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Spring Sonnets

On May 15, 2019 at 8 PM at the Poetry Project at Saint Mark’s Church on Second Avenue in New York City for the launch of my book, Spring Sonnets, Mitch Corber, the East Village recorder of such events, filmed me reading twelve sonnets to a wonderful audience. I am happy about Mitch’s production because he did an excellent job—thank you, Mitch!—and I’m happy about the reading as well, which you can see on the Vimeo below.


Jimmy, you let your dogs shit where they want
and you don’t pick it up. It is your fault
when unsuspecting others come and walk
through the crap or their toddlers catch some bug.
But you’re the one who’s most unfortunate.
I would rather not have lived than be you.
What you do to others you do to you
and your dog’s shit’s the very least of it.
I think you’ve not been loved; you steal, don’t give.
Once I wanted to kill you with a rock
Smash your head in behind the hill—And fuck
No one would have known, but I let you live
and though I know your suffering’s thorough
it’s still my fault it’s not a better world.


My cat and I play chasing each other.
He jumps while I write and then stretches out
full length in back of the warm computer
to claw my hand when it comes in sight. Ouch!
Ow! I say but Cachito doesn’t care
about a little cry. Now if I die
and go to heaven, it wouldn’t be fair
if Cachito dead and gone couldn’t fly
to meet me. Hand in paw forever
like friends jumping from the World Trade Center
or tourists who’re caught in stormy weather
we will go or we won’t go together
having fun. What’s a little blood? I scratch.
Cachito bites me and I bite him back.


In the early dewdrop chilly morning
I’m alone gardening. What a delight!
It’s been hot and noisy. Now’s a quiet
tranquil dawn. New York City’s still sleeping
tired out. It was loud. Don’t wake the city.
I want to hear waking in La Plaza
beds of dark roses and gladiolas
sparrows chirping in the willows. Beauty’s
a lot of work and Manhattan’s landscape’s
a flower itself of stone, desire and sweat.
Yes I am determined and alive yet
with time to spare, but not one hour to waste.
Reader, you might not know this ages hence
but my hands are dirty as I write this.


I see how strong a fragile thing can be.
Look! A butterfly comes fluttering
over its own reflection hovering
out in the middle of a pond so deep
and close you’d think no insect strength could last
the distance needed to reach land, yet up
it goes above the wide-mouthed bass that jumps
and death itself waits for it to stick fast
get soggy and drown. A visible song
singing against all odds in gusts of wind
that ought to knock it down, it’s carried in
every limb beyond the half sunk log
coming to spread its beating wings and soar
vanishing in the branches on the shore.


I hear Dad’s chainsaw echo down the field
cutting firewood for December’s stove. Her
knife in hand Mom chops the cabbage she’ll seal
in jars pouring boiling water over
it first with a tablespoon of sea salt.
Come November she’ll have her sauerkraut.
Summer yet, but going, and not the fault
of summer that it goes. I want to shout
“Don’t go!” but that won’t stop its going though and
feel it in my bones. I put away the
stuff that stays and pack the stuff that goes. A
wasp falls down along the windowpane and
curls up on the windowsill. Leaves burn
and swallows go before they can return.


Things are often more beautiful at a
distance, but not you. The closer the more
inevitable you become. Before
I thought beauty was what I saw, that the
superficial awed, but I was wrong. Your
skin is really you as fragrant as the
rose whose tenderness exudes its soul. A
truth is always true. I am no longer
young and though I know you would like to kiss
you must think of the future and begin.
Love though sinless would be completely sin
if from your lovely limbs more loveliness
doesn’t spring. This spring is my sacrifice
and joins me with you in begetting life.


Out of the ordinary there will come
from time to time the good and very brave
extraordinary, someone who can save
us from our own damned selves and make us one
humanity. Children take Rosa Parks
for an example, a common seamstress
who sat herself down in a seat she was
told she couldn’t. Some said she was too dark.
Justice became evident and the fact
that a quiet woman can unsever
people divided, sew them together
nobody free till all are freed at last.
One little candle gives light to the night.
Truth is simple. It’s visible. It’s sight.


“Teacher, I don’t know what a pig pen is.”
“What’s a pen?” “This is a pen,” some students
say showing them. “That pen contains ink. Pens
can contain pigs. Pig pen. Ink pen.” “Ink is
a noun just like a pen is. How can nouns
be adjectives?” “English is an easy
language that uses one word for many
things. We pen stories and pen the pig.” Now
still seeing some puzzled faces I draw
a swirled tail on the board connecting a
rump to a back, ear, and head until a
pig appears. The class laughs seeing me draw
two vertical lines through horizontal
ones fencing that pig in once and for all.


As swallows swoop above the boat begins
to move although all of us people here
stay still hearing the horn announce we have
let go. The leaves of the rooted bamboo
bend and sway. Mountains go back and further
back into the clouds. The little boy’s foot’s
tapping as he plays his computer game.
He is entranced as I am watching him.
Oh to be a kid again! There are things
I’ll never know, but I can see the wind
that turns the page turns the wave as the night
begins to turn the day darkening me
and the fluttering lady next to me
turning to throw her rind in the Yangtze.


Goldfinch balanced on the sunflower’s head
flies off swaying the plant just like the wind.
the sun comes up the trees and lies down in
the field where a red hawk begins to spread
its great slow wings breaking from the branch. Cloud
like Magritte’s so real I feel it’s a round
cotton above my head to swab a wound
if one occurs. Near the barn I’ve allowed
Cachito to examine groundhog holes.
Hey, Cachito, ground hogs are really fat
but they can fight. Watch out! Ah, but a cat’s
a cat and lives like that. I think we all
do things that get a lot better and change
yet like the cat stay pretty much the same.


I wake the snakes on the way to the lake
coiling in leaves, slithering at my feet
half-seen in the low branches, thick brown waists
headless, tailless stone still in wait for me
to trip them into slithering again.
Are they going to bite? I doubt it
They’re enjoying themselves too much and slide
on in the fear and excitement of my
approaching steps. Without ever really
seeing them slip into the rippling depths
on the briar’s edge of the round abyss
water snakes have taken the day with them.
Here comes the night. Everything fades from sight.
A frog peeps. There is sound, song but no light.


I hear the geese at first far off flying
in the distance and curious look up
to find them near the horizon slanting
forward like sentences being written
across the sky in honking changing lines
until they’re gone. Over the rocks the stream
at Walnut Run splashes down clogged with sticks
from last year’s storms. Minnows nose up this flow
like ripples they swim in below fooling
predators. Everything begins to grow.
At the corner of my eye dead leaves
shake on a branch that seems dead too except
at the very end of every stem
sharp golden buds are ready to open.

Spring Sonnets can be ordered from Amazon here:


Spring Sonnets is published by Indolent Books. You can check them out here:


Drawings by Akram that appear in the book.

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