The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll xiv

Copyright © 2014 by Joyce Wilson


    In the Field
    By John Kneisly

    In each dry seed, the shadow of the bloom,
    the fold and fruit and every future seed
    inheres—seed after seed, peninfinite breed
    down to some local alternative of doom.

    Each smolders to reflaunt its first day’s plume;
    the currents of electric seas all bleed
    within its cotyledons, and the old greed
    to leap the aeons’ freeless weed streaked loom.

    So every moment, every moment screams.
    Open the album—every child lies dead
    and stalks the pain of all posterity;
    flee to the night—and every breath of dreams
    steams of its seasons gone. So all is bred:
    immanent, imminent, been, and been to be.

    Copyright © 2014 by John Kneisly.

    The Face at the Festival
    By John Kneisly

    Amid the gew-gaws, brummagem, any hard term
    of contempt for wares that reek and infect the eye
    (helpless eye, filled up with such flash-orange vermin!),
    a terra cotta head lies on the table. Oh let it lie, let it lie!

    All these boys and young men, grown girls and new mothers, swarm
    through the ordinary spring air, brief and bright as flies
    (and the sunlight lies sweet on their writhingly beautiful arms).
    Some of them look at the table, pass, and do not even cry.

    Its eyes are empty. Its mouth gapes in alarm.
    Its tongue hangs down, stunned. It lies there, facing the sky.
    (Upright it would be comic: the gagging boy who swallowed a worm.)      
    But I know him; I remember it: a father’s face as he died,

    mind, body, bowels. He loved these festivals and crowds.

    “Come on,” whines the child, “come on. Daddy, now . . .”

    Copyright © 2014 by John Kneisly.

    Macbeth Considers His Lady
    By Patricia Callan

    Her Picts and many Celtic kings in line
    made my Highland lady shrewd and cold.
    She spoke a regal tongue that equaled mine,
    preferred the woven cloak to silk or gold.
    The clans’ arranging of our stars was all
    to me; our vows were sealed in summer’s heat.
    Her dainty hand in mine, we left the hall
    under a vault of blades. Our flesh complete,
    we agreed our union’s purse be spent
    In sole defense of Scotland’s royal banner.
    I loved her violent urges when she bent
    me to her offered breasts, her savage manner
    the way the owl screams from where it’s kept.
    Within that darkened thrill, I’ve often wept.

    Copyright © 2014 by Patricia Callan

    By Rosemarie Rowley

    All the perfumes in the whole wide world,
    Not to speak of Araby, or the East with all its spice
    Could not sweeten my hand as these deeds unfurled
    With heartless action, premonition, as a vice
    My ascent through murder is so steep
    I fall off into nightmare, terror, fear
    A rendezvous in Hell’s caverns without sleep,
    Descent into the bloody abyss, solitary and dear
    As the loss of salvation, the porter’s knock
    That I and my flesh are doomed, a soul
    Destroyed, and hell my habitation
    And so the other worlds, a whole
    Lost in the fiery conflagration
    Because I considered myself to be
    Not a lord’s, but a King’s dowry.

    Copyright © 2014 by Rosemarie Rowley

    By Rosemarie Rowley

    If her husband Leontes were indeed in love
    He could see truly she was made of honour
    Would not need a marble travesty, nor peace dove
    To quiet his heart and give it even tenor,
    Instead he whispers insults in a guest’s ear
    Suspects that his friend will betray him
    His fevered speculation is a jealous leer
    He wants nothing more than to slay him
    The queen is banished and he clears the deck
    Of unattributed modesty and virtue
    While she lingers by a flowery beck
    Says to her daughter he will never hurt you,
    Their daughter of a father whom she wins
    By repentance of her non-existent sins.

    Copyright © 2014 by Rosemarie Rowley

    By James Naiden


    Arkansas will not be green as it was
    When you held forth with stories, old fables
    From the deep south, a wordsmith’s Fortinbras
    Of images from Mississippi, liberal tables
    Where justice prevailed, a mind’s eye
    Back to ’84 when you then spoke for
    Jesse Jackson, believing naively
    That the United States was somehow more
    Than the sum of its parts, perhaps then gist
    For poetry, sonnets of tight diction,
    A quick lecture about what we missed
    When the narrator left out friction.

    Jim, the honor of “local men” did soar
    After your second book, a vibrant roar.

    Copyright © 2014 by James Naiden.

    By James Naiden

    The mud, the nude monotony of March.
    —Edmund Wilson

    “Aye, tell me somethin’ I didn’t know before, James!”
    the old man stammered with a crooked grin.
    It was the time of slush, intermittent with rain
    After Christmas’s forgotten gift, the face of Yule.
    “I’m awestruck by your quick perceptions, Hal,”
    was my feeble reply, offering to refill his drink.
    He accepted, holding his glass over the table.
    I was tempted to pour wine over his hand,
    But politely, lest he thought mockingly, filled his glass,
    Adding: “You should have seen the Iroquois!”

    “I’m sorry to have missed them,” Hal said, not seeming
    Sorry at all but puzzled by my circular conversation.
    Serves him right, I thought maliciously, taking a sip
    Of white wine, looking at his fatigued, withered face.

    Copyright © 2014 by James Naiden.

By Maria Luise Weissmann; trans. by William Ruleman

    All day long I have to search for you,
    And what surrounds you holds much hope for me;
    What’s yours feeds me with bright certainty:
    Cacti, gleam of gold, a lone bird’s coo;

    Ah, snow and violins have seen you run;
    And flapping flags of shining cities too?
    And wind-blown cries of boys at play—that’s you?
    Are you dying in the sinking of the sun?

    I roam through typhoons, crystalled ocean’s blue;
    Perhaps a stray scent there’s brought you to light?
    And all through black and silver alleys, true—

    With sobs of woe or laughs of glad delight,
    Yes, every day I have to search for you:
    Toward you still roams the crimson path of night.

    Copyright © 2014 by William Ruleman.

By Maria Luise Weissmann

    Durch allen Tag muß ich Dich suchend gehn
    Und ist so viel, was rings Dich mir verheißt,
    Mich mit Gewißheit Deiner schimmernd speist:
    Ein Vogelrufen, Glanz des Golds, Kakteen,

    Schnee, ach, und Geige, die gesehn Dich haben,
    Fahnen der blanken Städte, Windeswehn—

    Starbst Du in einer Sonne Untergehn?
    War dies Dein Schrei in wehem Spiel der Knaben?

    Ich wandre durch Taifun, kristallnen Strahl der Seen,
    Vielleicht, daß Dich ein Duft gefunden macht?
    Durch schwarze und die silbernen Alleen,

    Durch Jenen, der geweint, und Den, der lacht,
    Durch allen Tag muß ich Dich suchend gehn,
    Zu Dir noch wandert purpurn Pfad der Nacht.

By Maria Luise Weissmann, trans. by William Ruleman

    The sky’s been built quite close, with much cement,
    Whitewashed all over with those gaudy blues
    That advertising artists like to use.
    Fate lurks in dark nooks: brooding, indolent.

    And corners stare with deathly sentiment,
    Then cliffs! I’m heaved against them suddenly
    Until the flood (onrushing) crushes me.
    I’ve lived through nights of autos’ shrill lament;

    All hope for lasting grace seems long since past.
    Angelic voices, radiant harp-strings’ sound,
    O breath of prayers, palm scents . . . O wings’ sweep!

    I shove myself at gates rammed shut, locked fast;
    I stare at myriad masks of fright all round;
    I’m tired—so tired—yet cannot go to sleep.

    Copyright © 2014 by William Ruleman

By Maria Luise Weissmann

    Der Himmel ist aus viel Zement gemauert,
    Sehr nah. Und grell mit Tünche übermalt
    Von jenem Blau, das Litfaßsäule strahlt;
    Aus Winkeln, dumpf und schwer, Verhängnis lauert,

    Und Ecken starren, oh so todumschauert,—
    Klippen. —ich Woge, jählings dran zerschellt,
    Bis mich die Flut zerschmettert weiterwellt.
    In diesem Autopfiff, der Nächte überdauert,

    Ging mir die ewige Seligkeit verloren.
    — Oh Engelstimmen, oh Gesang der Harfen,
    Gebetshauch, Palmenduft, oh Flügelwehn!

    Ich stoße mich an fest verrammten Toren,
    Ich starre rings in tausend Schreckenslarven,
    Ich bin so müd, und darf nicht schlafen gehn.

By Maria Luise Weissmann, trans. by William Ruleman

    Avert your gaze! It struck me hard and stayed
    To strike me fatally. Do know I fade not quite
    Against my will, nor slip away afraid;
    Just take, from my death, this strange dark light;
    Take your look away! No thicket stands
    Prepared for me as for the wounded deer
    Who soon will meet his end; no craft commands
    Me yet to hide and watch and wait in fear . . .
    So be merciful! And doing so, annul
    For my gaze this hideous scene from history,
    This once-queried sight shown to the imperial
    Strolling Nero for his scrutiny:
    A face impaled on a stake, waxing slack and dull;
    He studied its agony long and smilingly.

    Copyright © 2014 by William Ruleman

By Maria Luise Weissmann

    Wende den Blick hinweg! Er traf mich lang
    Und traf mich tödlich. Zwar ich gleite nicht
    Unwillig hin, nicht zu vergehen bang:
    Nur nimm von meinem Tod dies dunkle Licht,
    Nimm Deinen Blick hinweg! Kein Dickicht ist
    Mir ja bereitet wie dem wunden Tier,
    Dem bald Geendeten; und keine List
    Mich zu verbergen wachte noch in mir —
    So sei barmherzig! — Und es löste sich
    Auch meinem Blick dies schauerlich einmal
    Vernommne Bild: Es bot dem kaiserlich
    Wandelnden Nero sich, von spitzem Pfahl
    Emporgepreßt, ein Antlitz, das verblich:
    Er prüfte lang und lächelnd seine Qual.

    By Claudia Gary

            patterned on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 19

    Clenched firmly in the armadillo’s paws,
    a beer can glimmers. Ever shall I brood
    upon the day Love caught me in its jaws
    there at the Texas Road House, in cold blood.
    Unbridled two-step music, as thou fleet’st,
    obliging me to step within thy time,
    remember how thou guided me toward sweets
    which other days were culinary crime.
    Now after dancing hard, mopping my brow,
    rebuttoning my blouse, grabbing my pen,
    paper, and breath, I promise to allow
    the wilder rhythms of creatures and men
    plenty of time and space. Nothing goes wrong
    forever when you’re sloshed and not too young.

    Copyright © 2014 by Claudia Gary

By Lee Evans

    Down from its source at Otsego it wends
    Past Cooperstown and Baseball’s Hall of Fame,
    Accumulating waters to its name —
    And silt: Three million tons a year it sends
    Along its passageway through Binghamton
    And Wilkes-Barre, past the Three Mile Island plant
    That caused us such alarm in years gone past;
    An avalanche — the Chesapeake its end.

    In January, nineteen-ninety six,
    A snow-pack in its river basin thawed;
    An ice-jam below Harrisburg was fixed,
    And when it broke, an eight foot water wall
    Ripped out Safe Harbor’s Dam and a train line —
    But Conowingo sluiced it through in time.

    Copyright © 2014 by Lee Evans

    Polyglot Subway Car
    By Ron Singer

    Riding to Brooklyn on the “R”
    in a polyglot subway car,
    am I the sole English speaker?
    Chinese, Spanish, E.T.C., I hear,
    plus several I don’t recognize.
    Across from me, a Russian mom
    and son, eight or nine, both outsize.
    She coaxes him, in pantomime,
    to suck the last drops of soda
    from an almost-empty can,
    but the straw has fallen in.
    They dissolve in giddy laughter.
    Who knows what the rest are saying?
    “Bendiciones!” Home safe!

    Copyright © 2014 by Ron Singer

    When it Happened
    By John MacLean

    When did I chose the left side of the bed
    Some first night more than thirty years ago
    When sleeping was the last thing in my head,
    Though now, if you’re not there, my mind will slow
    To dates forgotten as the kids would play,
    As when our first girl first from childhood stepped
    And let go of the chair and lurched away
    Across the living room we’ve long since left.
    I can’t recall the sunrise on the day
    I said, “I love you,” but my memory
    Still holds your brown hair in the winter sun
    That skimmed the station roof. “I’m scared,” you say
    Beside my old Renault. The town could see
    Two hugging children and a life begun.

    Copyright © 2014 by John MacLean

    How It Is
    By John MacLean

    Once home for four kids, nanny, and we two —
    We’ll not need such a house to hold us soon.
    The listing offered “winter river view”
    To ease the passing on to empty rooms
    Where walls show cracks but hide the secrets shared
    With toys they didn’t love enough to take,
    And uniforms we beamed to see them wear
    Now hung in closets — lonely, left to wait.
    But homes are made for leaving, at their best,
    As children other parents’ children find
    And fill to bursting homes we’ll never see,
    While we now wonder why we never guessed —
    Left pacing halls the children left behind —
    How much we built our home to set them free.

    Copyright © 2014 by John MacLean

    By Jeff Holt

    I visit Mom and Dad less frequently
    since Danny wormed into my dreams again.
    He died alone in 1983
    but still pursues me as if I were ten.
    I’ve asked my mom to take his portrait down.
    Mom asked me “Why take down my favorite?”
    Cold, I squirm as if the wet nightgown
    still clings to me. Wincing, I vow to quit
    playing the normal game here. Dad can chat.
    I glance up: mistake. Danny sees my stare,
    whispers “You’re sweet.” Looming above Mom’s seat,
    a pimply Zeus, he orders “Just lie flat.”
    I jerk, look down. Mom: “Sweetie, the prayer?”
    My eyes squeeze shut; my lips twist in defeat.

    Copyright © 2014 by Jeff Holt

    Cat and Mouse
    By Jeff Holt

    I was leaping, clapping at a gnat
    and scraped the flaky ceiling in the hall.
    Now Dad is hissing like a monstrous cat.
    I’m shrinking like a mouse into a ball.
    Dad’s hand shoots from the sky, smacking my cheek:
    the great claw burns. He corners me, and scares
    me into silence. I can only squeak.
    His brown eyes bulge out and his matted hair
    sticks up like feline ears. But then he blurs,
    a video that has been overplayed.
    I feel another blow, but distantly;
    this cat and mouse game has begun to fade.
    Something within that can’t be pounced on stirs
    and races far from Dad, preserving me.

    Copyright © 2014 by Jeff Holt

    Dialogue with Venus
    By David J. Rothman

    “O Goddess of full-epidermis prickling,
    Of shortened breaths, deep kissing and lost wits,
    Of glistening eyes, delicious, slippery tickling,
    Of hard-won resolutions blown to bits;
    O Queen of whispers, moans, howls, yells, yelps, screams,
    Of fickle, feckless, frenzied fucking, chasms
    Of twitching, squirts of life, small death, wet dreams;
    O Soul of flirting and berserk orgasms —
    O listen, Bitch, I’ve got your number now.
    From now on, no more pheromones, no sighs.
    No post-coital sadness. Hear my vow:
    I’m through with lovesick loving and goodbyes.
    These lips will never more wish, kiss or suck.”
    She giggled, then said “That’s so hot. Good luck.”

    Copyright © 2014 by David J. Rothman

    And Remember To Be Kind to Yourself
    By David J. Rothman

    Love may be harder now than it once was.
    At every turn of each day, contradictions
    Rise up like fog, like knives, like bored applause,
    Like doggerel poets in their derelictions.
    The banks continue in their banky way,
    The liars lie, the stealers steal, even
    Old appetites go sour. The hours decay.
    Bread leaves the earth and flies back up to heaven,
    Which does not exist. Yet — is this
    A new thing? Is it really? So let’s try
    Imagining, despite the facts, a bliss,
    A giving, even though we’re going to die.
    Strange that it’s easy, always was. Here’s how:
    Love more than you are able. Do it now.

    Copyright © 2014 by David J. Rothman

    Another One
    By David J. Rothman

    For God’s sake, please — not another sonnet.
    I just don’t want to write them any more.
    I’ve tried every variation on it.
    And I’m a poet, not convenience store.
    Besides, love, you’re supposed to pout, to frown,
    Play hard to get, disdain my overtures.
    Honey, you’re supposed to turn me down,
    Not conjugate. Are these my socks, or yours?
    Hey, look . . . the rain has stopped. The sun’s come out.
    That one, on the fence? A meadowlark.
    Gurgling warbles like . . . Hey, cut it out . . .
    Like champagne, or . . . Can’t we wait until dark?
    At least have brunch? Though . . . as you can see,
    I seem to have another one in me.

    Copyright © 2014 by David J. Rothman