
His hands for meaning. What are words? They’re signs
That tell you it is dawn, but the dawn goes
Happily on its own. Words stay and mine
Are no different. I like my words, don’t get me
Wrong. I work hard, and am the one who strives
For you, more important than me, to read
What is not me but meant to be. What I’ve
Left you, reader, are these words I’m writing
That will tell you when I’m gone it’s morning.