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Forbidden Sonnet, 1

“The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it.” RFC2616.

Black rice has a certain reputation,
you know. Steam rises from it, light and hot,
and it is said to relieve frustration.
(I am speaking with words that slant and knot,
as one does when speaking of illicit
matters, so we can keep secrets hidden
while we reveal them, consent implicit
in the coded curves of meaning.) Women
do not ask for this food. To ask implies
hidden heat, intentions that can be judged
by others. Stigma lies in this dark prize
legend says emperors fed their beloved.
I laughed, but one taste, and that night my dreams
carried with them the heat of writhing steam.


English or Shakespearean sonnet form.

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Ice Storm Sonnet

The whole countryside shivers and crackles
this dawn, phones lit with alerts & warnings:
Trees down. Power out here. And there. Grackles
ignore the empty buzz, the doves’ mourning,
the cardinal’s cheerful swoop through the gray skies.
Thin branches shiver, glitter literally.
Lichen glows fervently green under ice,
feverishly so, while the terminal
buds practically bleed with joy,
bright red stamens frozen in mid-burst,
as if a supervillain was annoyed,
but it’s probably climate change, which is worse,
somehow, because it’s our fault the buds fall,
wounded, and dusk’s late slow thaw fails to heal.

Written upon learning of the loss of Sam Hamill.


English or Shakespearean sonnet form.

Necromancy Sonnet

Start with the dead things, she says. The stink bugs
that hid under the floor boards and shriveled;
the spiders that starved blanketed in rugs
of their own soft webs. There is a brittle
delicacy in exoskeletons
prepared to shatter with a puff, the grace
of dry bones, the so tender elegance
of perfectly still lines in a limp face.
Perhaps it’s a little shrew tucked in
under the snow. Perhaps it’s a dark star
in a black sky lit only by the light
it released with its final gasp. We swim
in the dust of dead things, beautiful char,
abandoned pain, and emptiness of sight.

Our Lady of Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop

She dances with the springy slinky curves
and high energy of electrical

wires, twisting in reflections and sunlight
full of purpose and shadows, pulsing with

untranslatable messages. She twists
like a cat, coos like a mourning dove. She

is her own rock band, her own blues. Her smile
could charge spaceships. She is not so simple

as people think. She tells me she was raped,
but no one believes her. Except for you,

she says, and my mom. After what he did,
she says. Do you think he chose me because …?

she says. Yes, I say. A brief moment of
silence. She tells the story in the guise

of a dark cloud, and she is the thunder.
She storms out. She tells me she is bi, but

no one believes her. It’s a phase, they say,
you’ll grow out of it. Why don’t the women

I like like me? She droops wistfully, graced
and graceful, a slim gerbera daisy

of a girl surrounded with petals, then
bounces, surging upward as if launching

herself, as if seeds, as if percussive,
as if ballistic choreography,

as if she’s a superhero sizzling
into space. You go, girlfriend, you just go.

Our Lady of the Night Sky

Blasting music down the highway,
staring at lights that open, close,
and open, cascading rainbows
across midnight blue sky. The day
is full of invisible stars,
full of noise, of evil and good.
We need both, don’t you think? We should
keep walking, keep driving the car
down roads we aren’t sure of, going
sometimes home (and thanks for the ride)
but sometimes somewhere we can glide
into a mystery, showing
for the first time the stars that spark
from us when we are what goes dark.

a day born of moments

blasting Fats Domino and dancing in the kitchen
boiling peppers into a tingle in the air

a cloud shaped like Italy dangles from a cloud shaped
like Europe, but Greece has melted into the blue sky

the mouths of babes cry aloud free and truthfully
the words of a woman from Australia shiver apart into meaningful gaps

a wire fence melted into threads of shadow dancing on the ground
a hammock strung between the green tree and the iron tree bows under the weight of youth

Rolando draws the lines of love as genitals glowing with fire
when all the rest of the body dims to last year’s autumn leaves

resting under trees and over grass in the spring thaw
it is not spring here, it is fall

here the colored trees bend beneath the sky and almost touch
here the Queen Anne’s Lace has clustered in brown stars that were once white

here the milkweed pod swells to bursting, bends back its lips,
its feathered dreams whispering to the wind

the stars reach out to me like old friends
they ask me why I write. to pray, I say,

to heal, to share, to remember, to forget, to save, to set free,
but mostly, I say, to pray, to pray

A Waltz (Unmentionables, 6)

* one *

Blows cascade through
drumbeats and horns,
polished in memory
like precious stones,
hard and bright.
Arms flung up,
freeze in place,
harden. Stone like,
they feel nothing
until they break.

* two *

Falling, falling, falling,
until falling is
the natural order,
so much so
that I sleep
through the fall,
through the landing,
curling in midair
to land comfortably
like a cat,

on the floor.
The rumbling voice
is unheard, part
of my dreams.
The heavy feet
climb creaking stairs
translates only as
rhythms and movements
of distant peoples
dancing in darkness.

It isn’t until
knotty arms scoop
me up, disturbing
my slumber, that
I begin to
struggle, crying out,
“No, no, no,”
and then curl
back to sleep,
where I started.

* three *

This old body
aches, learning again
the value of
what works well.
In my dreams,
thoughts spin, splinter,
and spin again.
Above my head,
arms curl, hands
flicker like candles,

small bright flames.
A whirling dervish
spins and spins,
dancing like Francis,
off the edge
of a cliff
without falling,
dancing back from
clouds to land.
His back arches,

so his face
can look up
at the heavens.
Arms rise, fall.
Hands paint air,
like sharp downdrafts
in a tornado,
calling blue skies down,
raising blue waters up
to fall home.