The Sonnet by Ed Hack

The Sonnet

Can the little baize box of the sonnet bear such cargo?
—William Wilborn

The sonnet can bear anything. It bears
the anguish of the heart, the need of soul
to understand the why of why Love tears
shy hope to shreds that wanted to feel whole.
It bears the weather from the dawn to dark,
the ocean’s vast indifference, the grave-
yard of its crushing depths, the silver sparks
of sun on leaves, the miracle of days.
It bears our history of savagery,
the art we’ve left that shows our spirits’ needs,
our efforts, through myopia, to see
the deeper, simpler truths beyond our greed.
It is the scrap you find that wind has brought,
a map of lands you’d no idea you sought.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet perfectly encapsulates the purpose of a poem.

Things Fall by Ed Hack

Things Fall

Things fall. You forgot what they do. The knife
off of the paper plate. The tool from your
cramped hand. And once, foot of the stairs, your wife.
Years later now, you still look at the floor
and wonder what or who is next. You used
to say that’s one thing floors are for. A joke,
an irony, you thought, then got the news
about how life just flies away, and hope,
like crumbs, like fat, like bones is what remains,
the ash of things, the penny that you find.
What’s left of rain is stuck in screens, and pain’s
your new best friend. The second hand’s design
is fall from 12 to 6 then climb from 5
to 12. Things fall, and you are still alive.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This heart-wrenching sonnet begins with deceptive imagery before turning to absolute grief at the end.

The Alice-World by Ed Hack

The Alice-World

I’ve come here where the water flows to see—
to see the world flow by, the sky inside
and upside-down, the shadow-world that’s free
of any trace of human mind—denied
in water’s innocence, the mirror that
it is, the Alice-world where things are real
because they are a child’s truth, the facts
imagination sees—the adults’ spiels
revealed in their grotesqueries, the whole
charade of lunatic authority
whose goal is murdering the human soul
so it obeys, yet feels that it is free.
But knows, disguised in its unquiet sleep,
where slithy toves are murdering the sheep.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet immediately upends the reader’s idea of reality, only to find at the end that the truth is possibly more ridiculous than the lies we tell ourselves (hat tip to Carroll’s Jabberwocky in the final line).

What We See by Ed Hack

What We See

Amazing what we see—Here’s life again,
the morning says in light, so shadows too.
For things are what they are and what they seem
and what they’re not, and all three views are true.
Our past is shadows cast that do not fade
away. They’re in our children’s DNA,
and thus their children’s too. So what we are
is river flowing by and bottom we
can’t see or even guess. I say a word
that echoes through the story that I am
passed on to me by those I do not know.
A vessel that’s a self, part of a flow
I cannot name but know has brought me here,
to 8:15 and all that I hold dear.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s title fools the reader into thinking that what we see is the point, yet the poem encompasses everything else.

Work Until Rain by Ed Hack

Work Until Rain

It rained as soft as loving hands at ease
as afterwards, as sapphire wings that glide
the light-filled air in summer’s sweet release
that offers stricken hearts a gentle guide.
I’d worked until the sky turned dirty gray,
the forecast was correct, then air turned spice,
perfume of heat, macadam, rain—the day
a brew I deeply sniffed, a sudden prize
as unexpected, calming, as loved eyes.
I put my tools away, vac’d saw dust from
the floor, then sat in the garage, surprised
in part the way what is at bottom stuns,
and watched, breathed in the honeyed scent of rain,
and tired and satisfied, I was sustained.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s unexpected pivot from stately philosophy to concrete images mirrors the emotion the speaker feels when one suddenly swims up from work to find the world perfectly beautiful.

Passing by Ed Hack

Passing

The mournful early morning rain-soaked train
call softened by the sodden air calls through
the woods then vanishes like midnight rain
that pounded down so we don’t miss what’s true—
we’re tethered by a fine silk thread that’s strong
as life but snaps when fate decrees and we
go to the dark where we began. Our song
now sung, if song it was, we are set free
and disappear from light and day and night
from voices that we love, from coffee’s smell,
from everything we are and sense, the sight
of sky and bird and grass, the witch’s spell
of life. Today, a mother, wife, and friend
will pass into that dark that has no end.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet speaks of grief, and the sudden, shocking realization that life is short.

Its Part by Ed Hack

Its Part

The trees await the wind, the grass the light
and shadows that it brings, the sky, the birds’
swift, acrobatic flights, and we the bright
attention of our love before a word
is said. On coldest days of ice and snow,
the world a hermitage of winter rest,
when trees strip down to bone and rivers slow,
love has made a freezing room a nest.
And here it is, at last, the spring, though sun
is fickle as a doubting mind. Yet blue,
the soul’s sweet cloak, has now at last begun
to show up almost every day, renew
our spirit’s hope, the veteran old heart’s
deep dream that love will always play its part.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Sonnets come in many flavors, but this poem’s classic ode to both love and the seasons will soothe even the most jaded of readers.

. . .a distance / not yet thought of by Ed Hack

. . .a distance / not yet thought of
—Norman MacCaig

Inside the light, beyond the wind, far past
a child on a bike whose joy is go
and go and go, are distances that last
as long as hope, the only prayer we know.
No unbelievers in the crowd, logic-
ians in the anteroom. No saints to
sanctify a minute’s grace. No magic fish
to feed a crowd, for everything is new,
and that’s enough. There is no argument
or policy, diplomacy or war.
What’s there is one long road whose sole intent
is what-comes-next, an ocean or a star.
The only mantra is a child’s laugh,
which lasts because it simply cannot last.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s graceful meter and slant rhymes beautifully frame the sentiment within—a child’s joy is both ephemeral and priceless.

Winter In The Soul by Ed Hack

Winter In The Soul

The birds are singing in an afternoon
as green as emeralds from days of rain.
The sun lets go, the light a vast balloon
that lifts the eye, the world become a flame
that quickly dims. An outburst, nothing more,
as silvered-white and gray resume, the spring’s
new palette for a time of bloody war.
And yet, and yet, some birds begin to sing
their sweet, brief songs, two notes or three. They pause.
they start again. And much it grieved my heart
to think / What man has made of man. . . . What cause
but madness, evil playing its old part?
What is this ice within the human soul
that hates, that kills, that does what it is told?

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Wordsworth said it first, but this poem’s mourning of human folly (even as spring arises) serves to emphasize the everlasting futility of “bloody war.” 

Ukraine by Ed Hack

Ukraine

Not lawnmowers, but bombs exploding homes
and shops and streets, her world now gone to shit.
Her children’s lives at risk. No lights. No phones.
The last of groceries. No single bit
of her old life—that’s yesterday—remains.
Debris is all she sees outside. death’s near
as her next breath. She barely can stay sane,
but knows to live she can’t give in to fear.
The kids have knapsacks on. She locks the door
and picks her way downstairs out to the hell
all life’s become, the sky a threat, the stores
collapsed, some cars on fire—no dream, no spell,
this lunacy. They run, three kids, a mom.
The train’s two miles away. And then more bombs.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: The beautiful sonnet form describing war makes the reader weep and rage in equal measure.